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. …

Amnesty

As you may know, I am a supporter of Stop the Purge campaign as the rule under which these exclusions have been taken taken offends the principles of natural justice. After the election last year, the CLP Chair, in a speech to the General Committee observed that we had all worked well together during the election and wouldn’t it be great if this could continue. I agreed, and so I wrote the following motion as several people, that I know of, who joined the CLP have been excluded.

It calls for the lifting of all exclusion decisions taken under this Rule.

The motion was carried at my branch meeting last night.

All supporters of Labour Party welcome in Labour Party

This meeting notes

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause I Conditions of membership, sub clause 4 Exclusions, (B) reads as follows:

‘A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.’

This rule has been used to exclude LP members with no defence, no appeal and no public review of the evidence.

This meeting believes

  1. Labour’s membership should be open to all who share our values and support Labour’s election campaigns.
  2. In the spirit of post-election unity, this branch calls for the reinstatement of automatically excluded members.

This meeting calls/GC instructs on the CLP Secretary to write to the General Secretary and the NEC calling for the reinstatement of those auto-excluded under Rule 4.I.2.B

This meeting instructs the branch secretary to submit this motion to the CLP Secretary for consideration at the next GC .

So now it goes to the General Committee.

ooOOOoo

There were two points raised which are interesting and deserve reply.

The first is that if we delete the rule, how can we defend ourselves against electoral opponents, The answer to that is simple, there are plenty of other rules that define that offence, but even then such actions should be considered under a process that includes a defence, and right of appeal.

The motion is not a rule change, its an appeal for amnesty but I have written about what I’d like the rule to look like elsewhere on this blog. …

Labour Pains

Last night’s General Committee was due to catch up on the motions backlog and receive reports from our Conference delegates. The agenda was packed as usual with the addition of a guest speaker from Unite who spoke mainly about Racism in the SE London NHS.

The meeting got off to a bumpy start when one of the delegates asked Vicky if the Momentum meeting speaker MP, Chris Williamson had asked her permission to speak in the constituency and if she had a view on the fact that a man was supporting Kath Dunbar, the Left candidate for women’s officer at the November AGM. She seemed particularly upset that a man was getting involved in the Women’s Officer election.  My understanding is that Chris did speak to Vicky. Given the incumbent Women’s Officer was imposed by the Centre-Right majority in opposition to the women’s forum nominee at a vote that included the male delegates, this is the last place I’d start.

The delegation reported back, that they’d interpreted their mandate as a requirement to vote to include the Brexit topic in the priorities ballot and had done so, in some cases against their personal inclination. They reported on the rules debate, but not highlighting the Brighton Pavilion’s refusal to remit their motion. The spoke at length about the change in the disciplinary rules, which has been reported elsewhere; basically, acts of racist or discriminatory speech are now against the rules, and will be dealt with under Chapter 6 processes, previously there was an absolute free speech defence.

An important event at conference was the exercising of the procedural motion to refer back paragraphs of the National Policy Forum report, this was new tactic enabled by a rule change in 2016. Conference referred the policy on Welfare cuts because it didn’t promise to reverse the Tory cuts and referred back the section on Education because it was insufficiently strong on democratic control of schools. I missed this but would have particularly enjoyed it as we had proposed this as a central piece of our opposition to Grammar schools and been badly stitched up in the Composite meeting and our words removed.

Rebecca focused on Woman’s Conference; it was the first time that it had been a policy making conference and Rebecca revealed that new rules had been written to enable the delegate to Woman’s Conference to obtain a mandate from female members only. Neither she nor I know why we didn’t do this.

The three of them reported on the fringe events and policy forums; it’s much easier to speak at these. When Maisie Sanders reported that she, like several others in the CLP including me, had attended the Stop the Purge meeting, chaired by Mark Sandell, the excluded ex-Chair of Brighton District Labour Party, she was interrupted by Mel Ward, who accused her of supporting a proscribed organisation i.e. the AWL by attending the meeting and by selling the Clarion which she wrongly alleged was an AWL paper. After about 15 secs of this, Rebecca Lawrence walked from the back of the room, and interrupted Mel Ward’s attack and expressed her disgust at the speech and her determination to stand in solidarity with Maisie; she was joined by Anshu.

The meeting had been advertised as an attempt to catch up on our backlog of Motions; it wasn’t to be. We had two emergency motions both on planning issues. I moved my motion on Tidemill Gardens development. For those following this, you’ll know that the New Cross councillors were split with Cllr Joe Dromey being given the unusual privilege of addressing the Planning Committee where he spoke in favour of the planning application; Councillor Dacres supported the objections. As I moved the motion, Cllr Dromey heckled me twice to the extent where I asked him to stop by pointing out that shouting at people while speaking wasn’t how we did things in the Labour Party; it would seem not everyone agrees as it is the second time he’s done this, although not to me.

A motion opposing the Silver St. development was also moved. In this case, the central reason for opposition is the height of the building and the light pollution i.e. shadows on current resident’s gardens.

It interests me that after Labour Conference, it would seem that support for private sector led regeneration by Labour’s members is on the wane. Councils are going to have to catch up.

ooOOOoo

Anshu’s report has been posted on face book and is mirrored here. …

Godalming Three

I have now spoken to one of the Guildford Three. They were expelled for organising a public meeting to explore a common/shared candidate. The General Committee had voted to explore the possibility of a “Progressive Alliance” candidate. A public meeting was organised, the three Labour organisers were expelled. A candidate was imposed. In response, the General Committee voted a zero budget for the SW Surrey Campaign and donated what they would have spent to their nearest marginal, Ealing Central. Most of SW Surrey CLP’s leadership travelled to support Labour candidates in other seats.

Steve Williams, after his expulsion, nominated Louise Irving, the NHAP candidate. As he says, once expelled the rules have no power.

The three people expelled are all Corbyn supporters, of course, and leading activists in the CLP.

On one hand, you can see how a beleaguered head office, gearing up for an election they expected to be smashed in, would have had little time to deal with this in a sensitive fashion, but they are so used to getting away with it, that they roll out the old rule 2.I.4.B again. …

History

I picked up this morning’s Yellow Pages and spied an article by Hassan Ahmed, the original Vice Chair of Labour’s Black Sections, an unofficial organisation which was a precursor to Labour’s BAME organisations. Hassan was suspended and then expelled for organising a BAME section; he was at the time a city Councillor in Nottingham. Fortunately, although in his words reluctantly, he took the Labour Party to court and won. They had to pay £100,000 in court fee and that was in 1994. He finishes the article,

… Those were the bad old days. Under Jeremy’s enlightened leadership the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

Let’s hope he’s right! …

Stop the Purge

Stop the Purge

I dropped into the “Stop the Purge” meeting earlier tonight, in time to hear Graham Hadfield from Brighton and Alan Runswick from Wallasey tell their stories. Their stories can be found elsewhere on the web. Both CLPs were suspended, and Brighton broken up. Individuals have been suspended or expelled. The expulsions have been under Rule 2.i.4.B. Pam Fitzpatrick from Harrow spoke about the witch-hunt of her son, a supporter of Socialist Appeal, who was suspended, reinstated, then expelled. He actually went to court to get a restraining injunction and that failed; he has been unable to raise the  money to take it further through the courts. Tony Greenstein, still suspended and claiming to be the longest suspended member spoke of the anti-antisemitism campaign and the consequent suspensions. I also spoke.  …

Officer Class

Some comrades, mainly it would seem from Brighton, where suspensions and expulsions are still in place protested about McNicol’s continued employment calling on him to resign.

mcnicol must go

Joanna Baxter, an ex member of the NEC, raised a point of order complaining that it was abusing staff.


http://twitter.com/JohannaBaxter/status/911908728789766145

He isn’t staff, he is an Officer of the Party and holds office “at the satisfaction of the NEC and Conference”. This is an important distinction. There’s no recall, no means of subjecting him to the rules and there’s no term limit. …

Expulsions

I went to visit some Labour Party friends in North London last night; several of them have been “auto-excluded” from membership. This has to stop. I have developed a rule change motion [ Download here … ] or http://bit.ly/2sFM6t8.

Rule changes are submitted with a supporting text justifying themselves; The text is posted below, but in summary

The problem with the rule is in three words, automatically, support and organisation. Automatically denies the accused natural justice, support has no threshold of proof, ( tweets i.e. 128 character phrases have been taken as sufficient) and organisation can be anything, there’s no qualification of opposition or unacceptability.

If you agree, it would be good to get this on the Conference Agenda, it needs to be passed at an appropriate CLP meeting and submitted to LP HQ by July 7th.


“The Labour Party campaigns in and with communities and their organisations. It also works with other political parties although currently only the Co-op Party. Not all relationships of supporting & joining organisations other than official Labour organisations are prohibited by the rules.

Unity in electoral campaigns and compliance with the rules should be the required level of commitment. Registered supporters are asked to agree with the aims of the party and not belong to an organisation opposed to it. This should be the standard for membership.

Prohibition of support of organisations other than affiliates creates a chilling effect for joining and support of such organisations. It means working with organisations such as Hope not Hate, Liberty, Green Peace or Amnesty International may render members liable to automatic expulsion.

Automatic ineligibility is currently interpreted as allowing expulsion by administrative action. The accused is processed in secret, unable to challenge evidence, present a defence or request an appeal.  These are all breaches of the rights to natural justice. This is unacceptable in a democratic party.

This has been used in a factional manner where long-term members and Green Party converts have been expelled. Disciplinary action taken varies; members of other parties who hold public office wishing to join are usually accepted.

The purpose of this rule change is to end the arbitrary, partisan and secret exclusion of Labour Party members, so that all members that abide by Labour’s rules, are entitled to join and remain members of the Party.” …