Monday 2 April 2018

When Domestic Violence is a Political Football

Unfortunately, there are some pretty loathsome people who sit on Labour's benches in Parliament. And the spread in the Mail on Sunday this last weekend reminds us of this. According to details leaked by a participant of the women's Parliamentary Labour Party, the meeting discussed allegations of very serious domestic violence about one of their colleagues. His behaviour has, apparently, been reported to the respective regional office by third parties and, according to the report, Jess Phillips in her capacity as WPLP chair is writing to the whip's office and the leader's office to demand action. That none has so far been forthcoming is, of course, talked up in the piece to deliberately hurt the party.

Nevertheless, there is a problem and one that our leaker could not be ignorant of. For the avoidance of any doubt, if these allegations are proven the MP should be banged up and slung out of the party. However, by all accounts his former partner - the survivor of the alleged abuse - does not wish to press charges, nor make a complaint to the party.

Long time readers will remember the Comrade Delta case. This was where a Socialist Workers Party activist alleged that a senior member of the organisation subjected her to repeated serious sexual assaults. But rather than report it to the police, the case instead went to the SWP's disputes panel (coincidentally staffed by people who'd known and worked with their leading, brilliant comrade for many years). And would you believe it they found him innocent of all charges. Quite apart from how it was stitched up, the SWP didn't and does not have the capacity to deal with survivors of sexual violence - indeed, the line of questioning the complainant faced were something out of Life on Mars, focusing on whether she had been drinking and her relationship history. Totally bang out of order. Additionally, by assuming the responsibility for the investigation and judgement, their "process" could have made leading SWP cadre the subject of obstruction of justice charges had the survivor changed her mind and later gone to the police.

Therefore, anyone calling on Labour to "do something" are, at best, unclear about where the party's competencies lie and, at worst, are looking to use one woman's trauma as a political football. If the survivor concerned goes to the police, then suspension will be automatic pending the outcome of the case. If she does not and complains to the party while providing evidence of what happened, even then the party is not competent to handle allegations of this character and the same issue that hung over, still hangs over the SWP becomes an issue here. Undoubtedly, and rightfully, it would recommend police action given the legal sensitivities and her status as someone in need of specialist support. And if she prefers to do neither, which is her choice, then there is nothing the party can do about it. Letters can be written, people might give off-the-record briefings to whichever journalist whose ear they like to bend, but nothing can happen. Even with the best will in the world; the party's hands are tied.

There are, however, lessons to be learned about this awful episode. Given that everyone at the WPLP would know the impossible position the party is in, then why was it even an agenda item to be discussed in a semi-public meeting in front of dozens of attendees anyway? That in itself is a gross breach of the survivor's right to anonymity and goes against the natural justice the alleged perpetrator is entitled to. What was known to a few people is now an open secret among the PLP and the lobby hacks, which is utterly disgraceful and unforgivable. And as for the leaker or leakers, I hope they are found out. For turning a crime into a Mail on Sunday exclusive is tawdry and vile, and that it was done for factional reasons makes that person utterly contemptible and an enemy of the party and the labour movement. They deserve to have the book thrown at them and be stripped of the party whip, and their name forever blackened as a by-word for the most gutless, offensive and downright disgusting opportunism.


Phil said...

That's either depressingly inept or shockingly cynical, and I don't rule out 'both of the above'. And whoever leaked it to the Mail is no friend of the party.

Anonymous said...

Er, never mind the leaker being thrown out! That's ignoring the wood for the trees. A complaint can be made by a third party to the police who are under a duty to investigate. That was a reform instigated by a Labour government! There is no need for the alleged victim to make such a complaint - although it helps. And hopefully the alleged abuser - if charges are pressed by the police - will be thrown out of the party.

Phil said...

If such a complaint is made then the process will automatically kick in. Until then there is nothing the party can do - it's not a difficult point to comprehend.

Ken said...

Er, I’ve not been paying attention to events in Scotland much, but I believe that Scottish Labour has collaborated (see what I did there) with Tories to attack the OBFA (the Offensive Behaviour at Football act) This act was passed to help stamp out the regular display of sectarianism and racism. Also, it was hoped that lowering the emotional temperature at important football matches eg. Celtic/Rangers would reduce the incidence of domestic abuse which has been shown to rise in lockstep on such occasions. I’ve seen it argued that it’s class based as it doesn’t apply to say, Rugby. This was Murphy’s line of argument, and one might have hoped that the new leadership might have kicked this into touch. It’s not even popular,as a recent poll showed that every demographic was opposed to its abolition.
BTW I now rely on you to make sense of the headlines running underneath the BBC news channel. This morning I read something like-Jeremy Corbyn attacked in row over ant-semitism after attending a Seder celebration. (WTF?)