Labour’s investigations into anti-semitic abuse are to be strictly time-limited, de-politicised and made more consistent under new moves to tackle the problem within the party.
A 13-point action plan, leaked to HuffPost UK, includes proposals to fast-track the process by using smaller, specially-trained teams of investigators and by anonymising complaints to remove any risk of political or personal bias.
More disciplinary cases will be dealt with solely through written testimony rather than oral hearings and a new in-house lawyer will produce clearer evidence tests to standardise the system and make it more transparent.
Sanctions will range from verbal “reminders of conduct” or a “first written warning” through to more formal warnings, suspension and mandatory anti-semitism training.
The confidential list of recommendations, which went before the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) last week, aims to deliver on a pledge by Jeremy Corbyn to make the issue the “number one priority” of his new general secretary Jennie Formby.
Drafted by the party’s anti-semitism working group, which includes Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti and Momentum founder Jon Lansman, the new blueprint is aimed at rooting out abuse that has dogged Labour for the last two years.
The working group, which was created in the wake of Parliament Square protests by Jewish groups over the scale of the problem in Labour, makes clear in its report that it is time for wholesale change.
“The perception is that the process is not swift enough from start to finish, that it is susceptible to political forces at each stage of the process and that there is a lack of consistency in how cases are adjudicated on,” it states.
“The proposed changes in this document seek to take the themes outlined in the Chakrabarti report and apply them as a first step in a root and branch review of how the process works – learning the lessons from recent changes to the way the Party handles other types of complaints – most notably Sexual Harassment.”
Crucially, the new three-member anti-semitism panels will meet frequently to slash the time it takes to hear cases. At present, it can take up to 17 weeks for an initial decision, as the disputes panel meets only quarterly.
Learning the lessons of specialised investigations into sexual harassment, the key recommendation in the secret report is to create “Service Level Agreements” (SLAs) to set “a certain timeframe” for the first stages of the investigation.
“A standardised timetable will be used going forward,” the report states. “Indicative” deadlines will be given to those accused of anti-semitism, telling them just how long it will take for their case to be heard by either the NEC Disputes Panel, anti-semitism panel or National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
The party has been trying for some time to institute SLAs and deadlines for complaints, but has only recently recruited more staff needed to make them a reality, one source said.
The report stresses that progress has been made in hiring new staff to deal with the backlog of cases.
“A Complaints Unit, made up of 3 full time staff, and a new bespoke system to manage all complaints received by the Labour Party has significantly improved the way in which complainants and respondents are communicated with,” it states.
The document also makes clear that the party has already given the General Secretary’s office a greater role in the process, with a “pre-defined decision-making staff member” having to sign off all cases put forward by the disputes team.
A former aide to party chairman Ian Lavery is understood to be the staff member in Formby’s office now tasked with the job of signing off the disciplinary process with either a written letter or “administrative suspension”.
In one key section, the document appears to admit that the politics of individual NEC members – and of those accused of abuse - has in the past got in the way of previous decisions on anti-semitism cases.
“There is a perception that cases are not dealt with in a consistent manner due to political forces influencing decisions with particular respondents – particularly at the NEC Disputes Panel stage of the process,” it states.
To tackle the problem, it recommends that “reports on antisemitism are anonymised when they are put to the 3 member antisemitism panel in a similar way to how names are redacted from papers which go to the NEC Sexual Harassment Panel”.
Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone quit the party this month following a two-year battle to expel him for remarks he had made linking Hitler, Zionism and Jews.
Labour chair Ian Lavery said last month that there was a current backlog of 100 cases of anti-semitism allegations against party members. He predicted the number who would be expelled would increase “dramatically” thanks to new processes.
On the backlog problem, the latest working group report states that the new NEC Antisemitism Panel will be “provided with a summary document of the number of outstanding cases, the stage of ongoing cases, broken down by type of complaint”.
A Labour source confirmed the document had been “received positively” by the NEC. The working group will now “finalise the recommendations” and bring them to a future NEC meeting.