By Cecile Wight, Stephen Marks, Annabelle Harle, Susan Press, Khaled Moyeed and Gary Heather (Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance backed candidates for the NCC)
At this year’s Conference, there was a rule change to expand the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) with 14 additional members of whom six will be voted directly by CLPs. The NCC is the Party’s final arbiter of serious disciplinary cases against Party members. Operating quasi-judicially with barristers appearing before it and bound by strict rules of evidence, it has the power to expel members
We are standing to be CLP representatives on Labour’s NCC. We are honoured to have received the backing of left organisations within the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance. We are socialists and have consistently backed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The NCC has been described by members as “Kafka-esque” in the way that disciplinary matters were handled. There was perceived to be a ‘purge’ of the left wing amongst the ordinary Party membership who had been deprived of their democratic right to vote in the 2016 leadership election. The snap election of CLP representatives is an opportunity to rebuild confidence in Labour’s disciplinary procedures. This should begin by fully implementing the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report.
Baroness Chakrabarti recommended that the Labour Party should urgently appoint an in-house counsel. The appointment of Gordon Nardell QC as in-house counsel is a welcome move. In a large organisation such as the Labour Party with over half a million members, it is inconceivable not to have an in-house lawyer to provide initial advice and instruct external lawyers as and when necessary.
Baroness Chakrabarti proposed a framework for clear and transparent procedures for dealing with allegations. She recommended drawing up and adopting a clear complaints procedure which explains with sufficient clarity things such as how and to whom complaints are to be made and how long each stage of the process is likely to take.
How often have you heard that a person had found out about their suspension from the Party through the media? Well, Baroness Chakrabarti has stated that this is a breach of data protection law. She emphasised that the subject of a complaint must be informed immediately and any press enquiries kept to a minimum. She noted that media publicity can be a punishment in itself.
Baroness Chakrabarti noted the power of interim suspensions which might have been weaponised and used too readily in the past. She compared this to civil and criminal courts which do not grant interim injunctions or issue arrest warrants every time a complaint is made. She questioned whether so many members should have been suspended instead of being told that they were being investigated. She recommended that the power of interim suspension should no longer be vested in the NEC, but instead be vested in the NCC.
Baroness Chakrabarti also recommended the use of creative sanctions such as a warning, requiring an apology or public warning or reprimand. In addition, we believe that the use of mediation between members may be suitable in appropriate cases to resolve disputes. We see resolving disputes and conflicts between members as a way of maximising unity and effectiveness in the Party.
CLP representatives have an important role to play in rebuilding confidence in the NCC. We are socialist grassroots Labour Party activists and have decades of experience of activism in the Party between us. We have all been elected by members to serve them in different positions within the Party. We are close to members and would be a powerful voice within the NCC representing them. Our members are the backbone of our movement.
We want the NCC to be a body which is trusted by our mass membership. It must be completely transparent, consistent and timely in its decision making. We will apply due process and principles of natural justice to ensure that members are treated fairly. We believe that the right to a fair hearing is a human right and our members should not be deprived of it.
We have demonstrated our commitment to our movement’s values as campaigners, Party officers and three of us are elected Councillors. We bring a strong set of skills to the NCC to strengthen our Party so that we can work together to make Jeremy Corbyn our next Prime Minister.
The deadline for CLPs to make their six nominations is 28 October 2018. Members should speak to their CLP Secretary to ensure that nominations to the NCC is put on the agenda of a GC or an all-members meeting.