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.

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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. …  …

At the GC again

Reporting on the Lewisham Deptford General Committee is still not happening so here is a report from me, about what happened yesterday.

The Executive Committee had agreed to hear a guest speaker, Natasha Kennedy who came to speak about Trans-rights. If you’ve missed it, this is a debate centred on self-id occurring within the country as the Tory Government had proposed to change the law to permit a form of self-id, allowing trans-sexuals to choose their own gender identity as opposed to the current law which requires the agreement of a Doctor. The Tories, I believe, have changed their mind, but the Labour Party has agreed, as we do with membership of our BAME forums, to allow self-identifying trans-women to benefit from the positive discrimination measures that exist within the party. This is not without some controversy. Anyway, Natasha presented one side of the argument and shared her experiences.

Another thing you might have heard about is Labour’s Democracy Review. This is being conducted in three phases and the current phase is about local parties. Ammar, our Chair, summarised the problems as follows,

  1. How can the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) better reflect the local community?
  2. What changes (if any) are needed to the way we work at Constituency level?
  3. How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party?
  4. How do we get more people into the Party?

He then asked people to call our their answers, with between a 15 sec and 30 sec comment? While not “in the traditions of the movement”, this worked very well. Many more people were able to speak and to comment on what they wanted. In retrospect, it worked well. Because of Ammar’s framing questions, we did not speak about the Socialist Societies, but I have documented on this blog, what I think and submitted my ideas to the Democracy Review.

Here is my complete matrix

Question solution 1 solution 2 solution 3
How can the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) better reflect the local community? Reduce the membership fees Listen to the membership & engage with community organisations.
What changes (if any) are needed to the way we work at Constituency level? Adopt the Nolan Principles[1] Increase the share of membership fees remitted to CLPs Develop forums for Disability and LGBT
How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party? Listen to them & share power i.e. show how their ideas can change Labour Do more Politics Stop shaming people about doorstep work
How do we get more people into the Party? Make our public officials accountable, i.e. make member’s voices count inside the Labour Party Stop Expelling them and refusing membership to people with campaigning history

I managed to get the Nolan Principles into the CLP submission, and when someone else raised a criticism of the Stakhanovite doorstep warriors, they were politely cheered. The CLP also agreed to ask for much more money from the subs and to reduce the membership fees.

We then turned to the motions, many of which are still left from last year.

We passed emergency motions supporting the UCU strike, and calling on the London Region rule changes to be implemented for this year’s conference.

[1] Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty & Leadership

ooOOOoo

These are personal notes taken from the meeting and not to be taken as a formal record. i.e. all opinions are my own etc …

Rules

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.
 …