Forde Inquiry is stalled

Submitted by AWL on 16 February, 2021 - 7:34 Author: Colin Foster
Marsha de Cordova

On 11 February the Labour Party’s National Executive was told that the report of the inquiry led by lawyer Martin Forde into the 860-page internal report on Labour’s HQ workings leaked in May 2020 would be indefinitely postponed.

Forde said in a letter that the government Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) “has indicated it is making inquiries” about the “security breaches” involved, and “the publication of our report could prejudice those inquiries”.

This is a setback. The Labour Party will not be able to act in unity until we know whether allegations in the leaked document are true and any wrongdoing is dealt with.

Nothing like this has ever happened before, because the documentation in the leaked report would not have existed before the age of social media; the ICO has been going only since 1998; and the current regulations it works with, GDPR, have been in force only since May 2018.

On the face of it there is reason to believe that there was a conspiracy to corrupt the Labour Party, and that there was racism in Labour Party HQ.

We don’t know how long the ICO inquiry will take, and we should seek better answers on why the ICO inquiry rules out Forde reporting even incompletely. Nine Black Labour MPs, including shadow cabinet member Marsha de Cordova, have already protested. The ICO is inquiring into the leak, not the content of what was leaked, and Forde is supposed to be inquiring into things said in the leaked report and whether they are true.

Bad politics or politically corrupt behaviour do not necessarily involve a breach of the Data Protection Act, and a careless breach of the Data Protection Act need not involve bad politics.

It looks like what Labour Party HQ did in compiling the report was legal; the leaking of it was not. Both questions are distinct from political misdeeds which may be revealed by the report.

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