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In the line of fire on party complaints

25 July, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Cllr Thomas Gardiner

THOMAS Gardiner is taking a lot of flak over the Labour Party’s failure to deal with anti-semitism.

I don’t know the man, only talked to him once over the phone, but it seems certain colleagues of his among councillors blame him for the “anti-semitism” impasse in the party nationally because he handles complaints against members as a full-time party official.

Some colleagues believe he is too soft on members accused of anti-semitism.

But as a “civil servant” he plays no active part – or shouldn’t – in judging complaints. He simply processes them for adjudication by another body, the National Constitutional Committee.

This consists of 24 party members elected by delegates at party conferences. Every time a complaint is made that could lead to suspension or expulsion of a member the case goes before three members of the NCC who, like a jury member, must not know the member. One of the three NCC judges is expected to be a trade unionist. Apparently, their decision goes before the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Council.

It all sounds dull, bureaucratic stuff but if one pays any attention to the sniggers and gossip about Cllr Gardner you would think he is up to no good – when there is no evidence for this.

However, if reports are to be believed, party leader Jeremy Corbyn announced plans on Monday to change procedure by putting the worst cases before a body consisting of the party’s general secretary, Jenny Formby, and NEC officials. In other words, the NCC system – apparently introduced in the 1980s following criticism that the then existing system wasn’t “independent” enough of the party – would be partly abandoned. This, of course, would have to go to the party conference in September.

I would have thought it would be a golden rule in the party that any move that diminishes the political “livelihood” and integrity of a member should be judged by fellow party members – not a senior official. Party members are accountable to fellow members while officials, generally speaking, aren’t. What would we think if Town Hall officials or its chief executive had similar powers over a member of the public in Camden? Ultimately, elected councillors would be expected to have the last word.

How Mr Corbyn has got himself into this tangle I don’t know. In his rush to rid himself of the anti-semitism slur he seems to be letting go too easily of the democratic spirit that runs through the party.


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