The wording of recent pre-disciplinary warning letters being sent to Labour Party members from Sophie Goodyear, “Head of Complaints” at Labour’s HQ in Southside, shows that the witch-hunt of socialists in the party continues unabated, albeit in a modified form – particularly against those who forthrightly challenge the racism inherent in Zionist ideology and Israel’s apartheid laws and practices.
Iain McNicol’s notorious “Complaints Unit” appears to have been replaced, under Jennie Formby and legal guru Gordon Nardell, by a “National Complaints Team” – but the stench of hypocrisy reminds us that a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.
Healthy discussion of political issues is still being blocked by chilling complaints which are, all too often, taken seriously. Instead of debating the content of differences, the right make complaints about the manner of expression. Instead of stating their views openly in the press, on social media and in party meetings, the right make cowardly complaints to party officials.
The good news is that automatic exclusions, disciplinary action before due process, appears to have ended – one of the key demands of Labour Against the Witchhunt at its formation in October 2017. At least in some cases, suspension from membership is no longer the first resort of the party’s apparatchiks.
Suspension normally involves removal from all posts. This not only removes the rights of the suspended member, but also directly negates the democratic rights of the party members who elected them to those posts. It also involves a ban on attending party meetings, thereby removing the best form of education and re-education – discussion of a member’s issues with their peers, their comrades in their local branch and constituency party.
The previous “Head of Disputes”, Sam Matthews, used to suspend you on the basis of “serious allegations” which had not yet been investigated. Sophie Goodyear, while not suspending you, nevertheless finds you guilty (presumably using comrade Nardell’s prescribed nostrums), as displayed in this exquisite example of ‘safe spaces’ double-think:
“It has been brought to the attention of the National Complaints Team that you have posted offensive comments on your social media, copies of these are included in this letter. These comments have caused offence.
“The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society and we appreciate that this does lead to discussions where those involved hold differing opinions. For a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in a safe space and an atmosphere of respect. Abuse of any kind – whether direct attacks or pejorative language which may cause offence – is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in our Party. Language that may be perceived as provocative, insensitive or offensive falls short of the standards expected of us as Party members.
“I am therefore writing to you to remind you that comments such as those below are not what we would expect from members of the party and ask that you refrain from making comments of this nature in future. Please be aware that any repeat of this conduct may lead to formal disciplinary action.”
Being found guilty without due processand threatened with future disciplinary action chills the heart of the accused, but leaves them none the wiser as to what exactly is deemed unacceptable in what they have said. Attaching copies of one’s “social media comments” still leaves one guessing, afraid and silenced.
What remedy is available to those who receive such a letter? I suggest:
(a) Publish the warning letter, for example by sending it to Labour Against the Witchhunt;
(b) Write a reply complaining of being found guilty without due process, asking who complained and precisely which words the complainant found unacceptable and why;
(c) Raise the issue in your party branch or constituency meeting.