While the attacks on the Labour leadership over the party’s handling of allegations of anti-Semitism continue, a new front has been opened up, and it is one whose nature should concern all who value the concept of due process for those accused of actions which could see them expelled from Labour, or indeed any other party.
That is because what has been commended to Jeremy Corbyn by three of the party’s own MPs is the effective abandonment of due process, the idea that a mere accusation of anti-Semitism, or any other expulsion level action, would mean immediate expulsion without prior recourse to the party’s disciplinary process. Rather like being thrown into prison without trial, but with the prospect that there might be one if you ask nicely.
Margaret Hodge - vehement Corbyn critic
Anyone thinking this might be a mere scare story may find the contents of a letter to Corbyn from MPs Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Ruth Smeeth instructive. Apart from repeated claims that Jezza is somehow not doing enough to address complaints of anti-Semitism - a strange one, considering the disciplinary process is supposed to be independent of the leader’s office - has come the demand for immediate expulsion.
This can be seen towards the end of the letter, coming after several paragraphs of the softening-up process (although, thankfully, the letter has not yet been leaked to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, but give it time), the three MPs give Jezza his orders, in their own modest style.
The letter sent to Corbyn today ...
“You are the leader of the Labour Party and therefore have an obligation to lead on this issue. If we are to build any common ground on this, you must enact the following much-needed changes now”. And there were all those Labour members thinking that the party was a democracy which built consensus from the ground up. Well, more fool them, eh?
And here’s the second of the four changes demanded: “Establish an auto-exclusion policy for clear cases of anti-Semitism, where offenders are expelled first, and can appeal second”. And who decides how “clear cases of anti-Semitism” are defined? That is a more serious point than might be appreciated, and one example shows why.
Labour First, a group which “sees itself as protecting the tradition of the ‘old Labour right’”, has let us know exactly how this potentially draconian concept would work. Under the heading “Help make sure Chris Williamson is expelled for good”, it tells “Thanks to the pressure of MPs, Peers and thousands of ordinary members like yourself, Chris Williamson has been re-suspended”. Not by use of the disciplinary process.
... and the clear implications for what it would mean
And just in case that was missed, it’s repeated later: “Chris Williamson was only re-suspended because of sustained, organised political pressure from across the party”. So there you have it: a draconian ditching of due process, to be replaced by organised pile-ons against anyone and everyone against whom an allegation can be mustered.
While no-one can object to rooting out anti-Semitism, or any other form or racism, from the Labour Party, the idea of a drift into authoritarianism is deeply disturbing. But it is also tediously predictable: demand an action Corbyn won’t back, in order to kick him with it.
The law gives all citizens the benefit of due process. So should the Labour Party.
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