Deliberation

Here’s a little diary on last nights Labour Party General Committee for Lewisham Deptford, its main purpose was to prepare for Conference by submitting a “Contemporary Motion”and hopefully to begin to clear the motions backlog. There were seven motions waiting to be debated, some having being proposed last year. (It’s one of the contentions between the current CLP leadership and its opposition that their poor management of time is deliberate and designed to frustrate members making and developing policy. There hasn’t been a single ordinary motion debated this year ) .

Youth Violence

One classic trick to is to ask a guest speaker, and yet again, this was done. It was a pleasant surprise to here Jonathan Toy speak on youth violence. He has published a book “Silent Voices”, several years ago it would seem. He started by arguing that the central problem is trauma and he had stories to back this up. One sound bite, that I tweeted due to its resonance was that,

Kids carry knives because they’re scared.

Toy spoke of the discrimination, the loss of hope and the turn to criminality, mainly drugs and the inappropriate policing strategies focused solely, or largely, on enforcement. He told stories about the way in which ‘decapitating’ the gangs merely creates an updraught.

The presentation was interesting and the clearly based on deep experience and knowledge, some of it gained by his own admission on failure. Delegates to the meeting in a Question & Answer session contributed their knowledge on cuts in programmes exacerbating the problems, and reducing the care young people need. Bill Jefferies, said

…the good work of individuals can ameliorate the circumstances of other individuals, but those good works are not a solution to the problem. As the problem is not individual but social and so needs a social, collective solution.

In questioning, he was asked about the political will in the electorate for more understanding and less punishment, suggesting that strong enforcement is not just based on weak will and police management doing what they know. Toy is hopeful that the Lammy Review will be a starting point for change in programmes and approach. My concern is that this will take money and that is unlikely to be forthcoming under this government.

5 minutes about Parliament

The decision to invite a guest speaker meant that Vicky’s MP Report was truncated to 5 minutes. This is unfortunate as it was the first GC after the summer break and the 2nd Reading of the “EU Withdrawal Bill” had taken place earlier in the week with a small Labour rebellion leading to a comfortable Tory majority, as had the Tory stitch up of the parliamentary committee seats and Angela Rayner’s successful motion to stop the increase in Tuition fees.  MPs reports, where a CLP is lucky enough to have one, are important parts of the agenda and a critical piece of relationship building between the MP and their party. Five minutes is not enough time. I should add that Youth Violence is an issue of great concern to the constituency and its neighbours and one that Vicky has invested time and effort in.

#lab17

Three motions were proposed, one opposing military exports to Saudi Arabia, to work to improve human rights in Saudi Arabia and that Labour establish a shadow Defence Diversification Agency to plan for the civilian reuse of Britain’s military engineering capabilities. A motion supporting the UK’s remaining in the single market & customs union, written in response to Corbyn’s Marr interview was also put to the meeting. There are some who believe that arguments for Labour to support the single market are designed by the Blairite rump in the PLP to weaken the leadership; I am of the view that what’s right is right and that the UK should remain in both and that if the Leadership have doubts then they should be told by the membership what it thinks. The final of the three motions was based on the Labour Campaign for Free Movement’s model motion . The mover of the last of these motions concentrated on the Government’s squeeze and tightening of the no recourse to funds and Lewisham Council’s role in immigration raids and deportations. These three motions were all carried with very heavy majorities.

The meeting then voted,  by a very small majority, to send the motion on the single market/customs union to Conference, as we are only permitted one.

Talking to first time attenders who had been warned about the bad atmosphere that can occur, they said it had been a good and interesting meeting and the warnings unwarranted. I wonder if that was due to the absence of Dromey, Cooper and Lord Roy Kennedy.

Deliberation

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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.

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Campaigning

A quick trip around the Lewisham Deptford constituency canvassing for the Labour Party. A couple of accusations about getting Brexit wrong, i.e. the nuance in Labour’s front bench position upsets i.e. pisses off London remainers. Labour’s candidate for re-election, Vicky Foxcroft , voted against the Article 50 notice bill, twice! It makes life easier for people like me; I am glad I don’t live in Vauxhall.

I am surprised at the large number of EU citizens I meet who cannot vote in the general election. Mistakes were made; it’s wrong that people who’ve been here for more than 5 years, in employment, paying tax can’t vote in the general election; nor in the referendum.

One issue came up which I had missed and not expected. The Tories have abolished the council tax support for those on the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Councils have had to develop ways of making up the shortfall, by either cutting (discretionary) services or levying council tax on ESA claimants. There are other laws that stop councils levying the council tax on the wealthier residents, if they have them…. It’s another Tory cut ensuring that Labour councils and the Party take the blame.

I’ll finish by stating that there were a few who say they’ve left Labour because of Corbyn. It’s sometimes hard to determine if this is actually about Brexit, or about other aspects of his politics, but I met one person from Northern Ireland who can’t support him over his record on that subject. Someone else did the talking, but I think these conversations have to start with whether they support the Good Friday agreement or not. From my point of view, the anti-corbynism on the doorstep is less frequent, if more vitriolic,  an occurrence then those who couldn’t support Ed Miliband because they didn’t like the way he ate a bacon sandwich, or something!. Labour supporters who repeat these damaging slurs need to remember the way that Ed was attacked as not being up to it and let’s not forget the attacks on Kinnock either.

A final note, Vicky is well known, although some still ask where Joan’s gone!

Campaigning

Campaigning

How to help Labour’s campaign in Deptford to re-elect Vicky Foxcroft a Lewisham Deptford’s MP.

    1. If not on the electoral roll, register to vote before the 23rd May, here…, if you haven’t got your polling card by 15th, apply again! I didn’t know you could vote if homeless, but it seems you can, the form is here; you’ll still need an internet connection, a printer and an NI number, although alternative proof of identities are acceptable.
    2. Register for a postal vote here …, before the 24th May; you’ll need a printer
    3. Join the Party here …
    4. Donate to the national party here…
    5. Join us on the doorstep, find out where & when here …, or here … we also run phone banks for those who can’t or don’t want to knock on doors
    6. Put a poster, or posters up in your window, or garden, tell us here …, you’ll need to say that you want a poster
    7. Donate to Labour’s campaign in Deptford here …
Campaigning