Labour conference set to approve new complaints process for antisemitism

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Labour Party Conference

Labour conference set to approve new complaints process for antisemitism

Vote scheduled for 4.30pm today has been welcomed by the president of the Board of Deputies president as the 'point where the party amplified its efforts' against hate.

2GNG0CB Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer congratulates deputy leader Angela Rayner after her speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021.
2GNG0CB Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer congratulates deputy leader Angela Rayner after her speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021.

Senior Labour figures have told Jewish News they are confident delegates at their party conference will today approve a new independent complaints process for cases involving antisemitism.

The changes to the party’s rules, which were legally mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, were passed by Labour’s national executive committee last week, against the wishes of eight of the 30 strong body.

Any changes to the Labour Party’s rulebook then have to be ratified by its annual conference.

The vote is scheduled to take place at around 4.30 pm this afternoon (Sun) at the conference in Brighton.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “Today, Labour delegates will be asked to vote on an amendment to institute a new independent complaints process for the party – not just for antisemitism cases, but for all complaints.

” As well as being a legally mandated requirement from the EHRC, it also makes clear sense for all Labour factions to support it, since it will prevent any party leadership – whether left or right – interfering in the complaints process for factional reasons.”

She said Labour now had  an opportunity to take a further step away from the “moral and intellectual abyss” of anti-Jewish racism.

Marie van der Zyl

“We commend the leadership’s efforts in this regard and hope in the future that we will be able to look back on this year’s conference as a point where the party amplified its efforts to properly turn the page on a very grim period of its recent history.”

Labour’s party chair Anneliese Dodds has said of the changes: “This will be the fairest, most robust process of any political party that we know of, and we are looking forward to it being fully endorsed by members at our annual conference.”

Opposition to the rule changes is limited, even among supporters of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Anneliese Dodds speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021.

As the conference began on Saturday, Keir Starmer and Labour general secretary enjoyed significant victories over the pro-Corbyn Momentum organisation in votes.

Momentum had set its hopes of gaining a vote from the conference floor against making Evans permanent general secretary – but in a card vote he won the backing of delegates convincingly.

Evans has been at the centre of attempts to rid the party of antisemitic members, and has written to all Labour members telling them they must adhere to the EHRC report’s recommendations.

The changes to disciplinary procedures will apply to all complaints about antisemitism, Islamophobia, other forms of racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership.

Party sources confirmed that Jewish stakeholders had played a significant role in discussions ahead of the rule changes.

All NEC decisions on these cases under the new process will be reviewed by a member of a new independent review board (IRB) to decide whether it complies with Labour rules, the law and principles of independence.

Members of the IRB will be lawyers appointed by the general secretary. The IRB will decide whether the NEC decision has complied with the rules or contravened them, and can review any aspect of the party’s procedures.

For these types of complaints, the role of the existing national constitutional committee (NCC) will be undertaken by a newly established independent complaints board (ICB) comprising a pool of 12 members with time-limited terms.

The 12 members of the ICB will be four lawyers, four HR or regulatory experts and four party members. They will be appointed to the ICB by a ‘standing recruitment committee’, which in turn is appointed by the general secretary.

There had been concerns raised by some communal leaders at talks with the party that the Board could still be open to political interference – but Jewish News understands these fears have been eradicated.

The ICB will hear any cases referred to it, as well as appeals brought under party rules, and can determine which sanctions to apply. It will function via panels of three – one from each category on the wider ICB, with the lawyer as chair.

Corbyn was suspended, first from the party, then as an MP after claiming allegations of antisemitism were overstated after the EHRC report into his handling of the issue was released last October.

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