Last night, the Enfield North constituency Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in its MP, Joan Ryan, who is the Chair of the Labour Friends of Israel. What was perhaps most notable about this meeting was the fact that it was streamed and live-tweeted by the Iranian state TV service, Press TV.
There have been a number of reactions from within the Labour Party. The London Labour Party has pointed out that filming meetings is against Labour Party rules. In a tweet, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson has stated that it was “impossible to fathom” how Iranian TV was able to live-tweet the event and stated clearly that this was “not how the modern Labour Party should conduct its affairs”.
Without discussing what happened at the meeting, this incident raises a number of crucial questions. Were those attending the meeting told that they were being filmed? Were they offered release forms, providing their consent to appear in the excerpts that were streamed, to sign? Were those who might have objected to being streamed from what was clearly a private meeting able to raise those objections? Were any of those present under 18, or young care leavers? Were parents or responsible persons consulted?
These are far from trivial questions. Press TV is the state broadcaster of a government that executes gay people, controls what women can wear and is officially antisemitic. There are very good reasons why some people would find their presence intimidatory, and would be reluctant to agree to appearing. The fact that such an organisation was apparently admitted to a private meeting, especially one at which the issues surrounding antisemitism and the state of Israel were under discussion, raises some pretty fundamental safeguarding issues. One would not expect the livestreaming of a Labour Party meeting by, say, a white supremacist group to be tolerated for a moment. Why should Press TV be treated any differently? It is difficult to avoid the suggestions that a strain of institutional antisemitism within Labour is at work here.
An Labour Party investigation is apparently under way, and one obviously would not want to prejudice that: but an investigation that does not consider the safeguarding issues would, in my opinion, be incomplete. And, not for the first time, the question of safeguarding within the Labour Party – especially for those who may disagree from the leadership position – has to be raised. Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour Party continue to be associated with social media abuse – especially of women – and Twitter pile-ons against those who criticise the leadership.
No doubt some people will reply, “… but the Tories” and go on to explain that they’re far worse. Perhaps. But I want a Labour Party that sets itself – and abides by – the highest standards of safeguarding, not one that is merely content to be better than the Tories. And that means swift and decisive action against the people who allowed Press TV to livestream a private meeting.