Free speech on Palestine!

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Emergency motion to Labour Left Alliance conference
submitted by Labour Against the Witchhunt

Conference notes:

1) The circular emailed on August 12 2020 to Constituency Labour Parties by General Secretary David Evans, states that certain subjects are “not competent business for discussion by local parties” – including the so-called definition of antisemitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the forthcoming report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the outrageous settlement payment made to former employees of the Labour Party who participated in the dreadfully one-sided BBC Panorama programme by John Ware, who now co-owns the Jewish Chronicle.The full text of the email is available here.

Conference further notes:

2) Labour party members have NOT been banned from discussing the IHRA mis-definition of antisemitism, the EHRC report or Starmer‘s settlement. The phrase “not competent business” is meant to intimidate and self-censor us, but it is merely hot air.

3) Left wing barrister Duncan Shipley Dalton explains:

“The NEC and therefore the GS has no authority in the rules to dictate what is ‘competent business’ for a CLP to discuss. The only authority is in Chap 1, VIII, 3.E: ‘The NEC shall from time to time, issue guidance and instructions on the conduct of meetings…’ Conduct not content. Conduct is a noun meaning ‘the manner in which an activity is managed or directed.’ That is not the same as the content or subject the meeting deals with. The NEC can issue guidance on how a meeting can be run/organised but not dictate what motions are competent business.”

4) That NEC member Rachel Garnham has stated that the NEC knew nothing about this supposed instruction.

5) Shamefully, Jennie Formby also used the formulation “not competent business” to stop branches coming out in support of Chris Williamson MP. She failed – and dozens of branches and CLP passed motions in support of Chris! No disciplinary action was taken against any of them.

Conference believes:

6) That the ‘leaked report’ quite clearly shows that there was an organised and concerted campaign by right-wingers in the party to undermine and sabotage Jeremy Corbyn and the left. Some of those actively involved in the campaign have now been paid off by Keir Starmer. This is a clear misuse of party funds and an insult to all Labour members and the former employees have brought the party into disrepute. With his email, David Evans clearly wants to shut down debate on this and other important issues.

7) The Labour Party was wrong to adopt the ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), as part of the futile attempt to appease the right and the pro-Israel lobby in- and outside the party. It is designed to conflate antisemitism and anti-Zionism in its list of eleven examples and is an integral part of the witch-hunt against the left.

8) These are clearly important issues that must remain legitimate subjects for debate at Labour branch and CLP meetings. The witch-hunt against the left was one of the main reasons for the defeat of the Corbyn movement, and Keir Starmer is intent on further expanding it. Thousands of left-wingers have been hounded, smeared, vilified and wrongly accused of being antisemites during the last five years, while the number of suspensions and expulsions has massively increased in recent weeks. Standing by is not an option for us. Are

Conference resolves:

9) The Labour Left Alliance will urgently produce a model motion for Labour Party branches and CLPs on this issue. This shall also express no confidence in Keir Starmer and David Evans.

10) The LLA shall seek to build a united campaign with Labour branches, CLPs, trade union branches and other organisations around the slogan ‘Free Speech on Palestine’.

The campaign shall also seek cooperation with the initiative on ‘Free Speech’ initiated by Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Chris Williamson and Marc Wadsworth, which has held a couple of excellent online debates.

Some of the initiatives the campaign could organise:

  • days of action where we protest outside local Labour Party offices and/or Labour Party HQ
  • a campaigning website
  • model motions