Letter to Jeremy Corbyn and Iain McNicol, 20 November 2017
Dear Jeremy and Iain,
It has been a very difficult month for women in the Labour party. We welcome the action you have taken so far and the commitment you have shown to tackling the problem, but believe there is still a long way to go to end sexual harassment and misogyny in our party. The abuse and oppression of women is endemic in our society, and that includes within our party.
As you are aware, LWN and women across the party have campaigned for reform to the sexual harassment procedure for many years. We have received assurances about action from successive party leaders, and we are very disappointed it has taken such a public and traumatic period of time for so many women to force serious action.
We recognise the efforts that have been made to improve the process and note the new policy agreed by the NEC and the subsequent announcement that there will be independent specialists to support women making complaints. But there is still a long way to go to ensure our process never again lets women down. The key to this is ensuring independence at every stage of the complaints process. A politically appointed group of people are not the right people to make judgement, not least because political bias and influence are likely to affect their decision. The party must introduce a completely independent process, which is separate from any elected committee or appointed staff members and which ensures complaints of this nature can be reported to an expert and independent body in the first instance, which would also provide those making reports with the support they need. We would like to hear whether the promised independent specialists are now in place to support women making complaints, and would like to hear how you intend to ensure they continue to play this key role in the complaints process.
We also want to say very clearly that the party’s response must not be limited to process change alone. Sexual harassment and abuse is just one part of the spectrum of women’s oppression, and the party must seize this moment to challenge sexist culture at our grassroots. That means training for CLP officers, representatives and staff, it means more resource for women’s forums and it means zero tolerance for sexist comments or behaviour in any Labour meeting or online. We also think safeguarding training should be made available to all staff, CLP representatives and all members who want it.
We will be requesting a meeting with Karon Monaghan QC to discuss our views on sexual harassment and misogyny in the Labour party.
We are holding a conference on the 20 January where women across the party will join together to form demands and develop action plans to tackle sexism in their own CLPs. If you would like to attend the event in order to listen to these women, we would very much welcome your presence.
We will be publishing the content of this letter for our members to read.
Labour Women's Network Management Committee
Reply from Iain McNicol
Dear LWN Colleagues
Thank you for your recent email. The National Executive Committee, Jeremy and I take very seriously any allegations in relation to sexual harassment, how the Party deals with complaint and how we must ensure the Labour Party is a welcoming and safe environment for our members and supporters.
In light of this, the NEC has recently put in extra steps on top of our sexual harassment procedure, to enable victims and survivors to come forward.
•a dedicated hotline which members can call if they experience sexual harassment within the Party either personally, or towards another person. The number is 07595 432542 - please pass this on to anyone who may want to call.
•a specific procedure to deal with complaints of sexual harassment against members of the Party is in place.
•the NEC has agreed a new code of conduct for sexual harassment and gender discrimination that will act as a bench mark for the behaviour we expect from Party members.
•specific training is underway for the NEC sexual harassment panel, NCC and relevant staff
•discussion are being finalised with external organisations who are able to provide expertise and support to the Party
•an independent enquiry is underway with Karon Monaghan QC looking at our procedures and policies with a view to making recommendations for improvement
As there is always more we can do and ways in which our processes can be improved, I have also asked Jennie Formby, Vice-Chair of the NEC, to lead on these matters working with our staff officers. I am sure Jennie would be pleased to meet with you at a mutually convenient time to feed in any other ideas or concerns.
My office will be in touch with you to assist in setting this up.
Can I also say how pleased I am to see the relaunch of the Jo Cox Development training.
My door will continue to be open.
The Labour Party
Southside, 105 Victoria Street
London, SW1E 6QT
Reply from LWN to Iain McNicol
Dear Iain and Jennie
Thank you for this email and for the offer of a meeting with Jennie. We’d like to do this before Christmas, and would appreciate some dates that work.
We appreciate that Karon Monaghan’s enquiry is ongoing, but there are a few points from our original email that we would like further clarity on:
- Please would you tell us whether the promised independent specialists are in place to support women. If they aren’t, can you let us know when they will be?
- Please can you set out any current plans you have to tackle sexist culture at the grassroots of the party?
- Is the NEC committed to implementing a fully independent process, free from any political interference?