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. …

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! …

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. …

Flexibility required

So wise people have considered my “paper” on the proposed rule changes on Parliamentary selection. The advice is to obtain a flexible mandate for several reasons. The first is that we do not know what the NEC is going to do; it may propose an amendment itself, and it will certainly make recommendations and if they recommend opposition then it’s felt the motion will fall and thus unless the rules change, cannot be debated for five years. Despite the Skwawkbox’s publication of Unite’s position supporting open selection, it is felt that the Unions are more likely to support the Hastings & Rye (et al) motion which reforms and not abolishes the Trigger ballot; it requires an incumbent MP to win ⅔ of the individual members and to win ⅔ of affiliated organisations. Whatever happens, the NEC position will be critical; it will be important to be flexible but there can be no denying that there’s a lot of membership pressure to take control of this decision. …

Trigger ballot reform

I have had a look at the rule change motions amending rule C5.IV.5, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, which will be on the agenda for Labour’s Conference 18. They were submitted last year, and thus scheduled for debate this year. I have written up my thoughts in an article/document.

The critical issues are,

  1. the trigger ballot, reform or abolish
  2. the threshold for not requiring a selection,
  3. the privilege given to incumbents,
  4. the role of party units or branches in a nomination process.

By considering the issue of whether to have a trigger ballot process at all as separate from the protection given to incumbents,i.e. the threshold, I think we gain clarity. Another reason for considering them separately, is that the abolition/retention of the trigger ballot is proposed with thresholds, either having an early termination of the reselection process or for avoiding the reselection processes all together respectively.

Here is a summary of how I see it

Rachel Godfrey Wood has also written a summary of how she sees the amendments although she does not consider the West Lancashire amendment which changes the rules such that, if an incumbent loses a trigger ballot, they are not to be included in the subsequent selection. There’s a good reason for this. If the Conference Arrangements Committee rules that only one of these rule changes can be carried, then passing the West Lancs motion means that there is no change to the trigger ballot process, and it can’t be debated for another five years.

The paper also points at two other rules changes, abolishing the rule on auto-exclusion for supporting a non labour organisation, and on CLP finance, where it is proposed that the CLPs get 50% of the membership fees.

permalink: https://wp.me/p9J8FV-1AO …

Contemporary Motions

In rule 3.II.2.C, Labour’s Rules describe a contemporary motion as one

… which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference

CLPs & Affiliates may only submit “contemporary” motions to conference. Contemporary, as in timeliness,  is taken as an issue, that has arisen since the publication of the NPF report and more controversially that could not have been raised before. In 2016, the CAC ruled motions on austerity and the economy out of order as these had both been in existence in the spring. The words themselves permit the raising of an issue on which the NPF is silent, such as my proposed anti-surveillance motion. Authors of motions need to take these rules into account.

There is a rule change on the order paper to abolish the “contemporary” constraint and the Democracy Review is recommending the abolition of the National Policy Forum. So this could be the last time we need to worry about this stupidity. …

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 … … …

On Labour’s Leadership, Conference & Policy

My CLP had its meeting to determine what it wanted to say to the Labour Party Democracy Review’s phase three. This seeks views on Electing our Leadership, How we Make Policy and The Way We Work. I’ll write up what we said some time soon, once the notes are complete. We agreed some of the ideas from the CLPD’s recommendations. For the CLPD documents, I have made SURLs, see https://is.gd/vIXAAK or http://bit.ly/2Imi2Xz . The CLPD original is hosted at Grass Roots Labour’s site, here. …