Too hard to leave

I wish I could make this a haiku, it was written for and published on twitter.

On #Brexit #lab16 Labour’s Conference is right; redlines on citizen rights or No!

It’s too hard to leave, people with good will, if limited intellect, towards #Brexit are failing to agree satisfactory terms.

On the sanctity of the referendum’s democratic will, we now already have a second mandate, the general election 2017.

Also Parliament can’t guarantee anything, it can always change its mind. …

Labour & Brexit

On Labour & Brexit: up till last week, Corbyn & Starmer were talking about negotiating the best Brexit terms, in Starmer’s words,  no worse than membership. Corbyn’s interview over the weekend raised the possibility that Brexit would mean exit from the Single Market. This has caused a furore in the Labour Party and amongst some of its new friends.

This heat of this debate was raised by Barry Gardiner’s article in the FT stating that in a post EU existence the Customs Union was a problem but McDonnell says that nothing is off the table, and Starmer in a speech to Labour in Business repeats his six criteria and again states that nothing is off the table.

On Tuesday, my branch of the Labour Party debated this and voted, in part as a reaction to this debate, to remain in the Single Market and to take the issue to conference. In my speech, I seconded it, I argued that Conference had a policy, which I have mirrored here which was to ensure that the exit terms ensured no diminishing of workers, consumer, citizenship and migrant rights and that if the terms of exit breached these conditions that a second mandate (from Parliament, a General Election or Referendum) must be sought and that remaining in the EU is to be considered. This policy was established after the referendum. The 2017 Manifesto, approved by the Clause V meeting stated that,

Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

So three days later, I can accept that outcomes are important not structures and that an EEA/Swiss style deal might be acceptable to me provided we seek a second mandate.

I added that Labour are in opposition, and that the most likely way to get a third election is to defeat the Tories in the House of Commons. Stating that we would do in Government is premature and we are unclear which faction of the Tories will vote with us or abstain. It would be more sensible to retain our ambiguity on these issues.

In terms of timing, we, i.e. the British People, are running out of time. It may well be that the only option available by the time government falls is to revoke the Article 50 notice. Pretending that we can negotiate a Brexit deal & transitional agreement in 12 months is almost certainly a mistake. …

Labour’s Conference Lost

Labour’s Conference Lost

I was privileged to attend Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool as a voting delegate. The Conference was the book-end of a summer in which the Labour Party re-opened the debates about programme and strategy which many had thought finished last year. This article reports my experience and views; it is quite long, about 2750 words and is broken up into sections, Unity and the membership, some comments on the politics of Conference, a short section on the future, also covering the Tuesday atmosphere and Wednesday’s Leader’s speech. This is followed by a commentary on the Rules debate and the surrounding shenanigans; the main part of this article/report is concluded with comments on the state of the debate on Immigration and Brexit.  …

Impressions from #lab16

It was my first experience of conference as a delegate. Since I rebooted my membership of the Labour Party, I have been arguing for a member led policy making process so it was important to be able to see the pinnacle of the members expression of voice at first hand.

This year was unusual in that on the Saturday, the Special Conference to announce the results of the Leadership election was held. Corbyn won with an increased mandate despite the appalling campaign run against him and the bending of the rules.

As a delegate, one is very busy but often to little effect. Conference remains very stage managed. The rules give primacy of policy initiation to the National Policy Forum, which presents a 250 page report on the proposed programme. This has not met since it was elected last year, so not sure where the NPF report came from, but it’s structures govern the political agenda of Conference, it’s broken into sessions mirroring the policy commissions of the NPF. Motions are submitted but must be “Contemporary” which means pertaining to an event after the publication of the NPF Report, which was mid-August this year. The Conference Arrangements Committee determines if the motions are genuinely “contemporary” and for instance this year ruled that motions on the economy/austerity weren’t contemporary since we had an Economy in July. The CAC also groups the motions into topics. The topics are then voted on by conference in two classes, the Trade Unions and Socialist Societies and the CLPs representing the individual membership. For each of these classes, the top four topics are selected for debate and all organisations submitting motions invited to a meeting to see if agreement on the words can be reached which is a further opportunity for the Leadership to ensure that uncomfortable policies do not reach the floor of conference; it seems a serious mistake was made by the team working on “Employment Rights” as the words on requiring a popular mandate once the terms of Brexit are known obviously got through by accident.

In the Education composite, we were badly stitched up, partly through inexperience. The front bench and CAC brought a form of words which contained four of ours. The front bench believe that they can add to the 22 parliamentary victories from the last term and defeat the Tories on Grammar Schools in parliament; it they believe that if LP conference condemned academies, demanded a return to local democratic control and called on councils to oppose further academisation that this would weaken the parliamentary struggle, or maybe the otherwise impressive Angela Rayner hadn’t covered these issues in the speech she had written. The final motion put to conference had five words from ours and focused exclusively on opposing Grammar Schools, the speech was considered a great success. We should submit our motion to the NPF at their site, it should be signed by the Constituency.

It is my view that the rules and standing orders are there to ensure that the will of the meeting is expressed; they shouldn’t be seen as weapons in a winning or losing contest. It seems this is not a view shared by many of the people acting as Chairs of both Conference and the compositing meetings. In too many cases, the Chair moved to votes on the original proposal without allowing votes and in some cases debate on amendments moved. In one case, the Conference Chair failed to ask for votes against and had to be corrected by the Compliance Unit staff member on the platform. Properly conducted debates and votes heal division, this sort of manipulation does not. What would Citrine say?

The energy debate was interesting; it was written by the Unions, and opposed from the floor for being insufficiently green and too orientated around fossil fuel industries but we can all agree we don’t like fracking.

Card Votes aren’t, each delegate gets a fraction of the organisation’s card vote and thus if mandates are unclear, the votes may council each other out. In our case, we had four delegates, two left, two right and thus most of the card votes will be a net of zero.

I went to the Liberty Fringe meeting, I raised the issue of the Investigatory Powers Act, not much interest.

Delegates had blue badges, the platform and other ex-officio members had red ones and member visitors had orange and yellow badges. On the last day, it was clear that many of the moderates had gone home. The staff cleared the conference hall between the morning sessions and then let people come in, once the delegates and ex-officio seat holders were in, all the hall seats including “balcony” seats were given to the previously excluded member visitors. The atmosphere in the morning had been much better than Tuesday, which was terrible, but the massive number of orange badge holders in the room to listen to Jeremy’s speech can only auger well for 2017, when they come back with blue badges. …

Notes from #lab16

This was written at the time and published 11 months later, It consists of notes I made at the CLPD meeting and at #lab16 on the first day. It looks at the 1st CLPD meeting, their Delegates briefing and makes some critical comments on the proposed rule changes and Lillee and McNicols speeches. …