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‘The Leaked Labour Report Is Shameful – It’s Time for an Urgent Investigation’

This weekend's revelations about the conduct of party staff in undermining the 2017 general election campaign and abusing elected representatives demand an immediate investigation, argue Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery.

Casual snobbery. Sexist and racist commentary. Clandestine plotting. Contempt for democracy. A sense of privilege and entitlement.

This is not the Bullingdon Club, it is what runs through the messages revealed in the leaked document which found its way online yesterday.

Many of its revelations are truly shocking.

It shows that some of the most senior employees of the Labour Party held its elected leadership in contempt, despised their own party members and even acted in a conspiratorial manner that undermined our 2017 general election campaign.

These were people at the top of the party with extensive knowledge and experience of elections. Their jobs were paid for with party funds. Yet, they entered the 2017 election hoping we would lose and setting up a shadow operation to protect their chosen sons and daughters.

We worked with them. We were the National Campaign Co-ordinators for the Labour Party for some time. We attended every meeting of the strategy group with the party leader up to the day of the election itself.

We vividly recall the Sunday night meetings during the 2017 election. The country was turning towards the Labour Party and, as election day approached, the possibility of denying the Tories their majority was palpable.

But we, as elected members and campaign co-ordinators, could not obtain vital information from the party apparatus, not even the feedback from the thousands of conversations which our members were having every day as they went out campaigning.

This information – together with opinion polling – is a tool in the hands of party managers. It determines where we put our resources, it influences our messaging and it helps to direct our activists.

It is sometimes hard to recall, in retrospect, the excitement which the manifesto release produced. It changed the landscape of that election. As campaign co-ordinators, we needed to know what impact it was having on the electorate, and which demographics were turning towards Labour.

It quickly became clear that Labour needed to move on from a defensive strategy of just protecting our own seats and go on the attack to target increasing numbers of Tory seats. But when we asked where the data was, the party managers met us with blank faces.

Instead, we were presented with a paper which suggested that we pour resources into seats with large Labour majorities which were never under threat. We were astonished to see the candidates’  names who it was suggested should be the beneficiaries of those resources. They almost exclusively belonged to one wing of the party.

The leaked document makes clear that this was a deliberate strategy. It appears to reveal the existence of an ‘Ergon House Project,’ where party resources to the tune of six-figure sums were secretly reassigned during the election for factional purposes.

This revelation poses enormous questions. Who was involved? How much money was spent without sign-off by elected representatives? Who signed the cheques? Where was the money spent and on what priorities? Was the expenditure ultra vires?

Did the undermining and obstruction stop with this Ergon House Project? Maybe not. To what extent did scheming and malfeasance stop us winning the Copeland by-election, the Birmingham or Tees Valley mayoralties?

In the end, we lost the 2017 general election by just a handful of votes. It is possible that the actions of these party staff denied us a Labour government that would have transformed millions of lives.

Clearly, there are also disciplinary implications to the report. It suggests there are cases to answer on bullying, harassment, sexism and racism. It implies that the battle against antisemitism in the party was undermined by a factional obsession with fighting ‘Trots.’

If a party member on the Left had engaged in any of these behaviours, they would have been suspended subject to an investigation. The same rules must apply here.

The most important question is what should happen now.

First, the report needs to be published officially by the Labour Party. It will almost certainly be requested by the EHRC, so the party should also get out in front and submit it.

Second, we need an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to discuss its contents.

Third, that meeting must establish a transparent process to investigate the conduct alleged in the leaked document, with the terms of reference set by the NEC officers.

Fourth, this process must produce a report, available to the public and not tucked away in a drawer, which restores faith among Labour members in the practices of our party.

This report must be presented to both the NEC and to party conference itself.

After this weekend’s revelations, there can be no going back. We must never again allow a permanent aristocracy of party managers to overrule democratic decisions. We must never again allow our members and their efforts to be treated with such contempt.

For all those socialists in the Labour Party, there is one final lesson: don’t let this demoralise you. Stay in the party and seek justice. As this document makes clear, the very worst elements of our party would be only too happy for you to leave.