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:
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:
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:
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:
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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