Democracy for the many

The CLPD has considered for several years the vulnerability to the Left should there be another Leadership election in which the incumbent, Jeremy Corbyn was not able to stand.

The Democracy Review proposed changing the nomination threshold for Leader/Deputy Leader by  reducing the number of PLP/EPLP nominations and introducing effective nominations for affiliates and CLPs. The NEC in its pre-conference meetings rejected the Democracy Review proposal and reduced the PLP threshold to 10% while introducing  additional effective nominations from CLPs and affiliates. Many on the Left think the 10% threshold is too high for a true believer to be on the ballot paper.

Given that the Rule on Leadership nominations, Chapter 4, Clause II.2.B.i.  was changed at Conference 2018, Rule changes to this rule proposed by CLPs and affiliates may not be debated at the next three conferences. R3.III.1.H.

Some people in the CLPD came up with a cunning plan, since the number of motions was to be increased, the Left should use one of its motions to mandate the NEC to bring a rule change to the leadership nomination threshold to Conference 2020. See here.

Max Shanley, partly motivated by the anger felt at Tom Watson has proposed another motion in a similar vein. It is printed in full at the Skwawkbox.

The difference between the two motions are that Shanley’s motion removes the MPs from the nomination process altogether and brings forward the mandate to produce a rule change to this year from the CLPD’s 2020 time-line.

Both these will probably mean that the Unions will vote against it or stitch it up; the work to win the Unions to this has not been done. This was shown last year where the Unions via their reps on the NEC and their votes on Conference floor voted against open selection, against repeal of the three-year rule, and for the current Leadership nomination threshold. i.e. it was the Union votes on the NEC that voted to keep the MPs at 10% of the nomination qualification.

If these two motions are submitted to Conference and if they get through the Union dominated CAC, they may be grouped as a single topic and then subject to a composite meeting. Getting it through the CAC will not be simple as the NEC (or the Office) have been working mightily to keep organisational motions off the Women’s Conference agenda.

I suppose my fear is that the proposal to eliminate MPs from the nomination process will attract the notice and opposition of the Unions who will use their majority on the CAC to bury both.

I would think very carefully before supporting Shanley’s proposal.

Whatever you do on this issue though, you should seek mandates to support the abolition of the 3 year rule which to my knowledge will be on the order paper; you should seek to mandate your Union delegations as well as this will require Union votes to win. …

The role of chairpersons

I have been considering the role of Labour Party committee/Party Unit chairpersons.

In the Labour Party, the role of Branch or other Party Unit Chairs is to chair meetings. While doing so they have certain powers, in the Labour Party they may make rulings on the meaning of the rules and standing orders, as they relate to the conduct of the meeting, they have the duty to determine if motions are emergencies or not, subject to confirmation and challenge. They have the sole power to propose to exclude someone which needs to be confirmed by ⅔rds of the meeting. They have these powers at meetings of an Executive Committee also.

What powers do they have when outside a meeting of which they are chair? None!

Actually, they have the powers of an ordinary member so they can make complaints, they can propose items of business to meetings of which they are members. CLP Chairs are also Deputy Treasurers.

The Chair is not the CEO of a CLP or branch, nor are they the Secretary’s supervisor. It would be wise for them to work together and Secretaries might be grateful for witnesses to their good faith. …

Another review of Labour’s Rulebook

Worker’s Liberty asked me to write a review of the Rules change debates at Labour Conference ’18 and have just published it in their paper. It’s snappily entitled “The Labour Party’s new rules”. The article is pretty comprehensive although some of it is based on my contemporaneous blogs, especially “The Denouement“.

I talk of the reform of the trigger ballot, the half-cacked reform of the Leadership election nominations, importantly about member’s rights and local structures, national structures such as the reform of BAME and Youth representation and the establishment of the disabled member’s representative. I also talk of the failure to abolish the “three year” rules amendment moratorium, which is actually four years. I talk of the sneaky amendments to the disciplinary rules, the failure to mitigate the auto-exclusion rule,

I sort of summarise as follows,

…. In summary, the trigger ballot reform is a tremendous step forward, and so is the rewriting of the CLP rules. The establishment of a charter of members’ rights is also an important gain.

The NEC reforms must be assessed as a score draw, but if they act as a focus for autonomous organisation of BAME, youth and the disabled, these will be victories. We need to review the leadership election rules. As we make democratic advances, we need to balance the transfer of power to individual members with the ability to take collective decisions.

The article also points at CLPD’s calls for action, on the Leadership nomination threshold and other rule changes. The deadline for the rule changes is this Friday. …

There’s a reason that votes are secret

I didn’t win again, but in another part of the business a comrade asked for a motion to be voted on via secret ballot. This is what the rules say

C15.I.2.M.ii   Ballot votes shall be held at meetings to select candidates and where otherwise provided for in the Party constitution; and where requested by any member supported by at least two others.

The Chair was advised that the request for a secret ballot required the agreement of the meeting, I have looked and can’t find such a rule. The purpose of this rule is to avoid intimidation and coercion. I did ask where this was defined, but got no answer.

We have now set a precedent that secret ballots can only be agreed by the whole meeting. It’s a charter for bullies. …

Should you stay or should you go

Alastair Campbell, Blair’s Director of Communications has been expelled (or auto-excluded) from the Labour Party probably under rule 4.I.2.B. He stated that he voted for the Lib Dems in the European Parliamentary elections. This was done as per the rule, with no right of defence, no hearing and no right of appeal.

The rule states,

2.I.4.B 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.

The rule is in three parts, the first is about “political organisations” and the second about behaviour during elections, the third governs the exclusion & readmission process.

As Shami Chakrabarti points out, we cannot expel or in anyway sanction people for the way they vote, but it seems the NEC are having second thoughts; we’ll see what happens, but whatever they do, they need to recognise that the no defence, no appeal part of this rule put it in contravention of the rules of natural justice. If they let Campbell off, as they did with Andrew Fisher, this will be rightly seen as one rule for the powerful and one for the rest of us.

The rule should be re-written to add clarity as to which organisations or class of organisations lead to sanctions; I would argue this should be limited to fascist organisations or borrow from the NUS no-platform policy and add to that all other political parties. The rule should be rewritten to have a right of defence, and right of appeal although I recognise in some cases there is a need for velocity. (Or maybe just abolish it and define campaigning for another party as “conduct prejudicial” and dealt with by the NCC processes which are in need of reform themselves.)

I argue that all 4.I.2.B auto-excluded should be given amnesty as not only is the rule contrary to natural justice it was applied factionally and in bad faith.

It should be noted that the Labour Party has other rules to protect itself, it can refuse to allow people to join or it can sanction them under its Chapter 6 processes if actions are prejudicial or grossly detrimental. …

Delete all … insert

I was asked where the “rule” that an amendment cannot be destructive came from. I have to say, that I don’t know but I haven’t read Citrine, so I googled it and came across, “The vest pocket Chairman” by Heathwood and Horseman hosted by libcom.org. They quote Citrine as saying,

Amendment. An amendment should be a proposal seeking to improve a motion—not merely to improve the wording but to propose a better course of action. Amendments should not be negative nor merely destructive.

Lord Citrine, in his A B C of Chairmanship,* divides amendments into five categories. These are :-

(a) Those adding words to the original motion.
(b) Those deleting words from the motion.
(c) Those deleting words and substituting others.
(d) Those deleting most of the motion and substituting a counter-proposal.
(e) Those which amend an earlier amendment.

The rules for moving and discussing an amendment are the same as those for moving and discussing a motion, except that, as a rule, the mover of an amendment has no right of reply to the discussion.

An amendment must be relevant to the terms of the original motion, and must not be frivolous. An amendment should offer a concrete alternative proposal to that contained in the motion.

An amendment should not negative the motion. Anyone wishing to do that can do so simply by voting against the motion.

I have also found the following words,

Direct Negative. An amendment which proposes the direct opposite of a motion is a “Direct Negative” and should not be accepted. The proper course for movers of a direct negative is to oppose the motion.

and

Negative Motion. A motion in the negative cannot be accepted. All motions must be positive.

This article permits omnibus motions.

ooOOOoo

I have uploaded the document here … as my blog seems more long lived that many other web resources. …

Emergencies

Emergencies

More on emergency motions, mainly about the Labour Party’s rules, but may apply to other Labour movement organisations.

An emergency motion can be accepted after the convening notice for a meeting has been published. This means that attendees or potential attendees will not know that a motion is planned, especially if the relevant officers do not formally or informally publicise receipt of a proposed emergency motion. In both AMM and Branch & Delegate (B&D), an emergency motion can be proposed by one member. Emergency motions permit the weakening of the notice rules.

To be deemed an emergency there is a two part test; basically is it late for good reason, and can it wait?

To be deemed an emergency, it must prove that it is relevant to an event that occurred after the convening notice was published otherwise the proposer should/must have given the membership notice of their motion via the Secretary. i.e. the proposer needs to justify why no notice could be given. This is worse in a B&D GC;  an emergency motion can be proposed by a delegate without reference to their nominating organisation and other delegates cannot get mandates for the emergency motion, particularly if no notice has been given.

None of the above addresses the second part of the test which is to qualify as an emergency, the motion must be such that being delayed to a meeting at which notice can be given and mandates issued would nullify the impact of the motion.

This is why organisations need a test as to the bona fide nature of the “emergency” requiring the passage of a motion.

ooOOOoo

It should be noted that the very low threshold required to place an emergency motion on the order paper can lead to abuse. Because emergency motions are taken before motions that have been submitted in good time, a small minority can hijack the agenda of meetings by persistently submitting emergency motions. This denies those that have behaved well the opportunity to see their motions and ideas debated. (My local GC has motions that have been waiting for nearly two years, and it took months to discuss abolishing the Mayor and even longer to vote to oppose blacklist and for the council to embargo companies that use them.

A final thought, since motions of no-confidence, be it in an MP or a CLP EC have no effect in the rules, can they ever be considered emergencies? They will always fail the 2nd test. …

Sovereignty

While I suspect that Labour’s Democracy Review team changed the sovereignty relationship between CLP ECs and GC/AMMs for good reasons, the number of stories of ECs suppressing the membership’s ability to make policy and run their parties being legion and in some places it seems not to have stopped but making it work will be difficult as the amount of time required to hold the new officers and committee to account is significant. My last EC spent hours discussing the Facebook usage policy 🤔, and since everything is factional, stuff gets discussed at detail twice.

I almost wonder if it was deliberate; the GC/AMMs will spend so long discussing administration that they won’t have time to discuss policy or hold the leadership and the PLP to account. …

Member’s Rights (in the Labour Party)

Fabulous, I found this in the new Rules, the new C2.II Individual Membership Rights

7.   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.

I shall be seeking to amend this to include a mandate to abide by the Nolan Principals. …