The subversion of democracy by big data

The subversion of democracy by big data

The fabulous Carol Cadwalladyr brings us the next instalment of undoing the surveillance states control over our democracies.

In an article “The Great British Brexit Robbery”, she and the Guardian showed how the Tories and the Brexit Leave Campaigns had used US Data Aanlytics companies to influence the Brexit referendum. It is alleged that the personal data was obtained illegally, its processing was illegal and that it was an undeclared election/referendum expense. The evidence was sufficient for the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission to launch investigations.

Over the last two days, Facebook have suspended Cambridge Analytica & one other company and the latter’s Principal for breaking their terms and conditions and in one case a breach of contract not to pass data on. The story is reported in the Guardian in a story called, “‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower” , which documents the contractual paper trial. This happened two years ago and it is alleged that Facebook knew of it then. It is a crime in many jurisdictions, including California to not notify either the regulators or the data subjects of a breach/leak of personal data.

Sadly 🤔 they have been accused of misleading the House of Commons, select committee inquiry into Fake News. It has been denied that Cambridge Analytica had Facebook data in a verbal submission. Its Chair, Damian Collins, is quite forthright, accusing Facebook of sending under informed representatives to answer the committee’s questions. The word wilful ignorance comes to mind.

As Brits, we need to see if crimes were committed during the 2015 & 2017 General Elections and/or the Brexit Refrendum but this can’t be good for Facebook’s reputation.


I wish we still had Storify, this is one for them.

The image is from the Guardian on the story on Parliament’s reaction. …

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

You need to be in the conference room for the debates (and votes). It runs from Sunday through to Wednesday lunch and ends with the Leader’s speech. It is likely that Woman’s Conference will be on the preceding Saturday. The most important task is to represent your members by voting on motions, rule changes, reports from the NEC, Officers and the National Policy Forum and in elections because some elections are still conducted at conference. Since a delegation is responsible for representing the organisation that sent it, it is expected that the delegation should vote together …

The right to strike

The right to strike

Last November, my Union branch invited Gemma Short of the Right to Strike campaign to talk about the need to change the Trade Union Laws. I have reported the speech and discussion on the branch’s web site, and shall précis it here.

The Thatcher Government’s changed the law significantly and non of the Government’s since have repealed those changes. The key changes have been the mandatory need for individual balloting for strike decisions and the prohibition of solidarity action. The full details have been documented in a House of Commons Research Paper,

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto promised to repeal the 2016 Trade Union act, which further limited picketing, introduced turnout thresholds for ballots, gave employers the right to refuse to deduct union fees from the payroll and that,

A Labour government will ensure Britain abides by the global Labour standards of the ILO conventions.

This is more radical than it sounds since most of Thatcher’s laws are in breach of the ILO standards.

We concluded that the effective right to organise is the workers defence against discrimination and exploitation and today’s Laws have a chilling effect on that right to organise and to take effective action. …

Block Votes

On my way to the pub, after the local labour party General Committee, someone described weighted voting as “block votes”. In truth that’s all it is and was; a delegate or representative has a vote in proportion to their mandate.

I think we were talking about the Local Campaign Forum, where it seems that Deptford has more members than the other two participating CLPs combined. Perhaps we should have more delegates. …

CLPD ’18

Over the week end, I attended the CLPD AGM. The highlights were reported on Skwawk Box in two articles, “Hell Breaking Loose at CLPD AGM over ‘Ann Black’, Motion to depose Willsman” and “CLPD Debate Motion to support Formby and ask Lansman to stand down for Labour JENSEC”. He’s pretty much right. Pete Willsman wanted Ann Black to stay on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate, Momentum and the LRC didn’t. Despite that the slate still has not been published. Christine Shawcroft, an ally of John Lansman and the co-Director of the company that owns the momentum database decided to challenge Pete Willsman for the position of National Secretary of the CLPD. Her nomination was ruled out of order since it was too late, so she moved an emergency motion to rule it in time, the vote on whether the motion was an emergency was lost on the 3rd count. 😀

In the afternoon , the LRC, in what I’d like to call a counter attack, moved a motion calling on Jon Lansman to withdraw from the General Secretary appointment process and to support Jennie Formby. This was pretty conclusively carried. In both cases, I voted for non-agression, in favour of Willsman and against taking a line between Formby and Lansman. This was completely unedifying. Why Lansman is standing would seem to be incomprehensible. It may have something to do with attempting to influence the Brownian motion of the ideological planets within Corbyn’s office and Lansman’s attempts to maximise the voice of the individual members against the Union bureaucrats. He makes an unlikely champion.

That’s all that happened, the platform filibustered the motions which were not discussed; I am not sure why, possible they didn’t want clarity on fighting the purge or opening up the process by which CLGA slates are chosen.

On the upside I was elected to their National Committee.

On my way home, I met a well known activist from up north, who said they were never coming back. It’s how I felt in 2015, but CLPD is too important to ignore. Other friends were refused a vote for applying too late and stayed at home, they may have had a better day. …


Another submission to the democracy review

The rules are only available as a complex .pdf document. It is not easy (or possible) to reverse engineer it. It is not possible to index them or without reverse engineering develop collaboration tools/discussions about the rules.

The rules are incomplete in particular missing the template model rules for Local Government Groups which are an important part of holding Labour Councillors to account.  They also do not have a usable citation i.e. a URL to the Co-op Interparty agreement. Procedure Guidelines for selections are also often kept secret from the members. .

The classification of rules as rules and appendixes is strange. Why do appendices exist? It’s not explained. Also it creates the need to check rules against appendix for each issue for which an appendix exists.

This all leads to uncertainty and is probably designed to make it hard for ordinary members to exercise their rights and duties.

  1. The rules document should be complete. Any cross references should be to available.
  2. The rules should be available on the internet without the use of a password.
  3. The rules should be published in a form of .pdf, together with a checksum to guarentee integrity, that allows annotation and 3rd party indexation  of the rules document. (N.B. This can be done with the hard copy today.) The master rules .pdf must have a usable index i.e. active hyperlinks.
  4. The rules should be additionally available in an editable form to allow members to develop collaboration tools.
  5. The interpretative order, if any, between rules and appendices must be stated.


I have received this from London Labour Left, so I hope they might answer my messages.

We are circulating Momentum’s statement and model motion below, on the current consultation being conducted by the London Labour Party. We agree the consultation undermines the spirit of the rule changes passed by regional conference.  Please therefore submit the model motion below to your branch, CLP and within affiliated organisations.

Best wishes,The London Labour Left Team.

Message from Momentum:

Statement on Greater London Labour Party Consultation on Rule Changes Passed at the London Regional Conference

At the 2017 London Regional Conference on the 25th and 26th November, Conference unanimously voted through two rule changes as the London rule book entitles it to do (subject to the approval of the NEC): one to increase CLP and trade union representation on the Regional Board and ensure that CLP representatives are elected by One Member One Vote, and another to ensure that that the London Region’s Conference Arrangements Committee is elected at Conference, rather than by the regional board. The purpose of both these rule changes was to democratise the London Regional Board, and ensure as broad representation as possible.

In recent days, the Greater London Labour Party on behalf of the regional Board has sent out a consultation to CLPs asking for their views on these rule changes. This consultation email raises arguments against the rule changes, suggesting there might be a case for not introducing them. The email also asks whether there should be increases in the representation of non trade union affiliates, or other political groupings (local government, PLP), on the regional board. This demonstrates a clear intent to undermine the spirit of the rule changes passed by the regional conference, which aimed to increase the voice of members and trade unions, not to increase the size of the Regional Board per se.

Whilst these are questions which could be addressed at the next Regional Conference, the Regional Board does not have the power to overrule a decision of the Regional Conference, nor to delay implementation until after the Democracy Review  The objective of the consultation email is clearly attempting to override the decisions taken democratically, and with very little opposition, at the London Regional Conference in November 2017, and therefore would both create a disturbing precedent and would prevent the regional board elections being held on the newly agreed basis.

We therefore urge all CLPs to respond to the consultation making clear the following:

  1. That the constitutional role of the London Regional Conference to decide the structures of the London Regional Board be upheld;
  2. That both rule changes passed at the November 2017 Conference be implemented by immediately seeking the approval of the NEC so that elections to the regional board and the conference arrangements committee can be held as agreed;
  3. That any  decisions of additional rule changes be postponed until this year’s Regional Conference,

Furthermore, we urge CLPs to submit this model motion (click here) to the NEC.

In solidarity.