Campaign news

Ten good things about the Chakrabarti Report

1st July 2016

Shami Chakrabarti has written a good, balanced report, salutes the anti-racist history of the Labour Party and makes some detailed amendments to the Party rule book, says Mike Phipps, who highlights some of the findings.

1. “This Report is mine, and mine alone.” This is reassuring to those who were concerned about the involvement of Baroness Royall, who in an earlier report, recommended that the Jewish Labour Movement (formerly Paol Zion, a strongly pro-Israel grouping in the Party) be involved in training student Labour Club officers on anti-Semitism.

2. “There is not, and cannot be, any hierarchy of racism.” Chakrabarti says: “It is incredibly important that whilst individual testimonies are acknowledged, universal principles are then applied. So for example Islamophobia, antisemitism and Afriphobia are all equally vile forms of racism. No competition for victimhood is required or should be encouraged.”

3. The Labour Party is the natural home for migrants. “It seems completely right and natural that the Labour Party has been the instinctive political home to generations of migrants to the UK including my own parents.”

4. Racist epithets, the word “Zio”, racial and religious stereotyping have no place in the Labour Party. Incendiary language has no place, for example, “to compare the actions of Jewish people or institutions anywhere in the world to those of Hitler or the Nazis or to the perpetration of the Holocaust.”

5. “Labour members should be free and positively encouraged to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East.

6. “I recommend the drawing up, and adoption of, a readily accessible complaints procedure.” Further: “It is completely unfair, unacceptable and a breach of Data Protection law that anyone should have found out about being the subject to an investigation or their suspension by way of the media.” And: “The Labour Party should seek to uphold the strongest principles of natural justice, however difficult the circumstances, and to resist subjecting members to a trial by media.” And: “I do not subscribe to the view that every allegation of misconduct within the Party is a factional mischief, but nor do I feel that every investigation warrants immediate publicity (a punishment in itself), nor administrative suspension (with the inevitable shame and opprobrium that is likely to follow) - even if the allegation has attracted public controversy.”

7. “I find it regrettable, to say the least, that some subjects of recent suspension and disciplinary process, under the Party’s disciplinary procedures, found out about their suspensions and investigations as a result of media reporting rather than notice from the Party itself. Staff or elected officials should never feel it necessary (even during a pre-election media frenzy) - to operate a presumption of suspension. If anything, the presumption should be against interim suspension.” And: “Indeed, if the principle of proportionality had been properly applied in recent times, I query whether so many people would ever have been suspended at all.”

8. When a disciplinary measure is taken, there should be a right of review. There should also be a time limit on bringing disciplinary charges in relation to uncomradely conduct and behaviour.

9. “It is not my view that narrow anti-racism training programmes are what is required.” Broad-based educational programmes are recommended, in conjunction with the trade unions and others. But “there should be specific training for all staff and members involved in the investigations and disciplinary process.”

10. There should be limits to how long parties can be put in special measures and run from the centre. “I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months” and “I recommend that going forward, no Labour Party unit in any part of the country should be subject to such a regime of executive control for more than six months without review by the NEC.”

Summary of key recommendations:

“1. Epithets such as “Paki”, “Zio” and others should have no place in Labour Party discourse going forward.
2. Critical and abusive reference to any particular person or group based on actual or perceived physical characteristics cannot be tolerated.
3. Racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party.
4. Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.
5. Excuse for, denial, approval or minimisation of the Holocaust and attempts to blur responsibility for it have no place in the Labour Party.
6. Beliefs out-with the Labour Party’s values are not to be protected when considering whether a member has acted in a way which is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party.
7. The Code of Conduct approved in May 2016 should be amended so as to comprehensively rule out all forms of prejudice, but in the light of this and the guidance in my Report, I do not find other substantive (as opposed to procedural) rule changes to be strictly necessary.
8. I recommend procedural rule changes (a draft is annexed to this Report) to improve the Party’s disciplinary process (as well as a wider review of the relevant provisions of the rules and procedural guidelines in the light of those recommendations) and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure. 28
9. I recommend the appointment of a General Counsel to the Labour Party and additional and appropriately expert staff.
10. I recommend that the power of interim suspension be vested in the NCC and give guidance as to how it might be exercised more proportionately.
11. I recommend the appointment of a Legal Panel of volunteer lawyers of standing so as to assist the NCC in its functions and to provide a review on procedural and proportionality grounds in cases of suspension or expulsion from the Party.
12. I recommend consideration of a greater range of NCC sanctions short of suspension and expulsion.
13. I do not recommend lifetime bans from the Labour Party and recommend time limits on the bringing of disciplinary charges.
14. Once my Report is disseminated and so as to give members an opportunity to be guided by it, I recommend a moratorium on triggering new investigations into matters of relevant language and conduct arising before publication. This in no way effects investigations and disciplinary proceedings already in train.
15. I recommend the formation of an NEC working group into comprehensive education and training needs across the Party with a view to partnership with Trade Unions and Higher Education providers. Staff and members involved in the new disciplinary process should receive appropriate training.
16. I recommend a review of the Party’s Equal Opportunities Policies with a view to adopting an over-arching Equal Opportunities Policy.
17. I recommend better dissemination and explanation of the Party’s Rule Book.
18. I recommend that the NEC gives urgent attention to any parts of the country that have been under “special measures” for more than six months.
19. I recommend that no part of the Party should be subject to “special measures” for more than six months without NEC review of that decision. Further the NEC must provide a plan as to how the local party is to improve its practice and return to full democratic rights within the Party.
20. The Party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff.”

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