Today, my campaigning comrade, Rebecca Lawrence published her views as to what happened at the Lewisham Momentum AGM held at New Cross Learning & then allegedly at the Amersham Arms public bar. Important & accurate things to note from the account are that the 2nd half of the meeting was held in a pubic bar, which would not have held all those who wanted to attend, and no checks as to eligibility were performed. Some claim the majority in attendance at the Library went to the Pub, but no-one knows since they weren’t counted and no-one knows how many stayed in the Library.

The only beneficiary for this piece of sectarianism will be Labour’s right and a small number of self declared left careerists.

Momentum’s gift to the right in Lewisham

The incumbent committee, of which I was a member, have published a statement, together with two witness statements and the text of our complaint to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group. I mirror them here.

The witness statements make no mention of the fact that the Amersham Arms would not have allowed under age members in the pub.

ooOOOoo

We publish here various information and documents relating to the Lewisham Momentum AGM on 23 April and in particular to the meeting (if you can call it that) held in the front bar of the Amersham Arms which its organisers claimed was a legitimate AGM. We do not necessarily endorse every detail of the materials but they are instructive.

Below are

  • Links to two videos of the meeting in the Amersham Arms bar
  • Two eye witness reports of the meeting
  • The complaint our co-chair and co-secretary Rebecca Lawrence and Jon Johnson submitted to the Momentum NCG

We want to reiterate the following points about the meeting, which the materials posted below make abundantly clear.

  • The meeting at NXL was told that a larger venue was available and a vote of sorts took place on that basis. It’s not clear the back room at the Amersham Arms *is* larger, but in any case the NXL meeting was lied to – the Amersham back room was not available, it had a gig in it.
  • The meeting took place in a public bar that is much smaller than NXL, which already had people in it.
  • There was no credentials check or registration of any sort. People already there or who wandered in off the street could vote.
  • The elections were unopposed and the only vote that took place was to ratify the entire committee.

To unify the left in Lewisham we need a reconvened Momentum AGM, with a big enough venue and proper negotiations to ensure a democratic meeting rather than one where the aim is to smash your opponents.


YOUTUBE VIDEOS OF THE AMERSHAM ARMS MEETING

 


REPORT OF AMERSHAM MEETING BY NICOLE OBIDOWSKI, LEWISHAM MEMBER

1) The breakaway group practically ran there – we were among the first to leave because we had been stuck outside NXL for an hour an half. Yet we had to speed walk to keep up with the pack. Proceedings were started within a couple of minutes, long before people had had a chance to make their way over. There was a steady stream of people still entering the pub during proceedings and the entire time we were there. As seen in the above videos, someone in the room made the point that most of our comrades are still back at NXL and the chair responded that if people couldn’t make it that was their choice/problem. However if anyone had any type of disability they would not have physically been able to reach the pub in time. (This is in stark contrast to the enquiries from disabled officers at NXL asking if people needed chairs and so on while we were outside) .

2) The relocated agm was to be in the front room of the pub, I’d estimate there was 20-30 people already in the pub. Initial reactions were that this was incredulous – we had presumed that the large private back room would be the venue, but this was already being used, which the people leading this group would have known in advance. We had in fact been moved to a smaller venue than the NXL, after voting to move the AGM to a larger venue in order to accommodate all members. In which case the room was not fit for the purpose that the vote was intended to address.

3) No one took any details or checked any credentials, nor was there any potential to take any details of membership status for labour or momentum, as the door was manned only by pub security. Although some of those I’m attendance had already been vetted at NXL, use of the NXL ballot papers was not enforced.

4) Of the people in the room, a good number were confused as to why / how this was happening, and some left, including ourselves, seeking to find out what was going on. As can be verified from the video (below), there was no more than 76 people voting – but at NXL we were at 120 cap, with 30 more people outside. Furthermore, at NXL there were a good number of people that were said to be ineligible to vote, who presumably made their way over to the Amersham Arms.

5) Due to certain members of the audience questioning the validity of proceedings, the chair decided to validate the elections by holding a vote. But as membership had not been checked and NXL ballot papers were not used, the vote was essentially open to the public.

6) The counting of hands is impossible to ratify in a busy, moving pub – the tellers count 58, then 70… it’s not the difference of one or two. Again, completely unsuitable for an AGM.

We’re totally outraged by the affront to democracy and have no problem standing by / verifying any of this to Momentum National office if necessary.

Best Regards,
Nicole Obidowski


REPORT OF THE AMERSHAM ARMS MEETING FROM CHRIS BRIGHT, SOUTHWARK MOMENTUM

I attended Lewisham Momentum’s AGM on 23 April as an observer from neighbouring Southwark Momentum. The meeting was scheduled to start at 7pm at New Cross Learning but by 7:10 there were still people waiting to get through the membership verification process at the entrance.

The existing steering committee had drawn up a slate, placed on all the chairs, advertising itself as a broad-based steering committee including comrades who had been unjustly expelled from the Labour Party. A slide was then projected at the front of the room announcing that a hostile takeover, based on smears, was underway.

At this point, with all seats full and 20-30 people still outside, the chair announced that the capacity of the room had been reached, fire regulations would prevent any more coming in and the meeting could not proceed. A number of individuals then rose to speak, uninvited. As an outsider it wasn’t clear to me who they were or where they were from. Some people suggested that all those who were not members of the Labour Party should leave. Others denounced this idea. Tempers began to fray at this point, not helped by the lack of a PA system, which made it necessary to shout to be heard. Some intemperate comments were made by both sides.

Two main proposals eventually emerged; that the meeting be reconvened on another date at a larger venue, with the current attendees, and that a larger room be found immediately and the meeting reassemble there. Someone was dispatched to Goldsmith’s College nearby to see if the lecture theatre was available.

Alex Nunns the invited speaker then started to give a talk based around his book “The Candidate” with a large group of people still talking at the back of the room. After about ten minutes he was interrupted by someone who said there was a room available at the Goldsmith’s Tavern which could accommodate 150 and the meeting should move there. A vote was then taken, with around 37 people voting to postpone the meeting and a larger number, not counted, voting to walk to the new venue. This group then left the meeting, singing “The Red Flag” and walked to the Goldsmith’s Tavern. I went with them.

On arrival it because apparent that there was no private room available as there was an event booked, and the meeting was going to take place in the public bar, a rather smaller space than the venue we’d come from. Since only those who’d voted in favour of moving had come, everyone just about fitted in, along with the existing pub customers. An observer from Greenwich Momentum was invited to chair temporarily and a full committee was then elected unopposed. A final vote to accept this new committee was then taken, with 70 in favour, 3 against and 3 abstentions.

I videoed this meeting to provide a record, frankly the video makes it look somewhat less chaotic than it was in reality, as there was a lot more ambient noise which the camera microphone didn’t pick up.

Conclusions? On the one hand, there clearly was an organised takeover bid. The politics of this are unclear since no-one expressed any political opinion other than that people not in the Labour Party should not be in Momentum. I think it’s safe to assume this was directed at those members of the existing committee who are in the Alliance for Workers Liberty and have been excluded from Labour Party membership. Perhaps if the meeting had been able to go ahead in the normal way with candidate statements, any differences of political opinion would have been more obvious.

Secondly, there clearly was a majority in the room opposed to the current steering committee. As such if the meeting had gone ahead it seems most likely that some or all of the existing committee would have been voted out. For the existing committee to get annoyed about this is perhaps understandable, but not a good look.

Be that as it may, the idea that you can move a meeting from the advertised venue, with verified attendance, to a public bar in a drinking establishment half a mile down the road is clearly ludicrous. The only reasonable course of action must be to reschedule the meeting under proper conditions, I would suggest with a neutral chair to ensure everything is seen to be fair. If the challengers mobilised a majority once they will presumably be able to do so again.

All in all, this was not a good advertisment for the left, and reminded me more of student politics than any kind of serious movement building. Everyone concerned needs to have a serious re-think, in my opinion.

Chris Bright
Southwark Momentum


COMPLAINT REGARDING ELECTION OF COMMITTEE FOR LEWISHAM MOMENTUM – 23 APRIL 2018

We understand that the meeting held at the Amersham Arms 23rd April 2018 has been considered to have been a properly constituted AGM of Lewisham Momentum.

We are writing to challenge that this is the case, and it was not conducted in accordance with the eligibility criteria by the Momentum representative present.

Two Momentum representatives were present at the AGM which started at the New Cross Learning. Eligibility to vote was current Momentum membership. Labour Party membership was inspected as it may have been required to validate candidates for elections eligibility. It was also used as part of the check that attendees lived in Lewisham..

Eligibility to vote was verified by the two Momentum representatives and by three local Momentum volunteers. Attendees signed a sheet stating their name, address and ward/constituency. Every effort was made to ensure that all attendees met the voting criteria prior to being issued with voting credentials.

Registration was terminated when Paul Bell (New Cross Learning Management Committee) declared that the room was a capacity. At this point 99 voting cards had been issued. There were a number of people waiting to have credentials issued.

One of the Momentum national representatives went with those who chose to leave New Cross Learning.

The reconvened meeting was held in a pub (The Amersham Arms), which would have excluded any 14 -18 year olds and potentially others. It was held in the bar area in which other customers were present. The room used would not have been able to accommodate all the attendees at the AGM. (it is smaller than the original venue – New Cross Learning). Those without voting credentials were not checked; voting credentials were not used. We can provide you with witnesses who will certify these facts.

It should be noted that the incumbents access to Nationbuilder was terminated before 8:00 on Tuesday morning). Who took this decision and under what authority?

The meeting in the Amersham Arms should be set aside and a new AGM convened. It would be better for the reputation of Lewisham Momentum and People’s Momentum that an AGM acceptable to all be held. The meeting in the Amersham Arms cannot be accepted as representing the will of the membership.

Jon Johnson & Rebecca Lawrence
Co-Secretary & Co-Chair
Lewisham Momentum
April 26th 2018

 

 

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