Solidarity with Howard Beckett! Statement and model motion

Joint statement by Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour Left Alliance, Labour in Exile Network, Rotherham Labour Left and Sheffield Labour Left. To add your organisation’s name, please email info@labouragainstthewitchhunt.org

Solidarity with Howard Beckett!
Nominate him in the UNITE general secretary elections!

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Model motion: No confidence in Keir Starmer

This is a model motion of no confidence in Keir Starmer suggested by Socialist Appeal – click here (the motion is at the foot of the article).

Model Motion: No confidence in Keir Starmer

This CLP believes that the election result in Hartlepool is a disaster for our party. Instead of winning back voters in key working-class areas, we are losing further seats to the Tories.

This CLP believes that this is the result of the rightward turn taken under Keir Starmer’s leadership: abandoning class-based policies, and instead resorting to flag-waving and appeals to big business.

Instead of attacking the Tories, Keir Starmer has spent more time attacking grassroots members, with unjust suspensions and suppression of members’ democratic rights.

For all these reasons, this CLP declares that it has no confidence in Keir Starmer. We call on him to stand down immediately, and for a leadership contest to be set in motion – so that the membership can elect a new leadership that will fight the Tories on the basis of a bold socialist programme.

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Labour Party conference 2021: Motions and campaigns

If you are (still) a Labour Party member, please try to become a delegate to this yer’s conference (September 25-29, Brighton). There are few important things left-wingers can campaign around:

1. David Evans will have to be ratified by conference as the new general secretary – the more delegates from the CLPs and unions vote against him, the bigger the impact.

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Model Motion: Free Julian Assange

1. This meeting notes that:

1.1 Journalist and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is in prison awaiting extradition to the USA on Espionage Act charges. These charges carry a prison term of 175 years.

1.2 The conspiracy charges against Assange criminalise core journalistic practices and are a frontal assault on the freedom of the press. The NUJ have called for his release, and over 800 journalists have now signed an open letter condemning the ‘campaign being waged against him for the crime of revealing war crimes’ and demanding his immediate release.

1.3 The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, found that Assange has been subjected to “psychological torture” and unprecedented state persecution in violation of his fundamental human rights. The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish Governments since 7 December 2010, including his time in prison, on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Working Group said Assange should be allowed to walk free and be given compensation.

1.4 Julian Assange has been kept in solitary isolation at Belmarsh maximum-security prison since April 2019. He is suffering a repressive regime of isolation and is being denied his fundamental legal right of access to his lawyers and legal papers that he needs in order to defend himself. Evidence has now emerged showing that extensive video and audio recording of Julian Assange and his visitors was carried out in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The recordings were passed over to the USA. His consultations with his legal team were taped, breaching one of the most fundamental legal rights for defendants.

1.5 His health has continued to seriously decline in Belmarsh and in November Nils Melzer warned: ‘Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.’

1.6 Over 65 doctors have signed a letter to the British Home Secretary calling for urgent medical assessment and treatment of Julian Assange in hospital. They warned that ‘on the evidence currently available, that Mr Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.’

2. This meeting believes that:

2.1 It is now plainly clear that the continuing legal case against Assange is based solely upon his activities as a journalist i.e. the exposure in the public interest of grave breaches of international law.

2.2 His continued detention and potential extradition represent serious contravention of human rights standards, and of freedom of the press under British law.

3. This meeting resolves to:

3.1 Condemn the British government’s complicity with the persecution of Julian Assange

3.2 Call on the British government to refuse to extradite him to the USA and to free him immediately

3.3. Campaign against his extradition, against the prison regime being imposed on him, and for his immediate release.

3.4 Ask our Executive Committee to raise this matter in the local press and media.3.5 Call on the Labour leadership to speak out strongly against Assange’s extradiction in support of his freedom and organise protests and a campaign in his support

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Model Motions on the “SpyCops Bill”

1. This CLP notes:

1.1. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 15th October 2020.

1.2 The Bill would amend Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to create a new process of ‘Criminal Conduct Authorisations’, constituting an express power for MI5, police forces and a range of other public authorities to authorise their agents and informants (“Covert Human Intelligence Sources” “CHIS”) to commit criminal offences.

1.3 This legislation would license offences, committed during cover operations, for a wide range of public authorities, from the intelligence services and the police, to the Gambling Commission and the Food Standards Agency.

1.4 The Bill places no limits on the types of crimes which can be authorised, with no express prohibition on human rights violations, including murder, torture, kidnap, or sexual offences. It allows state agents to commit crimes to stay undercover. There is no provision for innocent victims to get compensation.

1.5 In placing current guidelines on a statutory footing, the Bill would give legal basis to the infiltration of trade unions, as grounds for criminal conduct would include not only ‘national security’, but also ‘preventing disorder’.

1.6 Not only does this Bill make it impossible to prosecute such crimes, it gives prior authorisation to commit them and with no judicial oversight. As such it is weaker than comparable laws for phone-tapping, despite involving potentially far more harmful conduct.

1.7 That past victims of such covert operations include Pat Finucane, the Orgreave picketers, the Hillsborough victims, and multiple women who were abused as the result of state infiltration of environmental and social justice campaign groups.

1.8 That Labour Party leader Keir Starmer issued a one-line whip to abstain on the third reading of the Bill. He has since expressed what sounds like full support for the bill, claiming it was “impossible” to argue that the Bill would allow undercover agents to torture people. (https://www.expressandstar.com/news/uk-news/2020/10/23/starmer-defends-labour-position-on-spy-cops-bill/)

1.9 That 34 Labour MPs ignored the whip and voted against the bill.

1.10 That Unite the Union has launched a campaign against the bill: https://unitetheunion.org/campaigns/block-the-spycops-bill/

2. This CLP believes:

2. 1. This Bill is part of a wider project by this government to wrest key scrutiny powers away from parliament and the judiciary.

2. 2. This Bill has alarming and destructive implications for all progressive movements in the UK as well as the trade union movement in general.

2. 3. Keir Starmer was wrong to whip his MPs into abstaining on the bill.

2. 4. The prohibition of torture, sexual violence and murder on behalf of the British state must be absolute.

3. This CLP resolves:

3.1. That the Labour Party must oppose this Government’s ongoing project to place British authorities above the law.

3.2 To condemn the decision to abstain against Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill and call on the leadership to now unreservedly oppose it.

3.3 To thank the 34 Labour MPs who refused to follow the whip and who voted against the bill.

3.4 To publicly campaign against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.

3.5 To publicly campaign on behalf of victims of covert operations, and support the Pat Finucane Centre, the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, and Police Spies Out of Lives in their work to expose covert criminality by the British state.

Alternative motion

Oppose the capitalist state! Fight for a democratic workers state! Fight for socialism!

Resolution

This Branch/CLP condemns the Labour leadership’s decision to whip Labour MPs to abstain in the voting on the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill at its second and third readings in the House of Commons in October and expresses its opposition to the strengthening of the powers of the capitalist state – powers that have been used against the labour movement.

It affirms its support for those Labour MPs who defied the Party whip and voted against the Bill at its second and third readings and for the trade unions and other organisations that are campaigning against this legislation.

Supporting Information

On 5 October 2020, 20 Labour MPs defied the Party whip to vote against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill at its second reading in the House of Commons (https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/coverthumanintelligencesourcescriminalconduct/stages.html).[1]

On 15 October 2020, 34 Labour MPs defied the Party whip to vote against the Bill at its third reading in the House of Commons.[2]

A statement signed by 18 Labour MPs, by the General Secretaries of Unite, CWU, TSSA, ASLEF, RMT, NEU, UCU, PCS and NUJ, and by Reprieve, Police Spies Out of Lives, the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, the Pat Finucane Centre, Privacy International, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Justice 4 Grenfell, and the Public Interest Law Centre draws attention to

  • the lack of definition of the phrase ‘economic wellbeing’ in the Bill, which could implicate legitimate trade union activity
  • the failure to exclude authorisation of serious crimes such as murder, torture and sexual violence
  • the lack of provision to compensate innocent victims of criminal conduct undertaken by undercover state agents
  • the broad range of state agencies that will be able to authorise criminal activity
  • the use of the Human Rights Act to place limits on the scope of criminal activity, when the Government has used a legal defence that the state cannot be held responsible under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights for actions undertaken by individual agents
  • the lack of prior judicial authorisation or concurrent judicial oversight.[3]

In a briefing paper prepared by Reprieve, the Pat Finucane Centre, Privacy International, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and Rights & Security International, it is stated that the Bill

“goes far further than the present system for MI5 ‘authorising’ the involvement of CHIS in criminal offences, which does not as a matter of law place ‘authorised’ criminal offences committed by informants beyond the reach of prosecutors and the courts. That is also the case with other law enforcement bodies.”[4]

Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary of Unite, said, before the third reading of the Bill:

“We owe it to the victims waiting to give evidence to the public inquiry that the proceedings aren’t undermined by this outrageous attempt to legitimise the very behaviour for which they are seeking long-overdue redress.”[5]

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said, after the third reading of the Bill:

“It’s hugely worrying that we’re a step closer to seeing this deeply dangerous bill become law. MPs are signing off on a licence for government agencies to authorise torture and murder.”[6]

The Labour leadership’s decision to whip MPs to abstain in the voting on this Bill, like its decision to whip them to abstain in the voting on the second reading of the Overseas Operations Bill, will embolden the Conservative Party, as well as those on the far right of the political spectrum, damage the reputation of the Labour Party as a force that is opposed to the interests of the ruling class and that is fighting for the interests of the working class, and will lead to a loss of electoral support.

The Labour leadership should be arguing that

  • a safe and secure society is a socialist society because, when production is organised and planned democratically, the needs of everyone in society can be met
  • the capitalist state is an oppressive force that exists because society is divided into exploiting and exploited classes
  • because the working class is the largest exploited class in a capitalist system of production, only it has the power to transform a capitalist society into a socialist society
  • the working class should therefore be in charge.

Recipients

  • Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party
  • Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
  • Richard Burgon MP, Secretary, Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs
  • Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite
  • Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU
  • Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA
  • Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF
  • Mick Cash, General Secretary, RMT
  • Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, NEU
  • Jo Grady, General Secretary, UCU
  • Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS
  • Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, NUJ

[1] Elliot Chappell and Sienna Rodgers, ’20 Labour MPs defy party whip to vote against “licence to kill” bill’, Labour List, 5 October, 2020 (https://labourlist.org/2020/10/19-labour-mps-defy-party-whip-to-vote-against-licence-to-kill-bill/).

[2] Sienna Rodgers, ’34 Labour MPs break whip to oppose “spycops” bill as seven frontbenchers quit’, Labour List, 15 October 2020 (https://labourlist.org/2020/10/35-labour-mps-break-whip-to-oppose-spycops-bill-as-seven-frontbenchers-quit/).

[3] The full statement is available to view at https://unitetheunion.org/campaigns/block-the-spycops-bill/.

[4] ‘Briefing for Second Reading of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill’, Committee on the Administration of Justice, October 2020 (https://caj.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/CHIS-Criminal-Conduct-Bill-Briefing-for-Second-Reading.pdf).

[5] Howard Beckett, ‘Failing to oppose the spycops bill would be a dereliction of duty’, Labour List, 12 October 2020 (https://labourlist.org/2020/10/failing-to-oppose-the-spycops-bill-would-be-a-dereliction-of-duty/).

[6] Amnesty International UK, ‘UK: MPs vote through “deeply dangerous” Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill’, 15 October 2020 (https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/uk-mps-vote-through-deeply-dangerous-covert-human-intelligence-sources-bill).

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Model motion: Covid 19: Keir Starmer must pressure the government to bring about safe conditions in schools and universities

Drafted by our comrades in the Labour Left Alliance.

This branch/CLP notes:

  1. That Keir Starmer has repeatedly appealed for Boris Johnson to call him up into a government of ‘national unity’ – but what we need is an effective opposition to the government’s shambolic response to one of the greatest health and economic crises we have ever witnessed.
  2. Concretely, in terms of school re-openings, Starmer has been asking for students to go back to school since May, against the advice and opinion of the teachers’ unions. He has made no demands on the government as to how this could be done safely, except to mention the need for an effective test and trace system in August.
  3. Alongside the ongoing infections closing down local schools across the UK, University students are being abandoned to fend for themselves against predatory landlords and inhuman ‘quarantines’, all while paying the full price of their University courses as they struggle to learn through online videos.
  4. Students were guaranteed face to face lessons and continued campus activities by various universities as a way to encourage students to sign on to year long rental contracts, only for the universities to bring all their courses online and lock students into rental properties at the risk of being removed from the university course. If this wasn’t enough, the government is prepared to prohibit students from being with their loved ones over Christmas as a way to balance their inability to manage the ongoing crisis.
  5. We further note that the government has also pushed through censorship within its latest school guidelines. Banning the discussion of ‘anti-capitalism’ and ‘victimhood narratives’, new directives could see many feminist, climate change, Marxist and religious scholars be removed from educational platforms.
  6. All of these issues have gone on without the slightest criticism by Keir Starmer.
  7. We therefore call on Keir Starmer to pressure the government to provide the conditions needed for the safe running of educational institutions. As a minimum:
  • Schools must have extra staff and extra space to ensure smaller classes and smaller bubbles.
  • This can be done by organising rotas, teaching in shifts and providing temporary classrooms or using empty community spaces, Nightingale schools.
  • Schools must have testing available on campus. This will make tracing much quicker and more effective.
  • An effective test and trace system must be implemented using the wealth of expertise in the NHS, Public Health to effectively trace contacts of those infected.
  • Extra toilet facilities must be provided. Along with extra cleaning staff and stricter cleaning regimes.
  • Effective, live, online teaching must be implemented in the case of school closures and pupils must be provided with the technology to allow this to happen.
  • Students must be refunded their residence fees and have their university fees reduced substantially to take into account the lack of face to face teaching and use of facilities. Lectures and tutorials can be done by means of Zoom webinars and meetings, therefore giving students the chance to ask questions.
  1. Furthermore, we call on the Labour Party to urgently develop its own media outlets. We need articles, videos and podcasts that can counter the daily government briefings. These would also help us to organise an effective opposition, on the ground and in the communities.
  2. The Labour Party and union movement must now also demand extensive measures to combat millions of people from experiencing real and long lasting hardship:
  • Universal income of at least £300/week for everybody over 16 living in Britain. Now is the time to provide everybody with a basic income, independent of means testing.
  • Special, paid leave for those who have to self-isolate or are put in quarantine, on full wages and without any triggers of the sickness policy. Free and full healthcare and no prescription charges for everybody living in Britain, including asylum seekers.
  • All utility bills should be cancelled for the foreseeable future. Ditto mortgage and rental payments. If the utility companies and banks refuse, they should be put under emergency public ownership. The Labour Party and its members should organise and support rent and mortgage strikes and organise to stop evictions.
  • We need production based on need, for example when it comes to the production of test equipment, vaccine and respirators. If capitalism cannot deliver, we need measures like the emergency nationalisation of relevant pharmaceutical and other companies. Banks must be ordered to give extended credit on zero interest for small and medium-sized businesses. Make lay-offs and redundancies illegal.
  • Massively extend Corona testing facilities. Massively expand NHS staff – attract nurses and health workers with decent wages and offer good working conditions. Bring all private hospitals and health facilities under emergency public ownership. Free and safe 24/7 childcare facilities for healthcare workers. Children should be looked after in much smaller groups.
  • All empty properties, holiday homes and hotels should be requisitioned for accommodation for the homeless and those living in over-crowded housing. If necessary, the Labour Party and the TUC should forcibly requisition empty properties that are required for these needs. Close down detention centres. Release all but the most serious offenders from prison.
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