The background:

The National Constitutional Committee is the final stage of Labour’s disciplinary process. In order to reach this stage the National Executive Committee’s disputes panel must have decided that an individual party member has a case to answer. Until recently it adjudicated over less than ten cases in a typical year but more than 20 cases were referred during one NEC meeting earlier this month. This included the case of Jackie Walker over comments about anti-Semitism and Holocaust Memorial Day.

Who makes up the NCC?

The NCC is seen as less political than the NEC disputes panel. It comprises 11 members in total, all elected from a mixture of the unions and constituency parties. Their identities are not publicised so as to prevent lobbying or interference. However each case will be decided on by just 3 of the members of the NCC. The panel must comprise at least one representative from the trade unions and one from the constituency sections.

Most cases will last just one day but Ken Livingstone’s case has been listed for two days, likely in part because of the involvement of lawyers.

The procedure

The Labour Party are affectively prosecuting the case. Their representatives will be questioned, as will Livingstone himself. He has asked for the case to be opened to the media though such a decision would be unprecedented. He has also named a number of witnesses including Jewish supporters he plans to call in his defence.

If the panel upholds the charge of bringing the party into disrepute, he will be asked if there are any mitigating circumstances, which could have an impact on the level of punishment handed out. Expulsion is just one possible outcome, with lesser punishments like being barred from standing for elected office also an option. Livingstone has already made clear he will seek a judicial review if he faces the ultimate sanction, as he says he expects.

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