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This mid June Vox Article just grabbed my attention, “Why did Labour suspend members after anti-Semitism dossier leak – and keep quiet about it?” Mark Sivier reports on, “The Labour Party has said it has suspended party members named in a leaked party report as having broken rules. The claim, it seems, was not made voluntarily but in response to High Court litigation. A party member named Mark Howell has brought a claim for breach of contract against the party, demanding damages as well as the expulsion of members who broke internal rules and a referral to the CPS for possible prosecutions. He claims party funds and resources were deliberately deployed at the 2017 election, ‘not to win vulnerable seats presently held by rival parties but instead to increase majorities in safe seats of certain favoured party Members of Parliament.’ In other words, he says Labour breached its contract by sabotaging its election campaign in not trying to win enough seats to win a Parliamentary majority.”
I was remis in being late to notice this news item. Vox report that, “According to the Evening Standard: The court heard three separate investigations have been launched by Labour since the report was leaked, while a written legal argument on the party’s behalf confirmed that members have been suspended. ‘The party has promptly commenced an investigation into whether any members referred to in the Report have, based on the materials referred to in the Report, breached the Party’s rules’, it said. ‘Some of the party members have been suspended from membership so far as it is necessary to do so to protect the integrity of the investigation’.” This was supposedly done, “To protect the integrity of the investigation” According to Sivier, “that suggests the suspensions were of party officers who might have had a chance to interfere – such as those in the governance and legal unit, which investigates anti-Semitism accusations, among other complaints. But it may also indicate suspensions of people suspected of leaking the report.”
Sivier comments that, “The party has faced multiple, insistent demands for suspensions over the allegations in the report but stonewalled – suggesting the latter is the more likely case. Labour has insisted that no further hearings will be needed until its internal investigations – three of them – are concluded, around mid-July.” Although he optimistically states that, “We’ll know the way the wind is blowing by then, in any event, depending on whether any of those accused of sabotaging the 2017 election or racially abusing Labour MPs end up facing expulsion or other punitive action – or if someone is named as the whistleblower who leaked the report;” we are still waiting the hear. Sivier says, “that should tell us everything we need to know about Keir Starmer’s position on this issue.” I think most progressive members of the Labour Party hold strong opinions on Starmer after his cowardly capitulation and craven apology in the Ware case. But does the case brought by Mark Howell offer clarity and hope?
Few media outlets picked up on this news item at the time and I’m sure Howells case didn’t make Newsnight, but I could be wrong. A Morning Star Article entitled, “Labour faces legal action from one of its own members over claims party staff ‘sought the victory of rival parties’” elaborates further on the case. It reports, “Labour has suspended some of its members following the leaking of an internal report into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party, the High Court heard today. The 860-page report, which found ‘no evidence’ of anti-Semitism being handled differently from other complaints and that ‘factional opposition’ towards Jeremy Corbyn had hindered efforts to tackle the crisis, was leaked in April. Labour is now facing legal action from one of its members over claims that party staff ‘sought the victory of rival parties’ in key constituencies in the 2017 general election.”
Morning Star say, “Mark Howell, a member of Vauxhall CLP who joined Labour in 1969, says the leaked report shows that Labour staff breached party rules by ‘promoting the election of rivals of party candidates.’ Mr Howell claims that the party therefore ‘breached its contract with the claimant and its non-contractual pact with the voting public of the UK.’ At a remote hearing today, Mr Howell told the court: ‘At stake is the democratic pact underlying the country’s political integrity and civil society.’ He said, ‘On the evidence, arguably a different government should have been in position ever since June 2017, the 2019 general election should not have occurred and the enactment of the result of the EU referendum should have been done in a different manner. The subversion of rules of democracy that has taken place is much like […] gambling crooks paying a bent goalie to let in his team’s opponent’s goals’.”
According to the Morning Star, “Labour’s barrister, Rachel Crasnow QC, told the Ms Justice Eady, sitting at the High Court, that ‘some of the party members have been suspended from membership so far as it is necessary to do so to protect the integrity of the investigation’.” A claim was issued on 12 June in the High Court against David Evans as general secretary and Iain McNicol. Mark Howell began his campaign calling for Justice on behalf of Labour Party Members has set up a Crowdjustice fundraising page. The greatest challenge in any campaign of this kind is not persuading people that the cause is important enough that they should offer financial support; it is getting your campaign noticed in the first place. The concerted effort to discredit the leaked Labour Report was not just keeping the media from publicizing the fact a case had been bought, it was also battling the new right leaning Labour Leader Keir Starmer’s efforts to persuade the membership there was ‘nothing to see here!’
Explaining what motivated Mark Howell to initiate the legal fundraising campaign the Crowdjustice fundraising page explains that:
“Labour staff breached party rules by promoting the election of rivals of party candidates. The party therefore breached its contract with the claimant and its non-contractual pact with the voting public of the UK. At stake is the democratic pact underlying the country’s political integrity and civil society. On the evidence, arguably a different government should have been in position ever since June 2017, the 2019 general election should not have occurred and the enactment of the result of the EU referendum should have been done in a different manner. The subversion of rules of democracy that has taken place is much like gambling crooks paying a bent goalie to let in his team’s opponent’s goals. Those who should be MPs of 3 years’ standing and others who have a story about 2017 to tell are welcome to join the claim. A comprehensive judgment will clear the air and get politics back on track.”
Howell has provided regular updates on the Crowdjustice fundraising page as the legal campaign has progressed. In Howell’s first update posted on the 24th of June, 2020 he outlined the initial actions taken, saying, “Suspensions have been disclosed in the High Court.” He said that, “My claim was issued two weeks ago in the High Court against David Evans as general secretary and Iain McNicol personally (as opposed as former general secretary). There are other possible co-claimants and co-defendants who the Judge urged the current defendants to recognise as having been given notice of. No part of the claim was conceded or removed at the hearing last Friday.” Given the serious impact of what occurred, it was encouraging that Howell was able to report that, “On the contrary, permission was given to introduce additional allegations against Iain McNicol, and potentially others. Ian McNicol tried to get his name removed, but was refused because of the potential ground of chapter 2 clause II rule 7.”
Howell also noted that, “I withdrew my request for an order for suspensions since the party in the early hours of Friday morning admitted that they already had. Because I had originally asked for more detail, the Judge (Dame Jennifer Eady) said that she had to award them half their costs. I have not yet decided whether to appeal against it. I knew that the names of those suspended, or at least some of them, would inevitably come out pretty soon since, as the defendants pointed out at the hearing, many members are authorised to interrogate the central membership database and see whether someone has the suspension flag against them. The next steps will be to elaborate on the additional claims against Iain McNicol (potentially others) and then for the defendants to supply their defence on the part of the general secretary David Evans or Iain McNicol, unless of course either or both decide to submit to judgment on liability without further ado.”
Howell reported that, “An application will be made to add claimants – narrowly losing 2017 candidates or others with first-hand knowledge – and defendants who were in a similar position to McNicol. Following the determination of liability, whether by trial or admission, a further hearing will then be needed to assess damages under various heads. The court can also make declarations and conceivably referrals, for example to the director of public prosecutions. Such declarations and referrals should rise to the historic import of the events of the United Kingdom’s general election campaign of 2017.” Ominously Howell points out that, “The world might now have been a rather different place if the relatively small band of individuals against whom evidence has recently come to light had not, as they seem to have done, interfered.” It wasn’t just an issue for the UK’s working poor seeking an end to the cruelty of austerity, EU citizens deserved a secure future, reckless arms sales and jingoistic foreign policy would have stopped.
In Update 2 posted on the 27th of June, Howell said, “David Evans and Iain McNicol have until Tuesday to say what redactions in, or excisions from the Report they want.” In Update 3 on the 30th of June Howell reported as, “Seat pairing pattern emerges, UK-wide, grassroots reports are coming in of pairs of neighbouring seats in 2017, one safe Labour, the other the Leader’s marginal target seat that it was the aim to gain. Head office and nation/region offices misdirected activists, digital advertising and resources to such pairs of seats across Britain, especially England and Wales. Instead of being sent to the marginal of the pair, people were sent to the safe one.” Howell asks, “Were you one of them, turning up at a marginal ripe to be gained yet turned away and told to go to the nearby safe seat? If so, please get in touch and tell your story. PS Despite the efforts of a small band of officers, 36 Marginals were gained by Labour in 2017 (6 Labour Marginals were lost) but it could so easily have been many more.”
In Update 4 posted on the 7th of July Howell appealed for, “More funds needed for the next stage.” He went on to describe, “The next stage is to convince the court that there are additional aggrieved claimants whose devotion of energy and emotion and expenditure of money and, in the case of candidates, loss of prospective income, was nullified in the 2017 general election campaign by industrial scale rule breaking, criminal acts and casual racism that there is abundant evidence of, but also that there are other defendants to be held accountable for the most egregious examples of this as well.” Howell warns that, “As the scale of involvement of solicitors and barristers ramps up their modest fees are going to be thoroughly deserved and should be begun to be prepared for now.” It is never an easy or inexpensive decision to go to Court, but the importance of correcting this injustice cannot be overstressed when you consider the impact it is still having on the people of this country.
In Update 5 posted on the 10th of July, Howell reported on the, “Court of Appeal Reviews Report Confidentiality and Costs Order. While preparations continue, in terms of strengthened legal team, further evidence and additional parties, the Court of Appeal, as of today, has begun a review of the confidentiality and costs parts of the decision made at the High Court hearing on 19 June at which suspension of members named in the report was revealed. While the order to pay costs may be reduced there is still a need to build up a financial reserve for at least one important hearing before the trial can take place.” That end in Update 6 on the 12th of July 12, Howell said, “Less is More. To get the fund over the hump and ready for one or two important hearings coming up, could people contribute just £10? If 500 did by the end of the coming week we would be in a strong position. Less is more. Remember, this case is for the many, not the few.” Do not expect any big Corporations or wealthy Tory donors to chip in on this one!
In Update 7 posted on the 17th of July Howell warned that there was just, “One week to go to hit the target.” Referring to the original fundraising deadline he said, “With seven days still to go 312 believers in justice have already shown solidarity to reach nearly 60 % of the target.” In reality this type of fundraising campaign doesn’t just require people to believe in justice what is most urgently needed in the first place, is for people to realize that there is a campaign to bring this to Court; I have only just discovered this effort, but it’s not too late to ‘megaphone’ it to get the word out. Howell reminds us that, “Justice in the Labour Party, in the country and everywhere, which means unrigged democracy.” He appealed, “If only another 312 contribute an amount of just £15 during the course of the next week then we will make it.” He says, “the road will be open to legal remedies for the cheating in the general election of 2017 that changed the course of history for the worse since.” It got worse in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election.
In Update 8 posted on the 18th of July Howell appeals, “SEND FUNDS AND FACTS.” He reminds Labour members of the progress so far saying that, “My claim was issued on 12 June in the High Court against David Evans as general secretary and Iain McNicol. There are other possible co-claimants and co-defendants on the court file. On 19 June Ian McNicol tried to get his name removed, but was refused because of the potential ground of chapter 2 clause II rule 7. I withdrew my request for an order for suspensions because the party a few hours beforehand admitted that they already had. With the Court’s permission, on 10 July I introduced additional allegations against Iain McNicol, and potentially others and I also referred the Report and costs order to the Court of Appeal.”
Howell announces that, “On 30 July, physically at court, the defendants will try to challenge the legal basis of the claim. Although this hearing will be about law it will helpful nevertheless to have further information from members who were involved in the 2017 general election campaign, whether in Tory Marginals starved of help or Labour held seats on which over generous help was bestowed. The end result of the claim will be to determine the defendants’ liability for the results of wrong doing. A further hearing will assess damages under various heads.” Howell warns that, “The court can also make declarations and conceivably referrals, for example to the director of public prosecutions. Such declarations and referrals should rise to the historic import of the events of the United Kingdom’s general election campaign of 2017.” Howell once again reminds us of what could have been. The massive difference in policy decision on spending in the UK as well as our support for interventions overseas; it is a sobering thought!
In Update 9 posted on 24th of July, referring excitedly to the initial fundraising goal deadline, Howell exclaims. “We did it, with 30 hours to spare. The minimum necessary target was passed yesterday with 30 hours to spare to the deadline, and this case is now moving towards securing further professional involvement.” He offers a, “Huge thanks to all.” Howell isn’t just seeking funding, but also expecting those with knowledge and evidence of the diversion of funds from Marginal seats that required the funding with resources squandered in safe seat constituencies that had little need of additional funding or extra canvassers on the ground. In Update 10 on the 26th of July, Howell posts an Email [email protected] and appeals for evidence: “Any contact, particularly evidence of paired neighbouring Labour held and non-Labour held marginal constituencies where leader’s order to focus on the marginal was undermined by officials’ secret instruction to misrepresent data as an excuse for focusing on the Labour held seat.”
In Update 11 posted on the 31st of July 31Howel reports on the, “Court of Appeal now dealing with sham hearing that purported to strike out claim.” He explains how, “On 30 July, at a sham hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice that took place (but should not have) before a biased judge, who, without warning, organised a premeditated ambush concerning my previous complaint of several months ago, the court purported to strike out my claim against David Evans and Iain McNicol. I had considered whether to request that a different judge deal with the hearing but concluded that the listed judge would obstruct this, which could have made matters worse.” This development sounded ominous, but the battle was not over yet.
Howell reported that, “I spoke to the senior administrator at the Court of Appeal immediately afterwards who, as a result, has now linked the court’s review of the removal of the internal report from the High Court file on 19 June, which had already threatened to undermine the 30 July hearing, together with its consideration of the defects in the dramatic strike out decision at the end of the hearing, including the previous complaint. In doing so, I should make clear that, quite properly, the internal report and all of the other relevant evidence is very much part of the Court of Appeal’s file. It aims to come to a provisional conclusion before the end of August. I also spoke to supporters immediately afterwards, who I am moved to say seem to whole heartedly back me in the light of this further peculiar development.”
In Update 12 posted on the 1st of August Howard says, “Thank you for your support,” and tells us that, “The Court of Appeal is deciding whether to allow the Labour Party internal report evidencing the subversion of the 2017 General Election together with other evidence to proceed to trial.” In Update 13 posted on the 13th of August Howell said the, “Judge awaiting transcripts: The Court of Appeal Judge is awaiting transcripts of the hearings in the High Court on 19 June and 30 July.” He said that, “The Labour Party has contributed toward the cost. Next steps will be decided in the week commencing 1 September.” In Update 14 posted on the 25th of August, Howell again appeals for, “Funds needed for counsel now instructed. David Lemer of Doughty Street Chambers will represent the case before the Court of Appeal. Further funds are needed as the amount of work involved is considerable.”
As stated before Howell isn’t just seeking funding, but he is also expecting those with knowledge and evidence of the diversion of funds from Marginal seats that required the funding with resources squandered in safe seat constituencies that had little need of additional funding or extra canvassers on the ground. I presume it is still not too late to come forward with information while the fundraising continues apace. We are about to enter that critical first week of September, but still I hear scant mention of this case in the media so I was determined to ‘megaphone’ it here. All of these legal battles contribute to the restoration of justice that will highlight the massive necessity for Electoral Reform in the UK. If Labour had won in 2017 a corrupt Tory ‘landslide victory’ would never have taken place. This judgement and the exposure the anti-Semitism propaganda could oust Starmer and will be further delegitimize the fake Tory majority stolen in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election even without a full Investigation of the vote. DO NOT MOVE ON!