NEC by-elections: Questions for left-wing candidates

We have asked all left-wing candidates the following four questions – and will publish their answers as we receive them. Feel free to approach any of the candidates yourself or let us know if you think a left-wing candidate is missing! In addition to the candidates below, we have also contacted Deborah Hobson (supported by Grassroots Black Left), but she has not replied. Lauren Townsend said she would answer – but then didn’t. Cecile Wright sent us her statement, but did not answer the questions.

1) Will you campaign for open selections (and scrapping the trigger ballot) for all Labour Party public office holders – including Westminster MPs?

2) Will you campaign against the Labour Party adopting the Board of Deputies’ 10 Pledges and for Labour to support the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?

3) Will you campaign for conference to become the party’s sovereign body, especially when it comes to deciding policy? Will you therefore campaign for the scrapping the National Policy Forum?

4) Will you press for Party complaints and disciplinary procedures that are fit for purpose, that include both the full implementation of the Chakrabarti report, with its principles of fairness and natural justice, and an effective means of addressing members’ complaints related to abuse of procedures and rules?

CLP section:

Jo Bird (supported by Jewish Voice for Labour and the Labour Left Alliance)

1. Yes. I have been arguing for open selection publicly and on various media outlets. Many parties already operate with this system and Labour Party councilors quite rightly face reselection before every election.

2.  Yes. I was one of the initial signatories of the ‘Open Letter to Rebecca Long Bailey’, which urged her to distance herself from the Board of Deputies’ 10 demands. They would be a disaster, if implemented in the Labour Party.

3. Yes, I’m very much in favour of reviewing policy-making processes to make them more members-led. This is what I’ve championed on the Wirral, as secretary of Wirral Labour Group, in partnership with the Local Campaign Forum. I support the recommendation in the Labour Party Democracy Review, which suggests setting up “a new NEC policy committee”, which would replace both the Joint Policy Committee and the National Policy Forum.

4. Yes. We should implement the recommendations from the Chakrabarti report in full – especially on the issues of fairness and natural justice. I believe that there should also be consequences for vexatious complaints.

Iqbal Sram

The answer to all the 4 questions is yes without reservation. I would also go for more decentralized decision-making as far as possible.

Fiona Dent

To be clear, I am a long term Labour member but independent of any of the different lobby groups within our Party. Here I am answering questions put by Labour Left Alliance but will happily answer questions from any other groups or individuals.

1) Open selection: From the time I joined Labour in my early 20s I have known that selection to stand for Parliament was a complex and often mysterious process that the majority of us are, in some respects, excluded from simply because the unwritten rules are known only to those who are already within a power circle. If open selections were to be run simply with equal ops criteria that would go some way to improving matters. However other issues should be addressed too such as that of patronage; for years we had the Blair power circle using the system to bring up preferred candidates and now we have a different power circle tempted to do the same. Much as my policy preferences are left wing I have to say that I believe constituency members are perfectly able to judge for themselves who they want to represent them. Our memberships in constituencies like Redcar, Sedgefield, Darlington, Stockton South and Bishop Auckland had something to tell us about our direction in 2016 to 2019 but we didn’t always listen, that connection between members and the rest of the Party must be strengthened. Not only will I campaign for open selections, I will also campaign to ensure that constituency members always do the choosing and that there is a fair playing field for applicants.

2) Board of Deputies’ 10 pledges: My understanding of BOD is that their President in 2015 actually campaigned against Labour in the election, then their President in 2019 took a similar position. I cannot believe that our Labour rule book would allow a Conservative supporting institution to have an executive role in any of our processes. If we are to rebuild relationships then it must be one of equals and of transparency.

However I am also very disappointed in my own Party in the time it appears to have taken to deal strictly with antisemitism, racism and other issues among members. I believe that the new system under Jennie Formby is effective but I would like to see regular anonymised data reports to members on the complaints system to demonstrate that there are no unnecessary delays. A bit of sunlight would go a long way to helping us heal.

3) National Policy Forum: I spent 3 years on the NPF and admit to enjoying every minute! However, while I felt that I had a modest impact in several areas of the economy policies, I had no real doubt that it was really the leadership circle (including NEC and Shadow Cabinet) that made the decisions. I tried very hard to engage CLPs in policy development but the unwieldy nature and scattergun effect of the NPF website and locally held policy forums was a marathon challenge. Something does need to change but simply sweeping away the NPF is not enough on it’s own. Other democratic mechanisms to feed into conference are needed. The new system needs to be streamlined and clarified so that constituencies can genuinely engage and find it easy to input. Both my public service professional experience and that of my voluntary experience on the NPF would be useful in developing an improved system that would culminate at conference.

4) Complaints and disciplinary procedures: We undoubtedly need a clear and rigorous process in this area that can be measured through carefully considered anonymised data. It is equally important that principles of natural justice are upheld and that the data is sufficiently anonymised so that those principles are not undermined. We did not act swiftly enough to stop antisemitism when it emerged as a problem in the Party and we have also fallen down in other areas such as sexism and abuse of procedures. The Chakrabarti Inquiry report gave us a way forward and I believe it was a mistake not to fully embrace it in 2016. All organisations face having to deal with difficult issues like this but we are uniquely placed to lead by example if we can face our faults and overcome them. The Chakrabarti report is part of that and I don’t hesitate to support it.

Trish Williams

1) Open Selection: Everyone elected to public office should be fully aware that they are always accountable to their electorate and never believe they have a ‘job for life’. I fully support Open Selections for every elected position, whether Parish, Town, District, Borough or County Councillors, MPs, Police and Crime Commissioners or elected Mayors. Open Selection is, in reality, just ‘selection’ and I consider it the democratic right of every member to have the opportunity to choose who represents them on a Council or in Parliament. Apart from which, such ‘selection’ processes are completely normal for most business and other organisations; indeed it is the trigger ballot that is odd, being a device that breeds division and adds complexity to what is a very simple process, that of choosing the best person for the job. I very definitely support consigning the trigger ballot to history.

2) BoD 10 pledges: Anti-semitism, indeed any form of racism or prejudice, has no place in the Labour Party, or in wider Society. I was dismayed at the readiness of all leadership candidates to ‘sign-up’ to the BoD 10 Pledges and would have preferred them to wait for the findings of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission investigation and to consult with Labour Party members, prior to making any statements. Given the BoD has no official role in Party governance or policy making processes, cannot purport to speak for all people of the Jewish faith and, having read the Jewish Voice for Labour statement, issued on 15th January, I am comfortable in campaigning against the Labour Party adopting the BoD demands. Regarding the BDS campaign, I was a delegate to Conference in 2018 and was awestruck by the heartfelt support for the Palestinian cause expressed by comrades present. I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would not agree with the simple truth that Palestinians, as with all of us, deserve the same rights as any other group of human beings and will proudly campaign for Labour to support the BDS campaign.

3) Sovereign conference: Our thousands of members are close to community issues and the concerns of ‘ordinary’ people, so I believe it is vital that their input be taken into account when formulating the next manifesto. I will campaign for the NPF to be abolished as I do not feel it meets the needs of a Party that will be in opposition for the next five years. Furthermore I believe the vast majority of policies established in the 2019 manifesto, were popular and will remain viable up to 2024. I feel what we need is for Shadow ministers and portfolio holders to spend their time in conversation with local Constituency Parties, Labour Groups, Trade Unions and Affiliates, to ensure that amendments to the 2019 manifesto are developed from the ground up, so we all learn together how to explain the benefits of these policies to voters. The emphasis must be not on ‘focus groups’ or putting out ‘consultation’ documents, but actively listening to the views and ideas of our own grass-roots members, and by ultimately debating and adopting CLP and Affiliate resolutions at National Conference, which is, and should always be, the Party’s sovereign body.

4) Disciplinary Process: As a CLP Secretary it is part of our role to deal with members complaints. Within the wider group of CLP Secretaries, I have been instrumental in drawing attention to a number of outstanding complaints, meeting with senior Party officials in an attempt to get these resolved. We agreed that preventing poor behaviour, through provision of information, education and training, followed by an informal mediation process for ‘minor’ infractions, is preferable to getting involved in a full disciplinary process. Myself, a number of other CLP Secretaries and senior HQ staff have discussed development of a programme to support CLPs in handling bullying and difficult subjects that arise in meetings and online, such as anti-semitism, racism and other behaviour that breaks Party rules. We have also suggested dedicated HR support staff to be employed by Regional Offices, to provide advice and guidance at the early intervention stage, especially in respect of potentially malicious complaints.

Of course once a formal complaint is raised there is no question that “principles of fairness and natural justice” must apply at all times and these are basic rules I live my life by. I believe the Chakrabarti Report was a sterling piece of work, and am disappointed that all the recommendations have not yet been implemented. I trust the new Leader, Party officials, the NEC, members and other interested parties will return to this report and engage in respectful dialogue to continue addressing ongoing issues, including unacceptably long timescales to resolve complaints, under current disciplinary procedures.

BAME section:

Mehmood Mirza (supported by Labour Left Alliance)

Thank you for your questionnaire.

I can confirm that my answer to all four questions put by Labour Left Alliance to all the candidates standing for the NEC by-elections is YES.

Also please find below the motion that I proposed and passed in my CLP West Ham in support of Chakrabarti’s report.

Motion on Right to appeal on NCC Decision 

This branch notes that the NEC’s meeting on 18th September it was agreed to put to Conference a rule change that brought in a Charter of Members’ Rights and more than double the size of the NCC to speed up the handling of the backlog of disciplinary cases.  But proposals for this long-overdue reform to the process did not include the right to appeal against NCC decisions.

This omission harms Labour’s proud record of being Britain’s party of social justice. 

Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 Labour report into antisemitism and other forms of racism recommended:

“In cases where the NCC has ordered that a member be subject to suspension (for up to two years) or expulsion from the party, there should be a right to seek a review of the decision on procedural or proportionality grounds to the Legal Panel, three of whom (excluding any member with previous involvement in the case) will consider whether the NCC made any procedural errors or breached proportionality in its prior determination.  If this is found to be the case, the Legal Panel will refer the matter back to the NCC for a fresh determination as the case requires.  In this way, the ultimate decision remains that of the NCC, albeit that greater protection will be afforded if necessary – both to those subject to the most serious disciplinary sanctions and to the elected Party body who will have a final opportunity to address any deficiencies in its decision-making.  I recommend that the NCC make provision for this right of review in new procedural rules which I recommend are adopted”. 

We call on the NCC to formulate a change to the National Constitutional Committee’s procedures to include the Chakrabarti “right of review”.  

Aram Rawf

1 . Yes. I want MPs to be more accountable to the members.

2. Yes. Yes. Neither the Board of Deputies nor any other body should dictate to our party how it should conduct its internal affairs. We should support BDS like in the past we supported the anti-apartheid movement.

3. Yes. The NEC should be the party’s ruling body and the NPF should be scrapped. More power should be in the hands of the grassroots members.

4. Yes. The current system has let to unfairness, injustice and many mistakes. 

Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal

1) Open Selection: This is something I have been campaigning  for very long time since I become a party member 12 years ago. I am member of a CLP which was deprived off the democratic right to choose who could represent us in Parliament. Before last election, our CLP was one of four CLPs which triggered against sitting MP and yet sitting MP was endorsed without seeking reselection from grassroots  members. As a secretary of this CLP, I felt cheated and dejected like all other members  as result of triggered ballot was not respected and members were not given any opportunity to select their PPC. What’s point having trigger ballot in place when members are not given a chance to select their PPC. I cant say enough to support Open Selection for all elected representatives for greater democracy.

A recent tweet: As a BAME rep I will also call for #OpenSelection , #NoWar, and no

suspension of members due to political views. Vote #Chaudhry4BAMENEC if you agree. A strong voice for BAME community on NEC who will fight for rights of grassroots  members.

2) Bod 10 pledges: I strongly oppose the 10 pledges of BODs and will not sign them. I also made it clear in one of my messages to Lee Rock  =( of LLA) on this: if I will ever be given an opportunity to support or sign this, I will strongly refuse it. 

3) Sovereign conference: I believe that deciding party policies at conference by thousands of delegates from every CLP is an effective and a democratic way . Having an honour to address the conference in Brighton last year as a CLP delegate has given me confidence and belief  that Conference is a way forward to decide party policies. We seen what came out of these party conferences where great initiatives like Democracy Review voted by delegates.  Therefore I fully support the idea of Conference being s strong and sovereign body of our party. 

4) Disciplinary process: I have been calling for the full implementation of Chakrabati’s report to tackle any challenges  our party has been presented with while dealing with allegations of antisemitism and other forms of discrimination. While complaints against party members should be dealt effectively and fairly, it is equally important to have a complaint system which is fair, transparent and serving justice rather than scapegoating of members and hanging them to dry for indefinite period of time. 

I welcome the latest report by Jennie Formby in regard to how our party has made significant  progress in regard to deal with complaints of antisemitism. I believe that Labour party is keen and tackling these complaints seriously and effectively, however improvements need to be made to make sure principles of fairness and natural justice are not compromised. 

I also supported Jo Bird against her suspension and signed a letter written to Jennie Formy demanding the reinstatement  of Jo Bird and Mo Azam. I also sent a Whatsapp message to Jennie Formby voicing my concerns on this and demanded to have both suspesnions being lifted. Both letter and Whatsapp message are on the LLA Facebook page.

I also made it one of pledges for my NEC campaign:

“Fight for the rights of every GRASSROOTS member to make sure a fair & transparent disciplinary process is in place so anyone suspended gets fair chance to get justice”.

I also recently twittered expressing my desire to have a fair system with in our party where no one should be suspended due to their political views. 

Jermaine Jackman

1) Open Selection: I believe It’s very important that candidates and holders of public office are accountable to local members and this ensures complacency doesn’t set in. We should be using open selections to promote better representation i.e. BAME Only shortlist. 

2) BoD 10 pledges: It is important that our movement is united, a movement where everyone feels welcome and every voice, even the most marginalised are heard. If elected NEC BAME Rep, I will facilitate a roundtable with all Labour affiliated Jewish groups to listen and coordinate a joint response that our party and senior representatives can sign up to.

The pursuit of human rights should not be a contested one and I will call out racist and oppressive policies wherever I see them as is clearly shown by the impact of particular policies the Palestinian people. I will campaign for peace through a two-state solution.

3) Sovereign conference: The role of the National Policy Forum needs to be reviewed in line with democratisation of the party and conference should be a space where we debate, prioritise and vote on policies. If we were to make our conference the sovereign body, we should also explore ways of making conference more diverse and inclusive  

 4) Disciplinary procedure: Our complaints and disciplinary procedures could be improved and I think by adopting the key recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report is making steps in the right direction but we can do more for greater fairness and natural justice.