“Equalities structures are not a distraction, they are an essential part of empowering all our members, creating genuine representation and addressing decades of inequality.”
By Jess Barnard
Today I attended (virtually) the Labour NEC away day, where key issues around the Forde Report and Equalities were decided. Sadly, it was another bad day for democracy and anti-racism in Labour.
The Forde Report was a sobering read for all of us. Central among Forde’s recommendations was the establishment of a new, independent Directorate to oversee the Party’s disciplinary & regulatory affairs. But today, the NEC voted not to establish such a body.
The reasons given don’t stack up, in my view.
The Party suggests this is to remain EHRC-compliant. Yet a key EHRC recommendation was for independent disciplinary processes: exactly what Forde proposed. Their arguments, including on cost, remained unsubstantiated & unevidenced.
From selections to suspensions, it’s clear that the Party’s processes are not being applied independently or fairly – but rather, in many cases, for factional gain. I myself have been targeted. Members deserve better.
An NEC sub-committee was formed to review other recommended responses to Forde from the Party. Some are concerning, like the refusal to commit to update respondents on the progress of complaints. Members have been left waiting months or years, often on spurious grounds.
On equalities, the Leadership’s reported plans to ditch the democratic structures for BAME and Disabled members were passed, despite votes against from the Left. This goes against Labour’s rulebook and agreements made repeatedly within the Party over the past four years.
After the racism and Islamophobia scandals of recent months, we argued that members of colour need their own democratic structures within the party to have their voices heard. That’s what thousands of members told us in the Democracy Review, and what Conference voted for.
As leading Black Labour members have told us, and the Party itself admitted today, BAME Labour is not up to the task. The agreement today also means that BAME members will have to pay an additional membership fee to BAME Labour to have a vote on electing their national committee.
This move ignores the BAME members who have consistently demanded genuine representation and creates another unjust financial barrier to democratic representation. Ultimately those proposals passed, and BAME and disabled members will now not get the structures they were promised.
This risks doing significant damage to Labour’s relations with core constituencies ahead of the next General Election.
Equalities structures are not a distraction, they are an essential part of empowering all our members, creating genuine representation and addressing decades of inequality.
- This article was originally published as a twitter threat by Jess Barnard on November 29th, 2022. You can view the thread here.
- Jess Barnard is a members’ representative on Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) and the former chair of Young Labour. You can follow her on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.