Local Leadership

It will come as no surprise that I am talking about who should stand for office in Lewisham Deptford CLP. The Labour Party publishes a series of useful guides and job descriptions for CLP & Branch Officers on its members site, membersnet, which can/must now be accessed via the single sign on site, my Labour. Having a look at these might help some comrades understand if they have the both the time and recognise that they have the skills required from their everyday life. I am consistently shocked at how much personal admin the paperless world of today requires when dealing with the utility companies, banks and insurance companies. We all  have useful skills in this area.

Local Leadership

Unity

This was written by a conference attendee and shared to me by a friend, I can’t find it on the web, and so can’t link to it. It looks like it was ublished on Wednesday a.m. and I think it reflects Conference quite well.

Wednesday greetings to all in the 5.38 club…well the answer to yesterday’s question is that Tom Watson mentioned Jeremy eleven times in his speech.Anyone who guessed correctly contact Tom who has offered to share his Glastonbury tent next year.

The standing ovation for Watson shows again that more than half the Conference are attending for the first time,possibly are unaware of Watson’s lifelong history as a right wing fixer ,and are desperate to show the media we are united.The same delegates gave an even bigger ovation to Naomi Klein’s guest speech which ripped into Trump and ended with her declaring that the Labour Party is inspiring socialists around the world .

My prize for speech of the day went to Portia from Kensington CLP who movingly roll called friends she had lost at Grenfell and simply told Conference the Tories were responsible and had to go.

Comrades angry at the suspension and expulsion of socialists from the Party forced a card vote when the NEC refused to accept the motion for discussion ,CLPs voted (63%) to refer this back but were defeated by trade union votes .Still the excellent chair Claudia Webbe who is on the Party review promised that this issue and another of Labour Council groups  being held to account by local members would be reported on by the review .

The former MP rebels against Corbyn were reduced to watching from the sidelines ..with one or two MPs disgracefully behaving badly to stewards who rightly did not let them into the delegate zone.The right wing,despite the bitter daily briefing sheets from Labour First,were rarely seen on the rostrum.They have not gone away but there was much speculation that some may split from the Party.

Encouragingly the claim of the right wing Jewish Labour Movement to speak for Jewish Party members has been comprehensively challenged by the new Jewish Voices for Labour and several delegates spoke passionately that the ‘weaponising ‘ of anti- semitism by the JLM has to stop .Claims will no doubt continue but Conference made clear ,supporting the oppressed Palestinians and describing Israel as an apartheid state are legitimate points and are not anti-Semitic.

On the fringe events John McDonnell made the key point that trade union members must work for simultaneous strike action against the pay cap as a means to challenge the Tories and he called on every socialist to campaign for that and join the picket lines .

Conference has throbbed with the passion of new delegates and the overwhelming support for Jeremy and John.Greetings to the Edinburgh delegates I met last night who assured me the Blairite Sarwar will be defeated in the Scottish leadership election ,I hope that is right for a Corbyn supporter leading the Scottish Labour Party is a nightmare of the SNP.

A great week of cementing a socialist hold on the Party and a very strong belief the Tories are there for the taking

Unity

Compositing

Labour Conference starts on Saturday! I thought I’d document my experience and lessons from the compositing meeting that I attended last year. I was badly stitched up last year and here are some lessons.

The motions to be included in the composite motion will be issued in a CAC report. Read them all, it will be a clue as to the dividing lines between the organisations. Some of them will be identical.

Work out who’s on your side and then make sure they’re represented by someone who cares. In my meeting last year, delegates were voting to exclude words in their own motion.

Take some words into the meeting, the front bench will. In our case, they used five words from our motion, one of which was “the”. Once in the meeting its too late to recover if they propose egregious surgery.

Speaking rights are valuable; you may be able to swap words for speaking rights, it was tried in our meeting but it’s not easy; you can only buy one vote in this way. (Two actually since there’s mover and seconder).

Understand the meeting procedure, Citrine is no help. The Chair, a member of the Conference Arrangements Committee, wasted time, took no amendment motions to re include excluded words and didn;t ask for votes against, since he knew that the majority of the meeting had voted in favour.

The Chair is not neutral, you need to understand their agenda and the new CAC doesn’t take over ’till the end of Conference.

However, and I wish I had known this last year, the meeting can agree to put more than one motion through. You might need to be a large Trade Union to get away with it but at least one of last year’s meetings put through two motions.

Compositing

Antisemitism (in the Labour Party)

I have just written a blog article on one of the rule changes likely to come up at #lab17. Stories have been circulating about how the Labour Party might change its rules to ensure that racists are excluded and that racism is eliminated from the Party.

  1. The new rule proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement makes racists acts liable to disciplinary action and It removes the free speech defence from racists acts. It may also define holding beliefs as a racist act.
  2. Other policies of the Labour Party, the [potential?] adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism would make criticism of Israel an antisemitic act; the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in it its report Antisemitism recognised this in its proposal to explicitly create a free speech defence for debate about Israel.
  3. I wonder where the rule changes proposed by the Chakrabarti Inquiry have gone. They would be a better basis on which to eliminate racism from the Labour Party.
Antisemitism (in the Labour Party)

Trade Unionists speak

The local Trades Council asked those seeking to be  Labour’s Candidate for Mayor to answer a short set of questions; they present the replies in this document, “Judge for yourselves who will be the Mayor we need!”. They asked questions on Cuts, Education, the Living Wage (in the Town Hall and procurement portfolio), employment rights, housing, training and council/union relations.

Richard Abendorff, a member of the Trades Council and the Labour Party, writes,

There are clear dividing lines, Paul Bell opposes cuts, opposes privatisation, promises to in-source services, opposes privatisation via academies, supports Union rights, will prohibit zero contracts, he will re-establish the town hall trade union negotiating structures and put the Chair of the Trade Union side on the Cabinet.

He also plans to abolish the Mayoralty. His plans are based on concrete promises, not based on aspiration. If not a first choice for Trade Unionists, he must be a second choice.

Trade Unionists speak

BackBell

The Labour Party’s Lewisham Mayor selections ballots have been issued, by post and email. Ballot papers for eligible Labour Party members in Lewisham to vote for who our candidate for Mayor will be will reach you over the next few days.

It’s crucial that to get out the strongest possible vote to help the Corbyn-supporting candidate, Paul Bell, win.

Paul is the only candidate

  • Who voted for Jeremy Corbyn either time and consistently supported his leadership
  • Who is committed to fighting to abolish the undemocratic mayoral system which has caused so many problems in Lewisham
  • Who has plans to rebuild the council’s relationship with workers and trade unions, stop academisation, stop privatisation and ‘insource’ services, build many hundreds of council homes and launch a fight against cuts and austerity.

Unsurprisingly, all five candidates are talking left – but it’s necessary to look beyond warm words to politics and policies.

Paul’s full manifesto is published here, on his web site and visible via this http://bit.ly/PB4M-Manifesto SURL.

BackBell

Paul Bell & Schools

Paul Bell, one of the people seeking to be Labour’s candidate for Lewisham Mayor has announced his education policy and promises.

He promises,

  • I will as Mayor oppose new academies and free schools, maintaining Council control of schools wherever possible
  • I will as Mayor protect teachers’ jobs and maintain smaller class sizes
  • I will as Mayor secure affordable childcare for working families
  • I will as Mayor ensure every local child has the chance to go to a school a reasonable distance from home
  • I will as Mayor bring Lewisham ‘young people’ service back in-house for the benefit of the community
  • I will as Mayor introduce a Lewisham Fair Workload Charter, to improve conditions for teachers.

 

Paul Bell & Schools

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 & Brexit

Votes heal

Why can’t the Labour Party recognise that fair votes heal? If you’ve done your best and lost, then it’s easier to accept the will of the majority. While it’s always been a ploy to manipulate the short lists for selections, there’s an ugly rumour going round that Lewisham’s Mayoral Selection committee plan to propose a short list of two, one woman and one man to put to the members.

The big picture is that the candidate will be chosen by a one member, one vote; members should be given a diverse choice of competent candidates. Proposing a candidate that doesn’t come from such a competition, is contemptuous of the electorate, and dangerous for the Party as the experience of Gordon Brown and Theresa May, who both avoided their membership confirmation have shown.

Labour’s rules emphasise fairness to candidates and members in several places.

ooOOOoo

Chapter 1.VIII.N NEC & Equalities Policy, sets out our equality goals, supporting the representation of working class, women, ethnic minority, LGBT and disability candidates and the NEC’s duty to pursue it.

In Chapter 4.I.1 they declare the that fair elections will be held, obvious it would seem but the Judges quoted this in the 2016 cases. The rule applies to internal officer elections, but if they can import freeze dates into internal elections from Chapter 5, then the overall duty of fairness from Chapter 4 can be applied to Chapter 5 (Candidates for Office) selections.

Under Chapter 5, rule 5.I.C.i requires a fair selection and rule 5.I.E. Candidates representative of our society states,

i. The Party will take action in all selections to encourage a greater level of representation and participation of groups of people in our society who are currently under-represented in our democratic institutions. In particular, the Party will seek to select more candidates who reflect the full diversity of our society in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and disability, and to increase working class representation.

Chapter 5, also has a rule, 5.I.H. called “Transparency in procedures”, which states that

i. Procedural rules and guidelines for these selections shall endeavour to be clear, simple and easy to administer by Party units. Support shall be provided to those administering the selections process.

Transparency, and that word is why I publish the rule title would suggest the rules are published in advance and available to all. It would seem that this rule has not been so well read.

I was of the view that a rule exists that states there must be at least three candidates for a single post selection, but I can’t find it today; I must have seen it somewhere, perhaps its in some of the procedural guidelines for parliamentary selections, which not all members get to see.

Finally rule 5.III.7 documents the disputes process for non inclusion, to be resolved by the Regional Appeals Board, or the LCF on the process of the selection.

Votes heal

six two

And another Lewisham Deptford GC, this time it’s a Special one, convened to deal with (some) Conference business. So in the best traditions of the Labour movement we started with a rules row.

The Secretary had, unlike in previous years, removed the election for a women’s delegate from the agenda. I felt that by not putting a women’s delegate election on the order paper, the organisation was taking a backward step. I can’t really believe that the feminists have changed their mind, they’ve always been so keen on the “…at least 50%…” rule. The agenda also proposed that the CLP only send three of its 12 delegate entitlement. The Chair now understands that when rulings are challenged, as we say in software testing, we are critiquing the product not the author and is very calm about it. However not everyone else in the room has got that yet and are keen to help him out by ensuring that his line is understood, . We voted on whether to have a women’s delegate or not and voted not to, actually we voted to send one, but not by the ⅔ majority required.

We then had an argument about the delegation size. To my mind it was unfortunate that the proposal from the floor was to fund three delegates, but to send twelve and then make a conditional commitment to the remaining seven that we might find the money. This would mean that people would be standing not knowing how much it would cost them which will exclude people. I have said before that the only way to control cost is to control numbers. I also suspect that 12 is too many, although I’d be interested to know how much we spent on the election.

Policy development is as important as fighting elections as this last election and the impact of the manifesto showed. It’s a shame that even a left leadership seems none to keen to share the making of manifestos with the membership, but their minds have been on other things. Luke Akehurst of Labour First had suggested (or maybe something stronger) that they argue for minimum sized delegations. I am not sure why, I and allies felt it should be larger. In the cold light of day, sending 14 is financially unsupportable, the influence of an individual delegate is tiny, it’s a very large conference and very few people get to speak. It’s easier to be called to speak if you are known to the chair, or your line is known to the chair. While I believe in Conference Sovereignty, there must be a better way of doing this. The final point to make is that now we have ½ million members (or more) perhaps the delegates’ expenses should be funded by head office.

Anyway, after an hour of this palaver, we moved on to the votes. It was close, but the left did well, better than last November at the AGM. The delegation has a left majority, we nominated both Left candidates for the National Constitutional Committee, which is elected at Conference by delegates and voted for a split ticket to nominate Chandwani and De Piero, who beat her running mate on the right slate on the toss of a coin for the CAC positions.

We ran out of time to discuss motions and rule changes of course.

six two