Con­cern as Labour votes to boy­cott G4S

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.

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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.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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