“It’s clear that Martin Forde himself has not been happy with the Party’s response. And for us as grassroots members, the situation in the Party appears worse than ever.”
Rachel Garnham, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, urges that the issues raised by Forde still need to be addressed
It is now over a year since the Forde Report was published, and more than three since the ‘leaked report’ revealed huge issues of factionalism, misogyny, and racism in the Labour Party, as well as pointing to potential electoral malpractice with unapproved resources diverted during the 2017 general election. Both reports highlighted deep flaws in the Party’s disciplinary process, and the
serious efforts under the Leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby to resolve these issues.
Comrades could be forgiven for believing things have now become far worse. As a reminder, there were four important elements of the Forde Report, with accompanying recommendations:
The first relates to the ‘monoculture’ of Labour’s workplaces and the resulting factionalism that we see, from Labour’s national and regional offices, as evidenced in the Report. Members have experienced this for decades, and continue to do so. Certainly reports from Conference suggested that ballot papers may have been distributed factionally and delegates reported being advised on voting by staff.
Reports also suggest that Labour’s NEC has rejected proposals for a more ‘Civil Service’ style approach to staffing. So we can expect more of the same, hence CLPD’s suggested rule change on the issue.
The second element relates to the ‘Ergon House project’, and the specific undermining of efforts by the Leadership during the 2017 General Election for Labour to win more seats. This part of the Report was genuinely shocking, with Forde finding that funds were siphoned off, outside of usual controls, to shore up seats of MPs opposed to Corbyn.
The third element of the Report shone a spotlight on the racism and sexism that appears to pervade Labour workplaces, and the Party more broadly. This appeared both overt and embedded institutionally through unfair recruitment practices. The introduction and decline of the Community Organising Unit is noted under the section on factionalism, but it was most notable as an attempt to diversify the staff base to better represent the communities Labour seeks to serve – progress dismantled under the current Leadership.
The fourth element drawn out by the Forde Report was the completely dysfunctional complaints process inherited by Corbyn’s Leadership and his effort, with Jennie Formby, to turn that around. The use of the disciplinary process to undermine the democratic process is detailed most fully for the exclusion of Jeremy Corbyn supporters from voting in the 2015 and 2016 Leadership contests. The lack of engagement with Jewish Voice for Labour and issues with the antisemitism training introduced were also noted as problems.
Forde remains unhappy with Labour’s response
Head Office may claim to have taken on board many of the recommendations, and also suggests reforms undertaken following the EHRC report supercede Forde’s proposals. However it’s clear that Martin Forde himself has not been happy with the Party’s response. And for us as grassroots members, the situation in the Party appears worse than ever.
Selections demonstrate pure factionalism in excluding excellent, union-backed potential candidates from shortlists, while candidates who appear hand-picked by Head Office, often white and male, are given an easy ride. The downgrading of Labour Women’s Organisation and the failure to implement structures, agreed by Conference, for Disabled, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members, alongside the treatment of Diane Abbott MP and others, show the value that is actually placed on a diverse membership and promoting equality. The disciplinary process is perceived as purely a factional means of ridding the Party of left members, and clearly lacks the confidence of large sections of the membership.
With rules ignored and representatives already raising issues at every available opportunity, it is difficult to make progress. However, we must continue to remind our elected representatives of the issues raised by Forde and to urge that these are taken seriously and addressed, not left to gather dust.
- This article was originally published in the special 50th anniversary edition of Campaign Briefing, Read the full magazine here.
- Rachel Garnham is the Co-Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), you can follow her on twitter here. You can follow the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy on Facebook and twitter.