POLITICS

Labour Staff Sent Official Advice On Coping With 'Violent' Conduct At Liverpool Conference

Unprecedented warning issued

21/09/2016 19:24 | Updated 22 September 2016
Handout via Getty Images

Labour party staff have been warned they may face “aggressive and potentially violent” situations at the annual conference in Liverpool.

The unprecedented advice - including an emergency hotline - has been included in a circular sent to officials ahead of the gathering at the Echo Arena in the city this weekend.

Staff and stewards are told they may face physical or verbal assault and could be harrassed by angry activists.

The official advice, obtained by HuffPost UK, states: “If you feel someone is acting inappropriately towards you firstly, remove yourself from the situation; do not engage in the conversation or person’s actions..” 

Staff should as soon as possible report incidents to senior managers who can then assess the situation and alert security.

HuffPost
An extract from the circular

“They will then assess whether the individual should be removed from conference and if so, inform security to do so,” the circular states.

A senior staff telephone number has been distributed for any member of staff who feels under immediate threat of physical assault.

The memo, sent to all staff at Labour HQ, states:

“We know some of you have concerns over facing aggressive or potentially violent behaviour and we wanted to inform you of what to do if you feel anyone is acting in this manner towards you.  Your safety and wellbeing is of upmost importance to the Labour Party.

We understand that people can become angry when they feel that matters about which they feel strongly are not being dealt with as they wish, if that anger escalates into aggression towards you, we consider that completely unacceptable. The Labour Party will not accept or tolerate any potential violence or aggression towards our employees, and any such act/behaviour should be reported immediately and will result in appropriate action or sanctions.

Violence and aggression is – ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted’

Physical assault is - ‘the intentional application of force from one person to another, without lawful justification, resulting in physical injury, personal discomfort or damage to property’

Non-physical assault is – ‘the use of inappropriate words (including, but not exclusively, verbal/written/social media) or behaviour causing alarm, distress and/or constituting harassment’ 

If you feel someone is acting inappropriately towards you firstly, remove yourself from the situation; do not engage in the conversation or person’s actions....[Managers] will then assess whether the individual should be removed from conference and if so, inform security to do so.

If you need immediate support during an altercation please contact please [xxx name deleted] on [xxx number deleted] who will deploy security.

We understand that if you are subject to facing aggressive or potentially violent behaviour from another individual this can be extremely distressing. Should you feel you need support coping emotionally after any such incident please contact [xxx -name deleted], your Line Manager or your Trade Union Representative and arrangements will be made for appropriate support.”

One party insider told HuffPost: “It’s extraordinary. I’ve never seen the party send out anything like it before. It’s an absolutely shocking indictment of the party under Jeremy Corbyn.”

Corbyn has repeatedly condemned abuse and threats during the bitter leadership contest against challenger Owen Smith, but his critics say he should be doing more to stamp it out.

Liverpool Echo Arena
The Liverpool Echo Arena

The conference will be preceded on Saturday by the announcement of the leadership election result, with Jeremy Corbyn widely expected to win again.

The party’s women’s conference will then start, followed by the full conference on Sunday.

The unprecedented tightening of security follows the revelation that Stoke-on-Trent MP Ruth Smeeth will be taking a “minder” to the annual conference following anti-semitic abuse she has received.

The MP has been taking advice from the police about security after receiving death threats online and a total of 25,000 abusive messages.

It emerged today that spending on MPs’ security has increased dramatically since the murder of Labour’s Jo Cox in June.

A crackdown on online behaviour was agreed by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) on Tuesday after a summer in which MPs, activists, staff and others have all suffered threats and abuse on social media.

Labour members will in future be required to sign a pledge promising not to abuse anyone online or face being expelled from the party.

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