Fundraising for Legal Advice to Reinstate Rebecca

I’m Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, and, on 7 April 2018, I was democratically selected as the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet. After eight months of hard work to win the seat, a three-member panel of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided not to endorse my candidacy. This decision about the political future of South Thanet was taken on the basis that the Party and I might not be able to cope with adverse publicity during a by-election that never happened. South Thanet Constituency Labour Party (STCLP) has rejected the NEC’s decision, and members have supported me in mounting a campaign against it. As there's no appeal process, I'm having to take legal advice.

We're raising funds in stages, as and when we need them. This is fundraising by the many not the few. 

**In May 2019, the National Constitutional Committee (NCC, the Labour Party’s disciplinary body) found the charges lodged against me to be unproven. Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me in clearing my name. Our work now will be directed at encouraging the NEC to review its decision about my endorsement as parliamentary candidate for South Thanet.**

Please continue to contribute to this campaign as we have incurred considerable costs getting this far and we still have a way to go.

In 2015, I joined the Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and to work towards building a more equal society. When the South Thanet parliamentary selection was triggered early in 2018, I was persuaded to throw my hat in the ring. I met as many local members as possible, to learn how I could best represent their interests, and I was honoured they selected me as their parliamentary candidate and one of the few BAME women chosen to fight a key seat.

I'm a university researcher with a special interest in injustice and inequality. Before standing for selection, I made occasional contributions to a Twitter account run by a group of academics and activists. My endorsement by the NEC was withheld because a handful of posts made from this account in 2016–17 were published out of context on the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog to imply that I was antisemitic.

When the tweets first came to light, less than two weeks after I was selected, I arranged to have the Twitter account de-activated and worked with the party to issue a heartfelt apology for any offence caused. I spent the next eight months working with local members to win the seat for Labour.

In July 2018, my case was referred to the NCC, but months went by and nothing happened. In December 2018, when it seemed as though there might be a by-election in South Thanet, I was invited to attend a hearing with three members of the NEC, to make the case that content previously posted on social media wouldn't prevent me from meeting the high standards expected of parliamentary candidates.  Only one of the three panel members attended in person; the other two were present via speakerphone.

At the hearing, I took responsibility for the following tweets, which reflect the anxiety of an earlier time:

“Accusations levelled at Jackie Walker are politically motivated.”
“Antisemitism has been weaponised by those who seek to silence anti-Zionist voices. See The Lynching, endorsed by Ken Loach, for elucidation.”
“Accusations of AS levelled in an attempt to discredit the left.”

(Jackie Walker was Vice Chair of STCLP and known to many people locally who were disconcerted by her suspension from the party. The Lynching is a one-person play, telling Jackie’s story, which was followed by a discussion with Ken Loach and others when it was performed in London and these tweets were posted.)

The tweets were in no way intended to suggest that antisemitism doesn’t exist in the Labour Party. It's possible for two things to be true at once – for antisemitism to exist and for accusations of antisemitism to be used as a political weapon.

At the hearing, I presented a dozen pieces of evidence, including statements from party officers, from parliamentary candidates around the country, from a respected rabbi, from the parliamentary diary coordinator who's the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and from a world-renowned Oxford University expert in antisemitism. These endorsements said that I was more than capable of meeting the high standards expected of parliamentary candidates and that neither I nor the tweets were antisemitic. (I was later told that I had never been accused of antisemitism.)

A few hours after the interview had concluded, I received a letter saying that the NEC had decided not to endorse my candidacy on the basis that ‘In light of these posts your conduct does not meet the high standards that are expected of parliamentary candidates and has the potential to bring the Party into disrepute’. This was followed by a statement from the NEC to STCLP which explained that the decision had been taken on the basis of 'how effectively the Party and the candidate can manage adverse publicity about the candidate’s own past conduct. That was especially important here, when there was a real possibility of a by-election with a national media focus on the parties’ candidates'.  By the time this statement was made, it was clear that there wasn't going to be a by-election. 

The NEC's decision has been rejected by STCLP. A petition has attracted support locally and nationally, and many branches and CLPs are passing supportive resolutions. Labour members and supporters are outraged that this decision has been reached and worried that it sets a dangerous precedent.  There needs to be justice at the heart of the party of social justice.


Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt

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