And I’ll say that I wrote it myself dum-de-dum

It’s interesting which bits of one’s knowledge one takes for granted. I have been asked by several people how to write a motion. It would seem despite what may have been reported elsewhere that much of today’s Left have not grown up with experience of NUS student politics, thankfully, nor come from a Trade Union background which is where I learnt this stuff, initially at mandating meetings.

Policy motions come in three parts, a notes section, a believes section and an instructs section. The notes section is used to provide context and frame the problem, otherwise, when younger it seemed to me that the important piece was the instructions, but the believes section defines long term policy which may outlive the instructions. In some cases, one might have to amend the instruct verb and replace it with a calls on or strongly advises. This would occur when the meeting has no right to mandate actions such as if calling on MPs or Councillors to take actions. The rest of this article consists of an example motion and Life of Brian’s guide to committee procedure.

Here’s an example

This meeting notes

  1. The announcement of something bad
  2. The effect this announcement/programme will have on people

This meeting believes

  1. The contents of the announcement is bad
  2. The announcement should be overturned
  3. And replaced with an alternative which may have multiple points

This meeting calls on

  1. Our representatives to vote against these measures

This meeting instructs

  1. The officers or executive committee to “do something Reg!”


For those who don’t get the “Reg” reference, here’s a video of how [not] to do it.


Show me a motion
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6 thoughts on “Show me a motion

  • 15th December 2016 at 4:18 pm

    At Union Conferences and even at local Labour Parties motions are evaluated to determine if they can be debated. I remember the excitement of reading the CPSA conference motions books and counting up the numbers marked as X, as in excluded.

    We were all excited one year when one motion was marked as X because it was deemed silly. As one person commented, it wasn’t a reason used often. (The motion was about the size of toilet paper sheets provided in a number of government buildings.)

    The main reason that motions would be ruled out of order is that the execution of the instructions is contrary to the rules, importantly the aims and objects of the Party. CLPs also have a geographic limit on their authority and power and so instructions to act in other borough would be out of order.

    A proposed donation to another political party would be out-of-order.

    An instruction to break any rules pertaining to a selection would also be ruled out of order.

    An instruction to be carried out by another body is potentially a reason for ruling out

    Another reason is that the motion has not been submitted in good time. This can be got round by asking that the motion is treated as an Emergency, in which case there needs to be a deadline and a trigger.

    On the geographic limitations, the determination to convene a demonstration or counter demonstration out of the CLPs constituency would be ultra-vires but supporting one called by someone else, but not another political party would be OK.

    It is my view that it is the job of the Chair of the organisation to make these rulings and that therefore the meeting can challenge the rulings, noting that the process for dealing with the issue as to if a motion is an Emergency is different from a challenge to other Chair’s ruling.

    • 7th January 2017 at 8:30 pm

      An Emergency Motion must be triggered by an event occurring after the closing date for submission of regular motions and/or refer to an event occurring before the next meeting that can consider the matter. It must refer to this/these event[s].

  • 18th December 2016 at 12:16 am

    In some circumstances, there are rules relating to the length of a motion, for instance motions to Labour’s Annual Conference have limits, in three parts,

    1. A title, which is 10 words,
    2. the motion text which is limited to 250 words,
    3. you might be able to submit a supporting statement as the third part which will also be limited.

    It’s another means of control since the NEC can table documents, and the NPF tables a mighty document, but in general I am unaware of any other constraint/rule on length of motions.

    A good piece of advice is that motions should be short enough to be read and understood. You don’t want to bore people and lose their interest or understanding.

  • 21st February 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Some more comments on emergency motions and how to place an emergency motion on the agenda of a delegate based GC.

    In a GC managed party a motion must be submitted by a party unit or affiliated organisation. This is equally true of an emergency motion.

    This is stated in Rule 15.I.H.i which has an [Alt A] clause, applies to delegate GCs & a [Both] clause which also applies to delegate GCs. The [Both] section is not numbered H.ii and so these paragraphs are part of the same rule. The [Alt A] part says that motion must be submitted by party units or affiliated organisations in writing and in good time. The [Both] clause waives the need for good time, but not the requirement that it’s in writing nor that its sponsored by a branch, forum or affiliate. There could be seen to be a lack of clarity in the [Both] clause about who may submit emergency motions, but the [Both] clause is part of 15.I.H.i; it has been written to be interpreted in either context and it’s the [Alt A] clauses that settles that issue, requiring that allmotions are proposed by a party unit or affiliate.

    The [Both] clause states that the acceptance of the emergency status is voted on by the meeting on the recommendation of the chair who must interpret emergency in bona fide way. The vote is a simple majority.

    Because Hi[Alt A] says (all) motions need to be submitted by party units or affiliated organisations. Emergency Motions may not be submitted by individuals. Motion I.i also states that motions submitted by organisations, (all of them in the case of a GC) must be moved by a delegate from the submitting organisation and must be seconded.

    This is tricky but in the rulings on the last leadership election, both courts state that the simplest interpretation of a clear statement is what holds. Courts and members must look for the simplest and obvious interpretation of the rules.

    On the other hand, the two circumstances in Lewisham Deptford, where individually submitted emergency motions were heard and passed have, to my mind, helped the General Committee speak for the membership and express their view ensuring that its public representatives understood the collective view of the membership. Perhaps we need a new local rule.

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