Point of order

The selection of speakers at #lab18 is somewhat opaque. Basically the chair points at people. In previous years delegates have tried to attract attention by standing and waving distinctive items such as an inflatable dragon and in one case a baby. This year such behavior was prohibited but the view from the platform is not good. Many people wanted to speak yesterday and the lack of transparency began to frustrate delegates and a number of spurious points of order were raised.

Points of order must be taken immediately, unless a count is in progress it seems.

No one has a right to either speak or expect to speak. To use a point of order to jump the queue is disrespectful of everyone else in the room. Points of order should be about the rules, and should be scarce. They can be timed as well; some do not need to be moved in the middle of debates. However as people get frustrated they will look at means of jumping the queue. Points of Order are one way of doing this and moving reference back on the NPF report is another such trick although you only get a minute.

Some delegates seem to think that there’s a technology solution. How sweet!

If elected to return, I shall be bringing my keffiyeh as selected speakers are usually identified by an item of clothing; it seems blue hoodies are not distinctive enough. …

Palestine

For the first time, the Labour Party Conference debated Palestine, this was the moving speech.

I hope next time he’s called to order by a small women, he remembers, an army won’t be sent, a small female steward will ask him to keep to the rules.

The motion’s text is below and in CAC Report 3,

ooOOOoo

Conference notes

The Guardian of (31 August) reporting the Trump administration’s confirmation of funding cuts to UNRWA, which provides emergency assistance and basic provisions to Palestinian victims of the Nakba of 1948, when the majority of Palestinian people were forcibly displaced from their homes.

As UNRWA’s largest donor, this US decision is widely understood (Guardian 31 August) as the means to “unilaterally sweep aside” one party to the conflict, get rid of the “main sticking point”: the international rights of the Palestinian people who are now refugees.

Britain’s direct role in the terrible fate of the Palestinian people, who still seek their internationally protected rights to self-determination, and to return.

That UNRWA, established by UN General Assembly resolution 304 of 1949, derives its mandate directly from UN member states to serve Palestinian refugees until their rights are addressed, in a peace process underpinned by the principles of international law.

For several months, thousands of Palestinians have engaged in mass and overwhelmingly non-violent protests in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday the 10th August a volunteer medic Abdallah al-Qatati was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper while on duty during Great March of Return On Friday 17th August another medic Karim Ahmad Ali Fatayer, 28, was fatally shot in the head when Israeli soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesters near the boundary fence. More than 100 others were shot with live ammunition that day on Friday.

The Government of Israel has responded to the protesters with heavy repression.165 Palestinians have been killed. Of these, 122 were killed in protests, including 21 children, two journalists, four paramedics, and three people with disability. Another 8,875 people were injured, including 1,611 children, 399 women, 90 paramedics, and 82 journalists; those injured, 4,952 people were hit by live fire.

Conference condemns

This aggressive attempt to rewrite history, and erase the victims of the 1948 war, who were expelled or fled from their homes in Palestine

Conference supports

Developing solidarity with Palestinian refugees, especially young refugees, and to explore developing links with UNRWA schools, its training centres, and its local staff serving across the Middle East

Conference urges

The British government to increase its level of annual assessed contributions to UNRWA, providing much needed reassurance and stability to Palestinian refugees, and to encourage other member states to do the same.

This conference resolves to call for

an independent international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators; a freeze of UK Government arms sales to Israel; and an immediate unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza. …

Labour on Brexit ’18

And so onto the Brexit debate. Both sides wanted to ensure that there was a single motion, and the composite meeting had agreed a single set of words. This topic was supported by more organisations than any topic ever, with over 100 supporting the positions of either the People’s Vote or Another Europe is Possible. CLPD had circulated a set of words, which reinforced Labour’s commitment to the six tests, and were supported by considerably less organisations. To some extent we remainers have won the debate in the Labour Party; there were no motions to leave no matter what and the six tests mean both the customs union and single market are to be part of Labour’s deal.

So Labour will vote against any deal made by the Government; what happens then? The best result will be a General Election, but if that cannot be won, then Labour will campaign for a public vote and consider placing remain on the ballot. Here’s Kier Starmer’s speech.

 

Both John McDonnell and others have suggested that we will not consider Remain, but if neither the Tories nor Labour can negotiate a deal then we must and the composite establishes it as policy, or re-establishes it as the 2016 Conference made clear that if the Tory deal wasn’t good enough then Labour would seek a second mandate, an election, referendum or a parliamentary vote to remain. See also Labour’s New Brexit, from 2016 on this blog.

I sought to speak in this debate but wasn’t called. Some of the points I wanted to make were obvious, that a Tory brexit would be a catastrophe, that our policy was based on the six tests and that remain was an option as we would seek a second mandate. I would have argued that you can’t respect a referendum with all the cheating, illegalities and lying but one can respect the leave voters. In fact it’s this respect that leads me to ask if the deal on the table is what they want. I’d expect every Trade Unionist in the room to want to ensure that a deal satisfied those who had given the mandate. I would have made the point that Jeremy’s 7/10 score for the EU is right, that if we stay we need some reforms for the whole EU, and we would be welcome for it, and that much of what’s wrong with the EU is the outcome of policy debates and not a systemic quality of the EU. Labour’s manifesto even on Brexit is a radical promise for government that will allow is to work with our shell shocked sister parties and allies in the EU.

I wasn’t going to use the “Pointless or Catastrophe” line, it wasn’t the right debate, but I consider it a fabulous summing up of the choice between a soft brexit or hard brexit.

I have posted the six tests and the words of the motion below.

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Starmer’s six tests for the Brexit deal are:

  1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
  2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?
  3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
  4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
  5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
  6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?

Composite 5 – Brexit

Conference welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s determined efforts to hold the Tories to account for their disastrous negotiations. Conference accepts that the public voted to leave the EU, but when people voted to ‘take back control’ they were
not voting for fewer rights, economic chaos or to risk jobs. Conference notes the warning made by Jaguar Land Rover on 11.9.18, that without the right deal in place, tens of thousands of jobs there would be put at risk.

Conference notes that workers in industries across the economy in ports, food, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy, chemicals, in our public services and beyond are worried about the impact of a hard Brexit on livelihoods and communities.

Conference believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market. The Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the NHS. Tory Brexit means a future of dodgy trade deals and American-style deregulation, undermining our rights, freedoms and prosperity. This binds the hands of future Labour governments, making it much harder for us to deliver on our promises.

Conference notes Labour has set six robust tests for the final Brexit deal. Conference believes Labour MPs must vote against any Tory deal failing to meet these tests in full.

Conference also believes a no-deal Brexit should be rejected as a viable option and calls upon Labour MPs to vigorously oppose any attempt by this Government to deliver a no-deal outcome. Conference notes that when trade unions have a mandate to negotiate a deal for their members, the final deal is accepted or rejected by the membership. Conference does not believe that such important negotiations should be left to government ministers who are more concerned with self-preservation and ideology than household bills and wages.

Stagnant wages, crumbling services and the housing crisis are being exacerbated by the government and employers making the rich richer at working people’s expense, and not immigration.

Conference declares solidarity and common cause with all progressive and socialist forces confronting the rising tide of neo-fascism, xenophobia, nationalism and right wing populism in Europe.

Conference resolves to reaffirm the Labour Party’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 including no hard border in Ireland. Conference believes that there is no satisfactory technological solution that is compliant with the Good Friday Agreement and resolves to oppose any Brexit deal that would see the restoration of a border on the island of Ireland in any form for goods, services or people.

Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power.

If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.

This should be the first step in a Europe-wide struggle for levelling-up of living standards, rights and services and democratisation of European institutions Labour will form a radical government; taxing the rich to fund better public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment. …

And the rest of the rule changes

On Tuesday, we considered the remaining rule changes, which originally will have been passed by their proposing CLPs in 2017, over 18 months ago. This article summarises the debate, looking at rule changes designed to improve the auto-exclusion process and to allow CLPs to ask for permission not to run a candidate. It should be noted that rule changes to remove the “contemporary” constraint on motions at conference and to ensure that CLP rule changes re debated at the conference following their submission were passed.

Two rule changes proposed changes to Rule 2.I.4.B, the rule under which many members have been expelled/auto-excluded, two rule changes on the Deputy Leadership, (one proposing a 2nd Deputy, who must be female), a rule proposing Conference Standing orders, a rule proposing the abolition of the one year waiting period for CLP rule changes, a rule change proposing that motions need not be contemporary and a rule change proposing that CLPs could ask the NEC for permission not to run a candidate in parliamentary elections. The final rule change proposed was to change back from small, councillor dominated Local Campaign Forum’s to broader and more representative Local Government Committees; this is an issue that the NEC want’s to think about and recommended remission, which is what the CLP did.

The NEC makes recommendations on what to do, i.e. for, against or remit and rarely loses. The same was the case today. Our delegation voted with the NEC with one exception, which was the first.

The rule change proposing a change to Rule 4.I.2.B proposed changes in two way. Firstly it proposed qualifying the type of organisation that might lead to expulsion as one that conflicted with Labour’s aims and values and secondly, placed the process by which such exclusion would be undertaken under auspices of the disciplinary process. (I have written a lot on the weaknesses of the Party’s disciplinary processes much of this in this blog.) The current rule allows a secret decision and no appeal. The disciplinary process is marginally more visible than that. We have debated these rules and exclusions in our CLP and believe them to be factionally motivated and contrary to the rules of natural justice. Interestingly the CLP had allowed the rule change to be called, “Membership of other parties” which isn’t what the rule is about; it’s current words make “support for organisations other than official Labour organisations” an act that renders one liable for exclusion.

This rule is usually used against small groups in the party which leads one to ask, why not Progress, Labour First or Momentum. It was also used against three long term activists in NW Surrey who had wanted to explore running a “progressive alliance” candidate against Jeremy Hunt. It was also used against Moishe Machover although the decision was revoked as it was considered that writing an article for a newspaper couldn’t be considered “support for an organisation other than …”. This shows one of the problems with the rule; there is no certainty.

I note that if a Councillor or an MP and you wish to “cross the floor” we greet you with alacrity. We should welcome all new members with a campaigning records.

This was defeated.

The rule change on a second deputy leader was withdrawn despite NEC backing. Skwawkbox explains why!

Richmond Park, the CLP for Zac Goldsmith’s seat proposed that CLPs should be able to ask the NEC for permission not to stand a candidate. When Goldsmith forced his vanity bye-election, I suspect that the CLP considered not running a candidate and even when they did, the unfortunate Christian Woolmar, received less votes than there are members of the local Party and the LibDem’s Sarah Olney won by 1,872 votes, removing a racist, arch-brexiteer, silver spoon Tory from Parliament although Olney was a flag bearer for the orange book and it must be recognised that joining the coalition led nearly all those supporters of the social democratic tradition not in Parliament to leave. This now makes the LibDems unattractive allies in an anti-tory alliance.

We should also consider the events in North West Surrey CLP where leading activists considered supporting the National Health Action Party if the Lib Dems withdrew against Jeremy Hunt and were expelled. In NW Surrey, they donated their campaign funds and campaigners to the nearest marginal (which they should do help anyway, but it was quite a journey.) For all the virtue expressed, the Labour Party has on occasion, not run candidates in seats, in Tatton in 1997 where we supported Martin Bell as an independent and in Heltemprice & Howton (2008), we did not run a candidate in David Davies’s vanity bye-election and hinted at the Liberal there. The danger is that people get used to and like voting for a party other than Labour, and some will feel let down by not having a candidate. There were just under 1,500 who couldn’t support Olney in Richmond Park. I didn’t know about the Davies case during the delegation meeting where we voted to oppose the amendment and Conference agreed with us. …