Blairites use unlawful manoeuvre to rig Conference delegate selection

At the turn of the year, the SKWAWKBOX revealed that the Labour First anti-Corbyn faction were already preparing, on the very first day of 2017, for their attempt to stack Labour’s 2017 annual Conference in Brighton with right-wing delegates – a manoeuvre they successfully and damagingly executed at the 2016 Conference in Liverpool.

Labour First‘s email to its supporters asked them to start selecting their delegates from January, in order to maximise their chances of getting ‘moderate’ members selected. But it at least one CLP appears to have acted unlawfully in order to improve the chances for right-wing delegates even further.

Hammersmith CLP held its delegate selection meeting in November last year – with the result that at least some newer, pro-Corbyn members were ineligible to vote in the selections because they hadn’t been members for 6 months at that point.

Local members attempted to bring a motion invalidating the selections and requiring a new all-member meeting to make new selections, This was ‘shot down’ on a technicality by the CLP ‘exec’ based on an apparent discussion with Labour’s London region:

hammersmith-1

However, the unlawfulness of the move is not based on it not being an all-member meeting – although the above ruling is questionable anyway, as we’ll see.

As has already been established by legal precedent, Labour’s rules have the force of law and are to all intents and purposes a contract – and therefore legally binding on the party’s behaviour.

Labour’s 2016 rulebook – in force at the time of the meeting – lays out the rules concerning the selection of delegates for the annual Conference in its third chapter and one section is key to the situation at hand:

2016-rules

How many delegates a CLP can send to Conference in 2017 depends on the number of members whose membership dues are paid up as at 31/12/2016. As every CLP will have many and probably most members paying monthly, a meeting in November will not know how many members are paid up as at the last day of December.

But it’s not just the number of delegates that is dependent on that key 31 December date. Chapter 2 of the rulebook covers ‘Membership Rules’ and Clause III of those rules states:

2016-rules-a

In other words, whatever ‘relevant date’ is specified by the party for selection eligibility, that same date applies to eligible membership – so members are only entitled to vote in delegate selections if they are fully paid up as at 31 December – which cannot be known for monthly-paid members on a November meeting date.

Even arch-right-wingers Labour First clearly recognise this application of the rules as the basis for telling their supporters to get organised from 1 January 2017:

lab1.png

It seems clear that, based on the party’s rules in force at the time, the November delegate selection meeting broke the rules and was therefore unlawful. What’s more, by referring to the party rules on delegate selection in its dismissal of the attempted motion requiring an all-member meeting, the CLP ‘exec’ specifically recognised and invoked the same rules that render the pre-deadline selection meeting invalid.

Hammersmith’s members should immediately move the selection unlawful on this basis and insist on proper process – and any other CLPs (constituency Labour parties) whose executive has made a similar move should do the same and overturn it.

And then organise to make sure of achieving the right result – your right-wing opponents in the CLP will certainly be doing so.

Even Labour First, by its own admission more than willing to exploit the rulebook to the fullest extent in pursuit of its aims, doesn’t feel it can go as far as to ‘jump the gun’ in the way that Hammersmith’s exec did. And if Hammersmith’s – or your – exec declines to obey the party’s rulebook, report it to the NEC.

And in case you think it’s just this author’s unqualified opinion, a highly-qualified barrister who has provided legal opinion on other Labour matters agrees:

Labour 2016 rules in full: labour-rule-book-2016

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5 responses to “Blairites use unlawful manoeuvre to rig Conference delegate selection

  1. It would seem the whole NEC should be prosecuted for allowing these flagrant breaches of the rules. Are they going to be challenged in the courts? They should be. The Exec of the CLP concerned should also be held personally liable for their actions. A court action is needed now.

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  2. This raises a number of issues

    1. The size of the delegation is determined by membership. All CLP’s are entitled to one delegate and numbers of a due date are relevent to any others. Obviously if membership increases happen a CLP might increase its delegation and elect that extra person after January. This is not a freeze date for participation otherwise it would actually be called one. It’s a very different delegation entitlement date which are used for both annual and regional conferences and will differ. Have you checked what the delegation eligibility rules are for regional conferences? As you can imagine after the 630,000 membership meme which i warned at the time based on real CLP data was closer to 550,000 and turned out to be 540,000, you do need to go through all the rule precedents first and not just conference.

    2. Many CLP’s elect their delegate under the party rules at their AGM and these now tend to be in the Autumn as they cannot generally be beofre elections in May. CLP’s often elect a delegate for the whole year ro cover Annual and Special Conference. These are rare so I appreciate you might not understand this

    3. You raise an interesting point about timing for All member meetings and perhaps the rules should be clarified on that. GCs with delegate structures are clearly different as they elect the delegate at a delegate meeting and the eligibility to vote is determined by AGM rules not by delegation entitlement timetable. My CLP which is delegate based is one of just 69 that nominated the Leader both times and changed Health policy at conference last year. We have already elected two of our three delegates to conference under our rules and will elect our youth delegate later. I assume you recognise that whilst there may be a possible new issue with All member meetings, (due to people thing delegate entitlement date is a freeze date which it is not) delegate based GCs are not affected at all by this point you make

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  3. Pingback: How Blairites rigging 2017 conference delegates – are they doing it to your CLP? | The SKWAWKBOX·

  4. Pingback: Easy tool shows you how many delegates your CLP can send to Labour #Conference | The SKWAWKBOX·

  5. This post is inaccurate on a number of levels. Most notably in that the CLP selected our conference delegates this June (five months after this was published) not last November. Similarly, the motion mentioned above did not attempt to nullify the delegate selection (because it had not taken place yet) but instead proposed a change to the CLP’s standing orders. This would have been apparent if you had chosen to publish the whole motion.

    I can only assume that this post was written on the basis of incomplete information. However, I am surprised that this site has made absolutely no attempt to verify this incorrect version of events.

    Rowan Ree
    Hammersmith CLP Chair

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