Everybody who represents the Labour Party – in any role – should be ashamed of this.
Jackie Walker, the Jewish Labour activist who has been subjected to years of abuse after being accused of anti-Semitism for requesting an accurate definition of the offence, has walked out of the party’s disciplinary hearing against her, saying it was prejudiced against her from the start.
Her experiences, as recounted in this article on the Jewish Voice for Labour website, correspond very closely with my own. Her response to them leads me to regret that I did not abandon my own hearing when I realised it was a kangaroo court.
Ms Walker said the disciplinary panel refused to allow her to speak in her defence, and said she had been presented with a large amount of new evidence, only days ahead of the hearing.
This certainly rings true for me. Although I did not try to make an opening statement, as Ms Walker did, I was frustrated in my attempts to establish my innocence by constant interruptions from a panel whose chair was not interested in the evidence.
It seemed clear to me that the panel was under instructions to find against me, no matter what emerged during the hearing – and I note that Ms Walker feels the same way about her hearing.
I was not presented with new evidence days before the hearing; I was presented with it during the hearing itself, in contravention of Labour’s own rules on the presentation of evidence.
Those rules state that new evidence may only be admitted with the express consent of both sides in a dispute, and that time must be allowed for a response to be submitted before any hearing takes place.
This did not happen in Ms Walker’s case, nor did it happen in mine.
Ms Walker also fell foul of the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Labour for its hearings, which is not the IHRA working definition that the party claims to have adopted last summer.
She wrote: “The LP now submits that the test to be applied to an allegation of antisemitism against me ‘does not require the NCC to engage in a debate as to the proper definition of anti-Semitism’ but rather whether an ‘ordinary person hearing or reading the comments might reasonably perceive them to be antisemitic’. That is an extraordinary dilution of the adopted test of ‘hatred towards Jews’ which is a definition of antisemitism with which I wholeheartedly agree.”
In my own hearing, the accusation was that somebody (who was never identified and who therefore, legally, does not exist) felt offended or upset by words I had written on This Site.
I had constructed my defence around the IHRA working definition and was therefore wrong-footed by this sudden change of direction. I should have halted the proceedings at once but, perhaps foolishly, I wanted to try to end the matter in accordance with party procedures. What a shame the party’s own representatives had no intention of doing the same!
Ms Walker pointed out that she was given no advance notice of the names of the panellists who were to hear her case, so she had no way of checking whether they were likely to give her a fair hearing. This rings true for me, also.
If I had known the name of the chairperson of my own disciplinary panel, and had been given the opportunity to check her own behaviour in other disciplinary hearings, I would have refused to participate until a new panel was selected. There was clear evidence online, showing that she was extremely prejudiced and would not offer anything approaching justice.
I would be very interested to know the names of the panellists in Ms Walker’s case.
Ms Walker pointed to prejudicial comments made against her by Labour MPs. I have also suffered the attentions of Labour MPs who seemed to want to make a name for themselves by treating people who had merely been accused as if they were guilty.
But it did not occur to me that their comments might constitute a reason for a disciplinary panel to find against me. After all, there was already a directive from Labour’s NEC included in the charge sheet, to find against me, no matter what evidence was presented.
And I note with interest that Ms Walker said the Labour Party was guilty of data protection crimes regarding personal information about her that was held by the party. I am also pursuing the Labour Party over breaches of the Data Protection Act.
Put it all together and we see that Labour’s failure to follow its own rules, and its determination to smear party members who speak out about injustice, is not only habitual – it appears to be party policy.
It is a policy for which every single party representative should feel a deep and burning shame.
Those responsible for it should – if they had any moral backbone at all – resign from their positions and from the party at once. They won’t, I know – they will have to be identified and pursued. And that’s a difficult task when they are gleefully removing anybody who might be a threat to them!
But clear breaches of procedure have been identified here, and that should be enough to start a dialogue, at the very least.