The denoument

The denoument

… of the Democracy Review

This is a report on the debate at the Democracy Review. It is best read in conjunction with Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) Report 1, pages 28 to 55. The Democracy Review was grouped into eight packages, these covered,

  1. Member’s Rights, which basically codifies the longevity requirements for [s]election as a candidate or to internal office, restates the need to belong to a Union, reduces the longevity required to stand as a delegate to conference. It also introduces a right to dignity and respect and a duty for all party officers to behave fairly. (Not quite Nolan though!)
  2. Local Structures (CLPs & Branches), defines the means of changing from branch & delegate to all member’s meeting governance, reduces the quorum and places further variations in the hands of the Regional Boards not the Director, requires the NEC to define its criteria by which it puts CLPs into special measures, mandates equalities branches inc. youth, reconstitutes the CLP ECs, mandates branch women’s officers, permits job shares, and proposes a new rule on meeting cadence.  The legal authority of the EC is reduced placing it under the authority of the GC/AMM. The package also authorises multi-constituency parties and talks about using IT to maximise participation. All constituency documents, are to be available to all members via a clockwork platform, sorry, I made it up, an electronic platform, “provided by the Party”; I hope that’s the national party as I have thought hard about this and creating a shared disk is not hard, managing the ACL is.
  3. Regional Structures, they are reverting the name of the elected body back to Regional Executive Committee, Regional Rules are to be now owned by the NEC and published in the rule book, Regional Conference is to have rulebook approved standing orders, equalities committees and similar bodies to be responsible to the Regional Executive Committee not the NEC and appropriate rules to be developed to ensue that candidates and Labour officials most appropriately accountable through Regional Executive Committees are managed as such
  4. National Structures: NEC, creates rules for the representation of Young, BAME, & disabled members using an electoral college of 50% members expressed through OMOV and 50% via affiliates, Scottish and Welsh represetation with rules passed to the Scottish and Welsh Conferences and the European Parliamentary Party representation on the NEC. It establishes the rule that NEC vacancies will be filled by bye-elections and critically that the rule changes at Conference 2018 will be current from the day following Conference.
  5. National Conference, establishes an additional disabled member of CAC, deltes the requirement that motions be contemporary, increases the motions to be debated to 20, new woman’s, youth , BAME & disabled members conferences and other representational structures
  6. Leadership Elections, changes the nomination threshold where a vacancy occurs (this now requires 10% of the PLP and 5% of the Unions or 5% of the CLPs), requires CLPs to hold all members meetings to make leadership nominations, we might need a fucking big room, and some statement which I can’t understand about the freeze date; I hope its an improvement, They aslo propose to constrain the acting leaders role in cases where one one occurs.
  7. the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), proposes to increase the size of the NCC, sets a 3 month deadline for hearings, establishes a broader list of penalties inc. reprimands & warnings, leaking of confidential information is to be considered conduct prejudicial etc., as is breach of codes of conduct, the power to suspend and investigate may be delegated (possibly to 3rd parties) and the rules on CLP disciplinary procedures are to be reviewed and amended subject to conference 2019 approval.
  8. and, finally, Westminster Selections where the NEC proposed to reform the trigger ballot by placing a threshold of 70% on the vote required to avoid a selection and counting the votes of affiliates separately from the party branches and requiring 70% in both classes. (This means that a 30% vote for a selection in either branches or affiliates will ensure that the selection takes place.) NB There is space for the application of Demorgan’s Law here,

See 1 – The new rule says, “Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.” Not exactly the Nolan Principles but a step forward.

See 2 – Some of these rule changes are problematic and to my mind not well written, it is an area where having more that 16 hours notice and the ability to amend the rule changes would have been good.

See 4 – C1.X.4.6.F All bodies subject to this rule book shall without delay bring their rules and standing orders into compliance with rules created in order to give effect to the Democracy Review, and their rules and standing orders shall immediately be read as if such amendments as are therefore necessary have been made. Oops! What about inflight AGMs? Also some activists opposed the electoral college for elections of the BAME & disabled representatives.

See 6 – Leadership nominations must be by all member meetings and not by delegate based General Committees.

I note that with package 7, the NEC have sneaked in changes to the disciplinary process, although we can assume that since they excluded this from the remit of the disciplinary review it will not be based on grass roots submissions, although I made my views clear. Some people are worried that the power to suspend and investigate complaints can be outsourced but we have started this process with the Code on Sexual Harassment, where the investigatory process is to be undertaken by a 3rd party with a proven track record of victim care; there is also an argument that the Labour Party needs a greater segregation of duties in its disciplinary code.

Other areas of concern that Conference has given the NEC powers to change some of the Rules subject to confirmation by next years Conference. This is a breach of the Rules’ separation of powers, where Conference makes the rules and the NEC interpret and enforce them although there are plenty of rules in place that say the detailed implementation of the rule are to be defined in an NEC procedural guidelines, often secret or distributed on a need to know.

The failure to circulate these rule changes until Sunday morning is a problem. I am sure the quality and maybe even some of the direction might have been different if delegates had had time to properly digest these proposed rule changes. (There may be a conflict in the rules carried over the issue of membership longevity in order to stand for the NCC.

The debate focused on packages 6 & 8. In particular supporters of trigger ballot abolition were arguing to vote against proposal 8 which is a trigger ballot reform in order to permit a debate on their proposal which was scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, but only if package 8 fell. Momentum changed their mind, from supporting the CAC reference back earlier in the day, in order to debate Open Selection, to support package 8 which would reform the trigger ballot. One could assume that that the best the open selection supporters could get in the vote is the 46% they’d won earlier in the day and voting down proposal 8 might have jeopardised any reform for the next 4 or 5 years.

Some argued against package 6, Leadership Nominations which has the effect of making it harder to get on the ballot paper than the current rules.

On social media, some argued that package 7’s delegation clause i.e. permitting the delegation of investigations would be used factionally.

We had agreed to vote individually after listening to the debate, I voted against the CLP reforms (P2) and against the Leadership Nomination proposal (P6) and voted for the Trigger Ballot reform proposal (P8) as well as voting for all the other packages.

It all passed! …

A team huddle

We met as a delegation and agreed to vote in the priorities ballot for the first four topics that we’d debated at the GC apart from Brexit which the Unions were prioritising. We had learnt that Momentum were supporting our motion on Immigration and Justice for Windrush which meant it was likely to be and so chose our team to attend the composite. We had one of the motion’s authors present and so agreed to send her, and also sent one of our delegates from our BAME committee; we are only permitted two attendees. We discussed the Democracy Review proposals including the trigger ballot reform proposal but could not come to an agreement. We decided to individually listen and decide a.k.a. a free vote. …

Creativity and Culture

I popped into the Policy Seminar on Energy and Culture, hoping to ask why the front bench had without mandate had supported the EU’s Copyright Directive and seemed to equate the interests of creators with those of the industry. The front bench culture spokesman, there was only one, repeated the shaky statistic that the UK was a net exporter of music. We’ll see. I had to go to a delegation meeting and so was not called to speak. …

Who’s missing?

In my last article I reported on the results of the 1st Card Vote and there’s some interesting insights to be learned.

Firstly the Affiliates and CLP votes are counted seperately, normalised as percentages and then added together, and expressed as a percentage. The Affiliates have 50% and CLPs have 50% of the final result.

1.84 million affiliate votes were cast, and ~385,000 CLP votes. That’s a lot of CLP votes missing. The card vote values should be based on membership (individual members in good standing) as at 31 December 2017, which was 564,000. (That seems a bit high based on press reporting, but the source is the Electoral Commission).

32% missing!

This means that ~32% of the membership were not represented. I was to hear later in he week that only 17 Scottish CLPs are in attendance. My CLP is fortunate in that it could fund a large delegation and considers that policy formulation is important but it’s clear that many CLPs either cannot afford to send a delegation and/or do not consider it important enough. In my evidence to the Democracy Review I argued that the cost of conference should be borne by the NEC, As Diana Holland, the Tresurer reported last year and was to report later; the Party is now debt free. …

And we’re off

Voting at Labour’s conference is by weighted vote, each delegate gets a book of voting slips and some votes are decided by collecting the voting slips and counting them. Each vote is worth the number of members in the affiliate divided by the number of delegates. For instance my card vote this year was worth about 380, about 3800 members, divided by 10 delegates. This is known as the card or block vote. These booklets of votes are not sent by post but must be picked up in person at a “Regional Briefing” starting at 9:00. In previous years this meeting has been used by regional staff to influence new delegates. Two things happened at our briefing; the lack of clarity of the regional staff was not good although they almost made it clear that delegations were dispersed amongst the London block and not sitting together which makes consulting other delegates in the delegation harder than it should be.

More importantly, they had failed to have card votes printed for four of our delegates inc. me and did not have the IT available to make new ones. We were told to go to the balloting office, but the queue was immense and we would have missed the start of conference. (It’s obvious why they distribute the cards in regional briefings as they can have nine queues as opposed to one.) Anyway, I entered the Conference Hall without a card vote book. Since the first item of business is the acceptance of the CAC Report which includes the agenda, timings, the inclusion and exclusion of contemporary & emergency motions and includes any rulings on consequential changes on the agenda. i.e. if the democracy review packages pass, which of the other rule changes fall without debate. This is always controversial and this year the Chair announced that any vote would be taken by show of hands, and if unclear, by hand in parts (i.e. Unions & Affiliates separately from CLPs) and then if it remains unclear a card vote would be taken.

The CAC had proposed that the Democracy Review would be taken on the Sunday, and that the other rule changes taken on the Tuesday; they also recommended that all the rule changes on the subject of Parliamentary Candidate Selection proposed by CLPs would fall if the NEC proposal on the same subject passed. The NEC were proposing a variation of the trigger ballot reform which meant that the two rule changes proposing its abolition, i.e. open selection would fall without debate, or more accurately fall without being moved. It’s hard to predict what would happen, but it was expected that nearly all the Unions (50% of he vote) would vote with the CAC so the question was how many of the CLP would vote against them and here we were, with a bunch of London delegates without their card vote books.

As the card vote was called, I tried to move a point of order to explain some of us could not vote as we didn’t have our card votes; I was told that the chair wasn’t taking a point of order during a vote, I called out that my point of order related to the conduct of the vote but was still told to sit down; on my way back to my seat Len McCluscky asked me what the problem was, and when I explained, said “That’s not right!”. At our seats, those of us without votes made voting slips, but without much hope of them being counted. The Chair then announced that the Ballot Office now had London’s missing card votes and that the ballot boxes would be kept open for another 15 minutes, so we got our votes in.

When the results were announced the CAC Report was approved by 53.63% to 46.37%, with 36,516  (~10%) CLP votes in favour, and 41,004 (~2%) Affiliate votes against. …