Writ it up and start again: NEC members warned public support for candidates could lead to legal challenge

NEC members have been warned against publicly declaring their support for candidates in the contest for Labour’s next general secretary.

NEC members have been warned against publicly declaring their support for candidates in the contest for Labour’s next general secretary, in a move that could force supporters of Jennie Formby and Jon Lansman to recuse themselves from the process.

Employment lawyers have advised members of Labour’s NEC not to publicly declare support for any particular candidate, as it could open the party to accusations of conducting an unfair recruitment process for the position.

The advice suggests that any NEC members that do declare for a particular candidate must recuse themselves from the appointment process to ensure the final decision is not open to legal challenge.

Guidance from ACAS, the organisation which arbitrates between unions and employers in disputes, states that “an employer must not discriminate against job applicants … at any stage of the recruitment process”.

The news spells trouble for both Unite’s Jennie Formby and Momentum’s Jon Lansman, as each has at least one supporter on the NEC that has already declared their support.

Andi Fox, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association representative on the NEC, has been busy retweeting support for Formby since she declared she would stand last week.

NEC member Peter Willsman and Andy Kerr could also be affected. Willsman is the secretary of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy which publicly backed Formby at its AGM on Saturday, and appeared to be retweeting messages supportive of her in the days before the organisation voted on who it would back.

On Lansman’s side, Christine Shawcroft sensationally declared that she is “supporting Jon Lansman, or a woman in that tradition, for General Secretary” in her Facebook outburst earlier this week which also saw her call for an end to the affiliation of trade unions with the Labour Party. Shawcroft subsequently deleted her post and retracted her comments.

They could now face calls to play no part in the rest of the recruitment process for Labour’s next general secretary.

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