A Labour council’s inquisition
Stan Keable tells how the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt in the Labour Party has spilled over into political victimisation in the workplace
In its July 10 letter, Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour-run council has informed me that my appeal against dismissal from my job as a housing enforcer for “bringing the council into disrepute” has been rejected. That exhausts the council’s internal disciplinary procedures, and leaves me free to pursue a wrongful dismissal case in an employment tribunal, after going through the precondition of attempting conciliation via Acas - the government’s advice, conciliation and arbitration service.
The appeal outcome contained no surprises. It was highly predictable, leaving me with the feeling that it was predetermined for - god forbid! - political reasons. It upheld the April 21 verdict of “serious misconduct” and immediate dismissal with salary in lieu of notice - not as harsh, thankfully, as gross misconduct and instant dismissal with no salary.
The decision simply ignored my assertion of direct victimisation for my deeply held anti-Zionist political belief, in contravention of the Equality Act 2010 - which prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation of a person because of their “religion or belief”. And the letter failed to explain how the council’s ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ policy can override the right to freedom of expression embodied in the Human Rights Act 1990, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Freedom of speech, to be meaningful, includes the right to express views which irritate or offend the public or the state. And public authorities like H&F council have a duty to encourage conditions which facilitate free speech.
The legal right to free speech is not absolute, however. Inciting violence is not allowed, nor is racism - but, in reminding people of the collaboration in the 1930s between the Zionist movement and the Nazi regime, I was calling out the racist ideology of Zionism. And H&F prides itself on its anti-racism and its welcoming attitude to refugees. Personally I am proud of my anti-Zionist views. It is not my anti-Zionism which brings the council into disrepute, but its own attempt to protect Zionism from criticism - and that at a time when the state of Israel is engaged in yet another appalling massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. The council would defend its reputation better by joining the boycott, diversity and sanctions movement and campaigning to stop Israel engaging in ethnic cleansing.
The day after the March 26 Zionist ‘Enough is enough!’ demonstration in Parliament Square, which labelled Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite - and the simultaneous Jewish Voice for Labour counter-demonstration in defence of Corbyn - I was suspended from work by H&F council, because of “allegations” of “inappropriate comments”. However, my employer could not tell me what the relevant comments were, nor who had made the complaint. The comments were in a tweeted video clip, I was told. I would be informed later what they were.
The suspension letter I was handed was equally vague. It listed two allegations:
1. that you made inappropriate comments which have subsequently been circulated on social media, which are deemed to be insensitive and likely to be considered offensive and potentially in breach of the Equality Act 2010;
2. that these comments have the potential to bring the council into disrepute.
On April 3 the investigation manager sent me a “transcript of the comments referred to in the allegation” - but this left me none the wiser: the relevant comments were still not specified. It was a transcript, produced by the council, of the 105-second snippet of an exchange in the video clip which had been circulated on the twitterfeed of BBC Newsnight journalist David Grossman.
The text was reasonably accurate, as far as I could tell, except that it had been misinterpreted by the council as an “interview”. They thought I had been interviewed by David Grossman, whom I had never met. In fact I was talking with an unknown participant in the ‘Enough is enough!’ demonstration who was anxious to tell me that Corbyn was anti-Semitic. After the conversation was disrupted by hostile Zionist heckling, as shown in the video, we continued talking a few metres away from the hecklers, and finished with a mutually respectful handshake.
At the informal preliminary investigation meeting on April 10, the council’s intrepid investigator still could not tell me which were the relevant comments in the transcript. He had to cross-examine me, like a medieval inquisitor searching for a sin. And he did not know that the video clip had only reached council leader Stephen Cowan via Tory MP Greg Hands - not as a complaint to the council about an employee’s behaviour, but to the Labour Party about a Momentum activist.
I learned later that, in relation to the council, the only complainant was council leader Stephen Cowan himself. It was Cowan who had referred the matter to the chief executive for potential disciplinary action. He should have told Greg Hands where to go, instead of throwing me to the wolves. But Cowan has an anti-Corbyn record, leading his loyal councillors to back Owen Smith and the failed June 27 2016 ‘chicken coup’ against Corbyn.
Greg Hands did not discover that I was an H&F council employee until he read, in the April 3 Evening Standard, that I was being investigated. He was just doing his bit for the ‘Enough is enough!’ campaign to damage Labour before the local elections. His first tweet said: “… this is Stan Keable, the local Momentum organiser in Hammersmith & Fulham. If so, will @hammersmithandy & @stephencowan investigate and urge action? Enough is enough”. (@hammersmithandy is Andy Slaughter - unfortunately one of the 172 chicken coup MPs.)
Confirming that he was labelling Labour anti-Semitic, Greg Hands’ second tweet on the morning of March 27 complained: “Not a peep out of anyone in @HFLabour about the anti-Semitism crisis, or from MP @hammersmithandy or council leader @StephenCowan - despite their reportedly leading activist telling Newsnight here that “Zionists” plotted with Hitler and holocaust wasn’t anti-Semitic.” The truth matters little to Mr Hands when he is busy smearing Labour. I had not mentioned Hitler, and, in the video clip, I had explicitly acknowledged (of course) that the holocaust was anti-Semitic.
Having discovered that the council was investigating me, Greg Hands could not believe his good luck. H&F had raised the witch-hunt from the level of the Labour Party to the level of employment. He waded in again on April 9, tweeting an open letter to Stephen Cowan, headed ‘Action on anti-Semitism at Hammersmith & Fulham council’.
Hands’ April 9 letter noted my apology “for any offence I may have caused”, and that the “collaboration” I referred to was the pre-holocaust Ha’avara agreement of 1933-39. Yet the council’s disciplinary hearing somehow concluded that “upon the balance of probability, the average person would interpret your comments (regardless of your intention) as suggesting that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in the holocaust [my emphasis - SK] and therefore is highly likely to cause offence”. This was a strange conclusion, given that Hands, the only person who complained to the council, explicitly acknowledged that I had been talking about the pre-holocaust period, not the holocaust itself.
In my appeal hearing I was proud to be supported admirably by three Jewish critics of Israel and Zionism - emeritus professor Moshé Machover, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Pamela Blakelock, but their common-sense written and verbal statements were ignored. Their evidence showed that Zionist-Nazi collaboration is indeed a well-established historical fact, and they exposed the absurdity of the claim that my comments on a Parliament Square demonstration somehow damaged the council’s reputation.
In the coming month of Acas conciliation, I shall be demanding my job back. But this case is far more important than me and my job. Accepting this attack on the rights of employees to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression is not an option. I do not intend to go quietly. Further information, and a model motion1 of support is available on the Labour Against the Witchhunt website, and already has the backing of Brent Trades Union Council2 and some union branches.
The ‘Reinstate Stan Keable’ campaign kicked off on March 16 with a lobby and demonstration organised by LAW outside Hammersmith town hall. Please contribute to my crowdfunding appeal to cover campaign expenses and potential legal costs.3
Stan Keable: You have totally missed the interpretation.
Unknown man: But you say...
Stan Keable: He [Corbyn] has got a life-long history of anti-racism.
Unknown man: But you say, you say it is unreasonable to extrapolate the fact that you [he means Corbyn] commented in that way on that mural and the fact that that mural reflects kind of traits which have existed for hundreds of years that really resulted in the anti-Semitism that resulted in the holocaust ... there is a connection between …
Stan Keable: I don’t think it is what caused the holocaust, no.
Unknown man: You don’t think it was anti-Semitism which caused the holocaust?
Stan Keable: Well, obviously the Nazis used anti-Semitism.
Unknown man: No, it was anti-Semitism that caused the holocaust. Are you really, are you suggesting it was not anti-Semitism?
Stan Keable: No, no I am not saying that. I am saying the Nazis were anti-Semitic. The problem I have got is that the Zionist movement at the time collaborated with them.
Unseen person: That’s a lie (laughing)! That’s a lie.
Stan Keable: Well, you laugh, you laugh.
Unseen person: No, man. You’re an idiot.
Stan Keable: Look, the policy of Germany at that time was to have a Germany that was unified.
Woman in the background: Don’t give him the time of day!
Stan Keable: No, but the … no, but the …
All talking over each other ...
Unseen man: inaudible
Stan Keable: Oh, stop trying so hard! You are trying to stop discussion. You are trying to stop discussion.
Unseen man: inaudible
Stan Keable: The Zionist movement from the beginning was saying that they accepted that Jews are not acceptable here. He is answering someone else: I am giving a ... I am giving a ... I’m, I’m, I’m ...
End of recording