POLITICS
16/04/2020 17:33 BST | Updated 16/04/2020 17:38 BST

Labour Staff In GMB Union Back 'No Confidence' Motion In General Secretary Jennie Formby

Motion by GMB chapel sparks row with rival Unite and piles pressure on Keir Starmer to act.

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General Secretary of the Labour Party Jennie Formby arrives for a Labour clause V meeting on the manifesto at Savoy Place in London.

Labour Party staff in the union GMB have backed a motion saying they have no confidence in general secretary Jennie Formby after a controversial leaked report on anti-Semitism named staff and Jewish complainants. 

The union’s London branch has also demanded an apology from the top official over the document, which included scores of emails and private WhatsApp conversations between staff members. 

The report – commissioned by Formby – concluded that “factional” opposition to Jeremy Corbyn among party workers worsened Labour’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism complaints and contributed to its election defeat in 2017. 

The motion reads: “Staff can no longer be confident that the general secretary has the safety and welfare of staff as her top priority, and [she] has allowed the mental and physical wellbeing of staff to be put at risk with the creation and leaking of this report.”

It will intensify pressure on new leader Keir Starmer, who has launched an investigation into the report, to take action. 

The move has also sparked a row with rival union Unite, whose members passed a motion condemning the GMB branch for defending staff named in the report.

Unite, led by long-standing Corbyn ally Len McCluskey, also put out a statement welcoming an investigation into how the report leaked.

But it also says: “It is shocking to note from the report that potential ‘factional’ sabotage of the 2017 general election from former senior Labour Party staff members at the time could have caused resources to be diverted in such a way that may have contributed to an electoral defeat.” 

The report not only named numerous officials – many of whom have faced online threats – but also Jewish people who had made complaints about anti-Semitism. 

The GMB union, which represents some 300 workers at Labour’s Southside base, says that by “trawling the emails and instant messenger logs, the general secretary has effectively unilaterally placed all members of staff under investigation” without due process. 

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Labour leader Keir Starmer 

It also calls the leaking of the report “yet another example of the toxic culture of bullying and intimidation that exists within the Labour Party and the contempt in which it holds its members of staff”.

It is unclear how the document was leaked to Sky News on Friday, but the Information Commissioner’s Office and Labour are investigating the potential breach of personal data. 

The GMB motion goes on to say there was a “hostile environment created post-2015”, when Corbyn was first elected, “in which staff who did not appear to
support the new leader were marginalised, ignored, harassed and hounded out of the party”. 

Unite, meanwhile, did not say it had no confidence in Formby, adding: “This branch executive is completely committed to holding the leadership and management of the party accountable.

“We will continue to pressure the party to act swiftly on the issues raised by our members, and monitor developments closely.”

Starmer, who was elected on a pledge to unify the party, led a conference call with staff earlier this week and asked them to “stop taking lumps out of each other”.

A second motion from GMB was also passed, which condemns how some staff named in the report treated BAME politicians.

It comes after one WhatsApp conversation saw staff direct a journalist to find the then-shadow home secretary Diane Abbott when it was known she had been crying in a toilet cubicle. 

Staff noted “conversations contained in the recent leaked internal report into the Labour Party’s processes dealing with anti-Semitism show that senior management staff fell well short of what should be expected from Labour Party staff with regard to their treatment of and discussions about BAME politicians”.

The party remains under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over its response to anti-Semitism. 

HuffPost UK has contacted the Labour Party for comment.