Concern as Labour votes to boycott G4S
THE IMPLICATIONS of Labour’s decision to boycott G4S were being assessed this week, with Jewish groups condemning the move and the security firm itself in the dark about its future relationship with the party.
A dozen members of Labour’s national executive committee backed a Unite union plan to end the party’s contract with G4S at a meeting last Tuesday.
Britain’s largest security firm has repeatedly come under attack for running services in the West Bank and had previously said it would not continue to operate Israeli prisons. Some contracts are still in force.
The Labour vote came after morethanhalf of theNEC’s 33 members had left the eight-hour meeting. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and deputy Tom Watson were among those who were not present for the vote.
One executive member who was at the meeting told the JC that the issue came up during a discussion about next year’s party conference.
In response to Unite’s proposal, Labour general secretar y I ai n McNicol told the meeting that the party had already questioned G4S about its work with Israel and should wait for further answers.
The vote was passed with 12 votes in favour of dropping G4S, and four against. But it is not clear whether the decision will affect party policy on Israel, or alter Labour’s working arrangement with the security firm.
Jeremy Corbyn meets G4S staff at Labour’s September conference after the meeting, G4S said it was in the dark over Labour’s plans.
Eric Alexander, G4S head of UK events, said: “G4S hasbeensecuring the Labour Party’s annual conference for well over a decade.
“C l e a r l y we would be disappoi nt e d not t o continue such a successful working relationship, but as yet we have not had a formal clarification of what the NEC vote might mean for next year’s event.”
The next NEC meeting is in late January, by which time arrangements may already need to be in place for next autumn’s conference. A Labour spokeswoman said: “There is no preexisting contract for the 2016 annual conference and decisions about future contracts are continually reviewed.”
The JC understands the contract between the parties to secure last September’s conference in Brighton was not of significant financial value to G4S.
The NEC vote came on the same day that Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn told Labour Friends of Israel that the party must do more to tackle delegitimisation of Israel.
One Israel-supporting Labour member said the vote was “indicative of the chaosinthepartyatthemoment”.Anothersaidithadbeen“awell-organisedcoup by people with an axe to grind”.
Pro-Israel groups including the We Believe grassroots organisation urged supporters to lobby Labour leaders to overturn the NEC decision.
Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP said the NEC decision “directly contravenes” the party’s policy of opposing boycotts. She wrote to Mr McNicol to express her “deep concern”.
In a statement, the Fair Play Campaign Group — the joint initiative of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council to oppose boycotts of Israel — said the vote “calls into question Labour’s commitment to security.
“What is Labour’s policy now? This decision is pointless gesture politics.”
In June, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cleared G4S of having an adverse impact on the lives of Palestinians through its contracts with Israel.