Letter sent to all member of the Labour Party NEC
15 January 2018
Dear NEC member,
We understand that the suspension of Syed Siddiqui is being considered by the NEC very shortly and we urge you to lift the suspension. We append a Case summary, and attach the relevant sections of the Rule book and the exchange between Mr. Siddiqui and Party Officers, leading now to a second complaint about how this issue has been handled.
As Mr. Siddiqui has been selected to stand for the local Council, it is even more important that it is addressed swiftly. We have 2 JVL committee members in this constituency who can attest to the falseness of the allegations and to the truth of the Islamaphobic comments addressed to Mr. Siddiqui.
We look forward to a speedy resolution of this matter.
Leah Levane and Jenny Manson
Co Chairs, Jewish Voice for Labour
There is a model resolution on the case here
See our earlier report: Another grotesque miscarriage of justice – sign the petition
CASE SUMMARY by Murray Glickman
Syed Siddiqui is only 29. He is no hard-bitten politico, having been a party member only since 2015. He was first elected as Ilford South CLP secretary at the 2016 AGM and was re-elected unopposed in 2017. He is committed and on the left. People who know Syed in the local party say he is good-hearted, friendly, outgoing, energetic, competent, principled and quietly determined. I saw him in action when out canvassing during the General Election: I wish I had his ability to engage so easily with people on the doorstep.
The language used against Syed in the letters he has received from the party’s Head of Disputes simply does not describe the man I know!
I have compiled this summary based on access to all the documents I refer to and after extensive conversations with Syed and other local party members who witnessed various relevant events.
Ilford South CLP
Steering Group Member, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)
In order to understand the context of this summary, some background information is necessary in relation to: (i) manoeuvrings by people associated with the ‘Progress’ faction in the Redbridge party and (ii) problems that arose in the local party Whatsapp group.
(i) Progress manoeuvrings in Redbridge
A clear picture of what has been going on in given in the following passages quoted from a report submitted to the national party leadership by Wendy Taylor, vice-chair of Ilford South CLP:
llford North has a membership of over 900. Most members have joined since 2015 so it is likely that most new members have joined to support a left wing agenda of the current Party leadership. However, the CLP officers and administration are dominated by Progress sympathisers if not members. This Progress coterie coalesced around Wes Streeting, who was a Redbridge Borough councillor but is now our MP. Richard Angel, Director of Progress lives locally having moved here, by his own confession to support Wes Streeting.
The Progress group control communication within the CLP via Matt Goddin who is works fulltime for Wes and is also CLP Secretary and Secretary of the Redbridge LCF which presents clear conflicts of interest. They employ subterfuge in order to retain control of the CLP and LCF ….
Regarding the selection process, Councillors who had challenged the right wing council leadership didn’t get through the process …
No local people were on any of the interview panels and members were carefully chosen from the right. We know of only one leftish panel member who said he was in the minority so couldn’t save any left candidates
Candidates rejected [by these interview panels] include:
o Helen Watson: …. [chair of Church End & Monkhams Ward, Chingford & Woodford Green CLP] women’s officer and communications officer with the Teachers Union. She campaigned tirelessly and was instrumental in the drastic reduction in IDS’s majority yet was told she did insufficient canvassing! Despite having worked in comms for 20 years in local authorities she was told she didn’t understand the role of a councillor sufficiently and was ‘reading from a script’
o Barbara White, an activist for 20 years and sitting Labour councillor for 8 years, ex-mayor and on the Exec of the musicians union, ex women’s officer on the TUC and recently diagnosed with cancer. Her appeal was rejected because she had not campaigned sufficiently and missed some group meetings due to ill health due to her treatment, though attendance at council meetings was similar to the whip’s. She received no support with her disability from the leader or whip and when she responded to anti-Semitic content in a spoof paper this was held against her.
o Elizabeth Joseph, an activist from Hainault who has been in the party for 20 years, a magistrate who runs a local business employing 50 people.
o Rayla Javaid, a young Muslim activist from Woodford, who is a human rights lawyer for a charity working on the team representing Grenfell Tower survivors.
o Gupta Pushpita, a community activist and member for many years, who has campaigned for Wes Streeting, Sadiq and organised many social events raising funds for local Labour.
The situation in Redbridge recently got a mention in the Guardian: Momentum chief calls for Labour candidate selection rerun in London | Politics | The Guardian
Remarkably, Syed managed to slip through the Progress net and was selected as candidate for Churchfields Ward. Although a ward of Redbridge council, this ward is in the constituency of I Duncan Smith (majority only 2000). It is therefore a key target both strategically and viscerally. Syed and the other candidates had already begun compaigning.
(ii) The Whatsapp Group.
Syed was moderator of this group (now closed). Diana Neslen (Ilford South GC and JVL Steering Group member) has written: “There was a growing argument between two of the members of the group with threats of violence. For the record, one is a Muslim the other a Sikh. I understand threats were exchanged like “I will slap you” “I am a kickboxer and will destroy you” And the two people were removed [by Syed] from the group. There is a record of this on Syed’s what’s app.” This took place in early September.
THE ISLAMOPHOBIC PHONE-CALL
In the first minutes after midnight of Tuesday September 12th, Syed was surprised to receive a phone call from Manjit Panesar [MP], one of the two people he had excluded from the WhatsApp group, Syed managed to record most of the call: the islamphobic and abusive nature of MP’s comments is indisputable. However, he had taken more than a minute of flagrant racist and personal abuse before it occurred to him to start recording the call. (The recording took some little time to set up and was time-limited by the app used).
Later that same day (12th September), Syed lodged a complaint against MP both with the police and the local and national party.
The party’s Legal and Compliance unit suspended Manjit Panesar. Party rules require the Unit to notify the local CLP when they take this action. On this occasion they failed to do so. Eventually, the fact of MP’s suspension was divulged accidentally to local party officers on October 3rd. Questions were then raised with the Compliance unit and the local party finally received notification of the suspension on October 4th.
Nothing further has been heard from the Compliance unit in relation to MP’s suspension. However, it seems that MP is not currently suspended since, we understand, he is standing for office in forthcoming local party AGMs.
ILFORD SOUTH GC MEETING, THURSDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER
On 22nd September, ten days after the abusive call, the regular Ilford South CLP meeting took place. No voting was required on any item. Nevertheless, Jas Atwal (leader of Redbridge Council and Progress supporter) was extremely exercised about having four new branch delegates admitted that evening. Syed pointed out that he had already informed the branch in question — weeks earlier — that before any new delegates could be accepted, the existing delegate would first need to formally submit their resignations. As he had not heard from the latter, he refused to allow the new people to join the meeting. Jas Atwal responded angrily but the meeting supported Syed’s ruling.
NOTICE OF INVESTIGATION LETTER, 6TH OCTOBER
On 6th October, Sam Matthews, the party’s Head of Disputes, sent Syed a formal notice of investigation. The letter stated that MP had made allegations against Syed, claiming that during 12th Sept phone call Syed had “also made various threatening and intimidatory comments towards” MP.
The letter continues: “We are aware that this matter is currently the subject of a police investigation. As is standard practice in these situations, we will place our investigation of this matter on hold … “
The letter went on to say:
In the meantime, the Party will continue to monitor this situation closely, especially for any indication that conduct arising from the dispute between you and Mr Panesar may be detrimental to the Party locally or nationally. Until this situation can be resolved, we reserve the right to take any appropriate steps to protect the Party’s reputation and/or interests, including administrative suspension. [Note: Syed was not suspended at this point.]
The inclusion of this statement is striking because it is so gratuitous. This in itself suggests strongly that the events which followed (and from which Syed has suffered great detriment) were pre-meditated and pre-planned. This suspicion is only reinforced by the fact that the party official appointed to investigate the case saw fit to repeat it in a letter sent to Syed as late as 8th January this year.
SECOND NOTICE OF INVESTIGATION LETTER, 11TH OCTOBER
A few days later, Sam Matthews issued Syed with a second notice of investigation. This stated:
Allegations that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Labour Party. You are alleged to have neglected your responsibilities as Secretary of Ilford South CLP thus having a detrimental effect upon the CLP, and to have treated members and office-holders in Ilford South CLP in an intimidating, threatening and disrespectful manner.
Due to the nature of the allegations, the full body of evidence will not be disclosed during the investigation.
You are not currently administratively suspended and no restrictions have been placed on the rights associated with your membership at this time.
In mid-October, Syed gave permission for the police to be in contact with the party over the racist incident.
NOTICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSION FROM HOLDING OFFICE OR REPRESENTING THE LABOUR PARTY, 7TH DECEMBER
The party’s Legal and Compliance unit is evidently so amply resourced that Mr Matthews found the time to send Syed a third formal notice, on 7th December. This states:
Multiple additional allegations that you may have been involved in further breaches of Labour Party rules have now also come to the attention of national officers of the Party. These allegations relate to conduct toward Party members which may be in breach of the Party’s Bullying and Harassment Policy (enclosed), including but not limited to your conduct at Party meetings and on social media.
The Party will investigate these new allegations, alongside the existing allegations: These are that you made threatening and intimidatory comments towards Mr Manjit Panesar in a telephone call on 12 September 2017 (DCN-0226); and that you have neglected your responsibilities as Secretary of Ilford South CLP thus having a detrimental effect upon the CLP, and to have treated members and office-holders in Ilford South CLP in an intimidating, threatening and disrespectful manner (DCN-0229). All of these allegations will now be investigated simultaneously as connected matters, along with your allegations against Mr Panesar (DCN-0218). ….
I give you formal notice that it has been determined that the powers given to the NEC under Chapter 6 Clause I.1.A of the Party’s rules should be invoked to suspend you from office or representation of the Party*, pending the outcome of the Party’s internal investigation.
The administrative suspension means that you cannot attend any Party meetings, including Branch meetings, CLP meetings, and Annual Conference, and you cannot be considered for selection as a candidate to represent the Labour Party at an election at any level.
THE POLICE DIMENSION
Initially Syed refused to allow the police to discuss the case with the party. He gave that permission on November 15th.
The police have raised no objection to the party investigating the case while the police continue with theirs.
Following his suspension, Syed withdrew the permission he had given.
Model branch resolution in support of Syed Siddiqui
This branch fully supports Syed Siddiqi and calls for his Labour Party membership to be reinstated immediately so he can continue in his role as secretary of Ilford South CLP and as council candidate for Churchfields ward. In our experience, Syed’s conduct and commitment to the Labour cause has been excellent.
Syed has not been notified of any specific allegation, neither has he been told who the complainant is or shown evidence of what he has supposed to have done. At no point has the complaint been brought to any officer of Ilford South CLP or raised formally. This goes against the laws of natural justice.
Furthermore, we are alarmed that Syed’s suspension comes so soon after his own complaint about an Islamophobic attack on him by a Party member, which is being looked into by Labour and being investigated by the police.
Whilst not wishing to prejudice the outcome – everyone has the right to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise – we would like it noted that the Labour Party has a policy of zero tolerance to Islamaphobia and that this matter has yet to be resolved.
We have a duty of care to our members and representatives, to deal with complaints fairly and promptly.
We believe Syed’s suspension from the Party is unjustified. It will have a detrimental effect on the work of Ilford South CLP and its council campaign in Churchfields, not to mention a negative impact on members, especially grassroots BAME members who already struggle for fair representation.