Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Lewisham’s Democracy, it could be better

Writing up what I think for Lewisham’s Democracy Review is proving harder than I thought, the source material i.e. Lewisham’s Constitution is very long(483 pages), it’s .pdf, can’t easily be indexed or highlighted, so item No. 1. is to increase the transparency of the rules so citizens can understand how decisions are made.

This is a very Un-British way of doing things and all our instincts are wrong. Every decision is reserved for the Mayor who must present a number of plans to full council. the decisions are then taken in the context of the agreed plans which only require ⅓ voting in favour. The Mayor delegates all their executive functions to the Cabinet as a collective but also to the council’s principal paid officers. The backbench Councillor’s Scrutiny Committees can only delay these decisions. There, apart from criminal sanction, is no way to recall the Mayor. The Mayor does not hold office due to their ability to command a majority, they do not need to get many decisions agreed by Council. This is not just a first-amongst-equals “Leader” with a different mandate, it’s an alien form of government, lifted from the US & France and designed to reduce the accountability of the decisions from people and their political parties.

My first proposal would be that the Council agree to ask the people of Lewisham to abolish the Mayor and return to a collective committee led Council. It might seem to be less democratic but a committee led council has to maintain its mandate throughout it’s term of office, a Mayor led council supported by a just ⅓ of the Councillors can ignore civic society and wait for the next election.

The other ideas I need to develop,  and we’ll see how much detail I can research, would cover Recall, maybe requiring a more than 50% vote of the Council, Term Limits, something about an Ombudsman & Compliance Committee and independence, having the Cabinet appointed by the Council, the move to a Green Paper/White Paper process for decision making, improved citizen communication, the web site is shite, smaller wards and some thing on the need to use the powers in the Localism Act to get the changes in law that some of these things would require. …

I.T. implications

In my many articles on Labour’s Democracy Review, and in a preview I talk about the Information Technology implications of Labour’s coming rule changes. I have extracted the following quote from my article, The denoument, as I’d like it to be easier to find,

In the NEC rule changes as presented to Conference the NEC 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 Access Control List (ACL) is, particularly if your membership and volatility is large.

 …

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! …

Online Democracy

In Labour’s Democracy Review, they argue for more IT and remote access and online balloting, they say

Carers, disabled members, shift workers, women and young members have argued it is the poor, disadvantaged and already under-represented who are least likely to have the time and resources to attend meetings. These points have been made particularly at the disability events we have had.

Who the fuck do you think are least likely to have internet access?

In the HuffPo article, they argue that Momentum is an example of how digital engagement creates activity and energy. In my book, Momentum has some questions to answer about it’s on-line democracy. (It’s closed source, and its IT Security Controls are not public and its segregation of duties is not published, and probably non-existent. )

In my short essay, http://davelevy.info/e-voting/, I say,

Bruce Schneier, in a 2004 essay, posed four requirements, that voting systems be fast, accurate, scalable and anonymous. To these I add, transparency.

E-voting systems struggle to meet the Schneier’s first four criteria and yet the last is possibly the most important; critically losers must trust that the result is accurate.

I say [much] more in articles on this blog tagged e-voting.

ooOOOoo

The HuffPo article posted the full review and I have mirrored the section on Digital Democracy on this site. The report itself is pretty moderate in its ambitions, restricting itself to improving training, asking all CLPs to have a web site and making the social media officer a specific role. No harm really; although it is important to maintain the collective nature of decision making in the Party, where remote attendance and postal votes isolate and allow non Party voices i.e. the right wing press to have a larger voice than our members then this must be opposed. …

Labour Party, making policy

My submission to Labours Democracy Review on making policy.

CLPs should have an inalienable right to initiate policy, as such CLPs should be allowed to submit motions to Conference on policy as they see fit (i.e. not be constrained by the NPF report and processes).

NEC should publish their minutes so that members know what they are doing.

Appropriate CLP motions should be presented to the NEC and their actions recorded, minutes taken and reported to the authoring CLP.

CLPs should be able to submit a motion + rule change to Conference during the same year and CLP/Affiliate proposed rule changes to conference to should be allowed to be debated at the Conference for which it was proposed.

The NPF to be halved in size, meet more regularly, report to conference, and conference to be extended by a day. This is designed to increase the NPF’s accountability to Conference and provide some form of governance over continuous policy making; Conference should remain sovereign. NPF should be commissioning hearings led by a combination of grassroots activists and members and workers/trade unionists with expertise in specific areas. NPF should function in a more transparent way. This transparency to include its web site.

Conference should be a day longer, it would allow the consideration of more topics.

It should be considered to have a first delegate to conference at 500 members, and additional delegates at 750. More money should be sent to the CLPs and/or the Conference delegates should be funded by HQ. (We are debt free you know). [On drawing the graph/chart, I wonder if it would make much difference, it would make it easier, if it could be afforded, to send a gender balanced conference delegation, which is my purpose, but this would only be so for those CLPs with between 500 & 750 members. It should be noted that larger CLPs are not sending their full delegations because of cost. It should be noted that small and remote CLPs are not sending their delegations at all often because of cost. Perhaps elections at conference should be done as postal votes for non-attendees.]

It has been suggested to me that despite my efforts, many of Labour’s new members lack experience of the motion/debate process. More education is required at branch/member level about the motion process (e.g. what motions should incorporate and the change we hope to bring about). …

Electing Labour’s Leader

My submission to the Democracy Review on Electing the Leader.

Required nominations in the case of a vacancy should be set so that the electorate are given a choice. It should be noted that the higher the threshold required within the PLP, the more likely pressure for reselection will be in cases where MPs no longer represent the views of their membership.

On electing our leader, the Leader should be elected by individual ballot, of individual members, affiliate members and registered supporters.

Registered supporters should be asked to renew their commitment annually (and undergo the same checks that are used for people to become members), charged no more than of the order of £5 per year and be able to attend (but not vote during) branch meetings. If Toby Young seeks to become a registered supporter, we should refer it to the Police for fraud.

Freeze dates for all elections for internal office should be decided according to administrative feasibility. i.e. days or weeks, not the 6 months used in the 2016 leadership elections. …

Labour and local government

I have just made my submission to Labour’s Democracy Review on Local Government. It consists of proposals about candidate selection, labour’s governance (Groups and Labour Committees), Direct Mayors and recalling/dismissing Leaders.  The current local government candidate selection process and Labour Group governance rules gives a massive advantage to incumbents vs. challengers. If we are to meet our aspirations of representing the community and its most disadvantaged, we need to do better. I say more below or overleaf … … …

Some new rules for Labour

The CLPD have some recommended rule changes, they are published on their web site and in this document.

They include allowing the membership a say in the candidates for the Leader and ensuring either the Leader or Deputy is female, reform of the trigger ballot process, democratising the Local Campaign Forums, election of the CLP NCC reps by OMOV, changes to the way in which rule changes are dealt with (2), a democratic Young Labour, introducing proportionality in the length of disciplinary penalties, establishing Conference standing orders, establishing an Ombudsman, a Charter of Member Rights, a Code of Ethics for members, representatives and staff, amendments to motions at Conference, organising disabled members and a conference for disabled members.

ooOOOoo

The deadline has passed; I have inserted an excerpt delimiter, for what was said, use the “read more” button. …  …