Today Jackie Walker was forced to withdraw from a Labour Party disciplinary hearing when the panel due to pronounce on her case refused to allow her to make a short opening statement in her defence. This was essential given the party’s refusal last week to deal with urgent questions from her lawyers about alarming last minute additions to the charges against her.
Jackie Walker (a black Jewish Woman) was suspended from the Labour Party 2 ½ years ago for asking a Labour Party antisemitism trainer, at an antisemitism training event, for a definition of antisemitism. Since then she has been the subject of the most appalling and unrelenting racist abuse and threats, including a bomb threat.
Today Jackie Walker attended her long delayed Labour Party disciplinary hearing. She was accompanied by her defence witnesses and legal team; she had submitted over 400 pages of evidence in her defence but had been given no opportunity to respond to extra charges sent to her last week, along with a major revision to the basis on which allegations of antisemitism would be assessed. At the beginning of the hearing, the Chair advised Jackie Walker that this was to be an informal hearing and that she could address him by his first name. The Chair then invited procedural questions. Jackie asked to be allowed to make a brief opening address to the Chair and Panel. The team of Labour Party lawyers objected. The Chair adjourned the meeting to consider Jackie’s request to speak, and then ruled that she must remain silent. Jackie Walker had no alternative other than to withdraw from the hearing, as the panel’s decision demonstrated that she had no chance of a fair hearing in a process that has lacked equity and natural justice from the start.
Jackie Walker said:
“After almost three years of racist abuse and serious threats; of almost three years of being demonised, and now being ambushed by a batch of last minute changes, I was astounded that the Labour Party refused to allow me a few short moments to personally address the disciplinary panel to speak in my own defence. What is so dangerous about my voice that it is not allowed to be heard?”
All I have ever asked for is for equal treatment, due process and natural justice; it seems that this is too much to ask of the Labour Party.”
STATEMENT OF JACKIE WALKER
Today (26 March 2019) I (Jackie Walker) attended the long overdue Labour Party disciplinary hearing, before the Labour Party’s highest disciplinary panel (National Constitutional Committee). I was accompanied by my defence witnesses and legal team; I had submitted over 400 pages of evidence in my defence.
At the beginning of the hearing, the Chair advised me that this was to be an informal hearing and that I could address him by his first name. The Chair then invited procedural questions. Through my lawyer I asked to be allowed to make a brief opening address to the Chair and Panel. The large team of Labour Party lawyers objected. The Chair adjourned the meeting to consider my simple request to speak. Despite repeated requests from my lawyer that I be allowed to speak at the outset of my hearing, the Chair ruled that I remain silent. I therefore had no alternative other than to withdraw from the hearing, as it was clear to me that I would not receive a fair hearing.
It is vital to appreciate the astonishing background of the process that has been applied by the Labour Party apparatus to me.
On 25 September 2016, at the Labour Party (LP) Conference in Liverpool, I attended a LP training event entitled ‘Confronting antisemitism and engaging with Jewish voters’. The training session was co-hosted by the LP with the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and was presented by the vice-chair of the JLM, Mike Katz. The session was open to all LP members attending the Annual Conference. As is normal practice the presenter encouraged and engaged in discussion and debate with attendees throughout the hour-long training session.
Towards the end session I put my hand up to speak and was invited by Mr Katz to ask a question/make a comment.
- I asked for a “definition of antisemitism”
- I commented “wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experience holocaust”, and
- I asked about security matters relating to the Jewish community.
I was secretly filmed by an unknown person who released the film of my contribution at the meeting to the media and footage of the closed training event was published online by newspapers. On 29 September 2016 the LP suspended me and subsequently charged me that my words were:
- inappropriate; and
- undermined Labour’s ability to campaign against racism.
I am black. I am Jewish. I am a woman. I have spent my life fighting racism and inequality. My ethnicity, Jewish heritage and gender have brought me into direct conflict with those who abuse and threaten others on the basis of colour of skin, race, religion and gender. I abhor antisemitism. I abhor discrimination against black people. I abhor all discrimination. I abhor the differential treatment of women. I absolutely and vehemently reject the charges made against me by the LP. For 2 ½ years I have faced a grossly unfair disciplinary process that has now reached new heights of staggering unfairness.
The increasing instances of serious unfair process have become intolerable in the weeks leading up to this hearing. Unfair process had infected all aspects of the LP investigation and prosecution. My fundamental right to a fair hearing has been wholly compromised by the conduct of the LP.
- LP submission on what constitutes anti-Semitism
The definition of what is antisemitism (as opposed to legitimate criticism of the state of Israel) deserves serious respectful political debate, including controversial debate. It defies all logic, and threatens the essence of free speech, to be accused of antisemitism for simply asking the fundamental question: what is antisemitism?
The recent NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism was not in existence at the time of the training session in September 2016. The endorsement by the LP of the IHRA definition of antisemitism did not take place until after the Conference of 2016. The endorsement by the LP was the subject of significant debate. The endorsement is “to assist in understanding what constitutes antisemitism”. In fact during the training session Mike Katz referred not to the IHRA definition but to the European Union Monitoring Centre’s definition. 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.
- LP relies on racist statements to prosecute me
It is beyond any sense of fair process that in prosecuting me for antisemitism for my asking a training session for a definition of antisemitism in September 2016, that the LP, astonishingly, has submitted racist and discriminatory statements made about my colour, gender, appearance, ethnicity and heritage, to support its misconceived case against me.
The LP relies on anonymous witnesses who have written:
“[JW is] a white middle-aged woman with dreadlocks”
“Walker- who claims to be part Jewish”
And also on the written witness evidence of Mike Katz who states:
“… JW uses her self-identification as a black woman and a Jew as cover to put her beyond criticism…”
There is no conceivable place in a fair disciplinary process for such statements to be allowed in evidence.
As a black person I have long campaigned for the proper recognition and memorialisation of those who died and suffered during the shameful period of the slave trade. During the training session I was making the point that it would be fitting to include the victims of the slave trade as well as other pre-Nazi genocides in the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations. In prosecuting me for raising that comment, again astonishingly, the LP relies on an anonymous witness who writes:
“I am not at all happy regarding her obsession with African genocide and the holocaust”
I have repeatedly asked those conducting my disciplinary process for anonymous and racist evidence to be removed from the evidence presented by the LP. My applications have not been agreed.
That is unfair.
I applied to the Panel to adjourn my case to allow the reliance on racist material by the LP to be referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for investigation. My application was rejected.
That is unfair.
- Other racist and threatening remarks
I have been subjected to threatening, racist and abusive remarks throughout the time I have had to wait for the LP to carry out its disciplinary process. Some examples of the material sent to me have included:
“Jackie Walker is as Jewish as a pork pie, stop harassing Jews you fucking Nazi scum”
“Jackie Walker and her defenders can go hang”
“Jackie Walker’s Jewishness is a hastily constructed identity to protect her from the backlash of her antisemitic comments”
“Her father whom she barely knew apparently was Jewish so she isn’t Jewish…nothing to do with her colour”
“We should send people like you to the fucking gas chamber! Palestine does not exist, nor did it ever exist. Israel has been a Jewish homeland for 3,000 years! Moron”
“Was that thundercunt referring to you wanting to see Corbyn shove Jackie Walker into a burning bin? You didn’t mention ethnicity”
“God, what a fucking anti-Semite black Jewish working class female Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker is! Can’t think why Labour want rid”
The above examples were submitted by me as part of my documents in the disciplinary process yet the Panel hearing my case still did not allow my application to remove racist and discriminatory evidence being relied on by the LP.
That is unfair.
- Secret Panel to hear my case
Until this morning I had not been allowed to know the identities of those who are to sit in judgment on my case despite the LP presenter and the LP legal team being aware of the identities since last year.
Initially the LP claimed that it would not release details of the Panel to me or my solicitors, because of security concerns. The clear discriminatory inference is that I as a black person am prone to trouble and/or violence; that whenever black people and their supporters gather to object or protest there is a tendency to disorder causing a security risk. This is plain racist discriminatory negative stereotyping.
When pressed, the LP confirmed it has not received any threats relating to my case but still refused to let me know the identities of Panel members. I could not carry out any background checks on previous statements or connections of the Panel members to assess the risk of bias and lack of independence.
That is unfair.
- Secret venue
For personal reasons, of which the Panel is aware, I wanted to visit the hearing centre to familiarise myself with the venue. The LP refused to let me know where the hearing was to take place until 4 working days before the hearing which was too late for me to make a familiarisation visit.
That was unfair.
- Failing to put intended charges to me
I am also charged with bringing the Party into disrepute for pursing my legal rights against the LP for a serious breach of my personal data held by them. I am being charged for defending my rights. The charge was never put to me at the lengthy investigatory meeting I had with the LP investigator or at any other time during the almost 2 year long investigation stage of the process. I was never given an opportunity to explain my position before a one-sided decision was made by the LP to charge me. When I protested that it was a clear breach of natural justice to go straight to a charge without seeking my comment at the investigatory stage I was told by the LP that:
“Natural justice does not require that she [JW] also has the opportunity to respond at an investigatory stage”
Trade Unions built the LP. It is unthinkable that a trade union would accept a disciplinary process that completely by-passes the investigatory stage and goes straight to a disciplinary charge without any input or comment from the person to be charged. It is unthinkable that a police investigation would go straight to charge without interviewing the accused to seek comment.
Yet that is what the LP has done to me.
That is unfair.
- Lack or loss of investigatory records
When I pointed out that some of the evidence to be relied on by the LP at the hearing had never been put to me during the investigation interview, the LP admitted in writing that:
“The NEC wishes firstly to record that the precise details of the matters put to Ms Walker during the investigatory interview are not known to those now presenting the case, as the interviewer is no longer in post.”
It is incomprehensible that in such a serious case, where charges of antisemitism are being made against me, that an accurate and complete record has not been kept by the LP of their own investigation.
In light of my previous grave concerns about the unlawful handling of my personal data I am extremely concerned that there have been further breaches of Data Protection laws concerning the management by the LP of my personal data.
That is unfair.
- Late submission of evidence by LP
On 20 March 2019 the LP served more evidence on me that it intends to rely on at the hearing due to start today. I was not given time to consider the fresh evidence, assess the context of that evidence and to counter that evidence. An application for an adjournment of the hearing to allow me time to deal with the evidence in the nine new documents served so late was not allowed by the Panel.
That is unfair.
- Prejudicial public statements by Labour MPs
My case has attracted significant public interest and comment in the press, most of which has been ill-informed and biased. However I have also been subjected to significant negative prejudicial statements from Labour MPs making it impossible for me to have a fair hearing within the LP. I have made complaint of this and was told this would be discussed with the General Secretary however, this behaviour persisted. If this were in another setting the MPs could be found to be in contempt of court.
For example, on 27 February 2019 on House of Commons letterhead thirty-eight MPs, members of Labour Tribune, put their names to a letter written to the General Secretary of the Labour Party wherein I was clearly referred to and where it was said that I was:
“…someone who has been thrown out of the party for making antisemitic comments”.
Those MPs would have been aware that their letter, which was published online and in the press, would seriously prejudice my hearing due to take place within a month of their letter. They were giving a clear steer and signal to the Panel of what the outcome of my hearing is to be. They wrongly identified me as someone expelled from the LP and wrongly identified me as someone who has been found to be antisemitic by the LP.
On 22 March 2019 the MailOnline published an article entitled “Shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s ‘anti-Semitic’ ally must be expelled, or Labour ‘has no future ’MPs warn”. The article states:
“Her [JW] case will finally come before Labour’s disciplinary panel on Tuesday after two-and-a –half years of delay. Backbenchers said the party must ensure she is expelled- if Labour is to have any chance of proving it is not institutionally anti-Semitic.
Dame Margaret Hodge said: ‘It’s extraordinary that it has taken so long to bring her to an expulsion hearing. Tough action must be taken but one expulsion will not solve a far deeper cultural problem that has infected the party”
Backbenchers, and in particular Dame Margaret Hodge, have directly interfered in my right to a fair hearing. They have prejudiced a fair hearing by making such prejudicial statements only one working day before my hearing. Their aim is obvious. Hodge has given the clearest possible signal to the Panel of the outcome she wants and expects.
The interference in the disciplinary process by these MPs has made it impossible for me to have a fair hearing.
That is unfair.
My decision to withdraw from this hearing
Faced with an inherently racist disciplinary process where the evidence of abusive racists is relied on by the LP to prosecute me; faced with multiple examples of a grossly unfair process in the investigation and prosecution of my case and the conduct of my case at the NEC and NCC Panel stages; faced with the discriminatory secrecy of the Panel appointed by the LP to hear my case; and faced with the prejudicial public statements by Labour MPs preventing my ability to have a fair hearing, I am left with no confidence whatsoever in the ability of the LP to conduct a fair disciplinary process.
I am expected to appear before an unfair Panel where the LP has ridden roughshod over my rights in its headlong blinkered hankering to expel me from the Party to satisfy the wishes of those who are not involved in the detail of my case but who have judged me unfairly and have already condemned me.
I have spoken of a lynching and a witch hunt. If I were in a fair, independent and unbiased court I would say “I rest my case”.
In such an unfair and biased process I do not now recognise the ability of the LP disciplinary process to investigate and try my case with the equality and blind fairness everyone should expect of a democratic process that recognises the primary importance of the rule of law and fair due process.
“As a result of the truly astonishing decision this morning to prevent me from even addressing the disciplinary panel at the outset in my own defence, I was left with no option but to withdraw from the disciplinary process”
Tuesday 26 March 2019