The SKWAWKBOX has covered events in Wallasey CLP (constituency Labour party) at length and will continue to do so until the ridiculous abuse of members there stops – which, sadly, doesn’t look likely to be anytime soon.
Just over the river Mersey, in Liverpool’s Riverside CLP, similar events – based on similarly spurious allegations – have been unfolding.
The CLP has been under investigation by the NEC’s ‘disputes panel’ (NECDP) because of politically-driven accusations of antisemitism against a number of members – including Jewish members. A report of the NECDP’s investigation is due imminently and based on the stitch-up in Wallasey, not much hope is held that either its analysis or its conclusions will be fair.
However, the lack of a direct source inside the party who has felt able to speak freely has prevented this blog from covering the situation in any detail. Until now. Sources have come forward ready to brave possible censure in order to expose the dire situation, so various articles are planned.
The first does not concern the accusations directly, but rather the way in which they are being exploited to impose anti-democratic strictures on the party – a tactic beloved of the right-wing faction that has been assiduously undermining the party since Jeremy Corbyn first became its leader.
This anti-democratic move involves the imposition of a ‘branch delegate structure’ on the CLP.
Local Labour parties have two basic options in terms of their organisational structure. The simplest – and in the opinion of this writer the most democratic and the hardest to subvert and corrupt – is based on a monthly ‘all-member CLP meeting’. Any member within the constituency is entitled to attend meetings, propose motions, vote on them, etc. All votes count equally.
The second is the branch delegate option. Local ‘branches’ are created, usually based on which council ward a member lives in. Those branches meet, discuss, vote – but the votes only affect the branch. Crucially, the branch has to elect delegates and only those delegates have the right to attend the main CLP meeting.
Because of the way delegate numbers are calculated, a branch with few members can have almost as much delegate-voting power at the CLP as a branch with many, so members’ votes do not all count equally.
Importantly, in CLPs with a branch-delegate structure, the process for selecting candidates or deselecting a bad MP is even more flattened out: each branch gets one vote and the result is based on the number of branch votes, as this selection/deselection guide points out:
This means 3 branches with a few people in total can outvote 2 branches with hundreds each to select/deselect a candidate/MP. Since the awful, right-wing Riverside MP Louise Ellman plans to retire at the next election, a branch structure gives her supporters a far better chance of getting the kind of replacement they want.
Finally, while branch delegates should vote with the wishes of their branch, in practice it’s hard to make sure they do, to know whether they have or to censure them if they haven’t.
Because of their experience of party processes and liking for organisation, right-wingers love the branch-delegate structure, because they can often exploit it to gain an influence far beyond their numbers in the CLP – for example, almost all of the CLPs who voted to nominate Owen Smith in last year’s leadership election had branch-delegate structures and voted as they did even though most of them would have a clear pro-Corbyn majority in a ‘one member one vote’ ballot.
Here’s what Riverside members were told this week by their regional Labour office on behalf of the NEC (National Executive Committee):
As you will be aware, Liverpool Riverside CLP has recently been the subject of an investigation by the Labour Party’s National Executive committee after the Party received several complaints and counter-complaints of uncomradely behaviour. On Tuesday 17th January, the investigation was presented to the National Executive Committee’s Disputes Panel, who have concluded that the following recommendations are to be implemented to Liverpool Riverside:
– Liverpool Riverside CLP will move to a Branch Delegate structure with the following stipulations, subject to a review from the North West Labour Regional Board in three years:
– There will be 7 branches (Branch Labour Parties): Central BLP, Greenbank BLP, Kirkdale BLP, Mossley Hill BLP, Princes Park BLP, Riverside BLP and St. Michael’s BLP. Non-Delegate members will be able to attend meetings of their Branch Labour Party, while the CLP will oversee constituency-wide campaigning.
– Each branch will elect Delegates to send to the Constituency Labour Party (CLP). There will be 1 Delegate per 25 ward members for the first 100 members, and 1 Delegate per 100 members thereafter, with the Branch Secretary going ex-officio to the CLP.
– The implementation of each Branch Labour Party will be overseen by the Regional Office and Regional Board. This will involve each Branch running an AGM to elect a Branch Chair, Secretary, Vice Chair and Treasurer, as well as Delegates to the CLP. Each Branch will have the following number of delegates:
St. Michael’s: 8
Mossley Hill: 6
Princes Park: 6
– Each Branch’s AGM will take place in February, administered by the Regional Board. Dates to be confirmed as soon as possible and communicated to members in each branch individually.
· Upon completion of Branch AGMs, the CLP, with new delegates, will run its AGM to elect an executive committee. This will be supervised by the Regional Board, and will take place after the Liverpool Mayoral elections.
· The newly elected CLP Executive Committee will hold monthly meetings to coordinate local campaigning activity as well as any other CLP business.
· The CLP Executive is to organise regular events open to all CLP members, including policy forums and campaigning days.
· All role-holders in Liverpool Riverside will receive training on organisational matters (including formal meeting structures and internal ballot best practice), on anti-Semitism and on inclusivity.
· All Branch Delegates will be expected to sign the membership code of conduct and will receive guidelines on conduct in meetings.
Members can expect to hear from the Regional Board in the next few weeks with the details of their Branch AGM.
If there are any questions, please get in touch with the Regional Office.
Labour North West
Key points from this:
- The NEC gives no explanation as to why or how moving to a branch structure will improve supposed antisemitism – which has in any case not been proven (and won’t be – even the accusers have backtracked recently for politically-expedient reasons, which will be covered in a subsequent article)
- The move to the new structure is immediate, but no review or even the possibility of changing it back for 3 years. Which, conveniently, will mean it is still in place for selection of Ms Ellman’s replacement for the General Election in 2020 (or sooner, if one were called earlier)
- Note the delegate entitlement of one delegate per 25 members up to 100 (i.e. 4 delegates for that first hundred) and only one delegate per 100 members after that. This means that a branch of 100 members will have 4 delegates, while one double that size will only have one extra delegate, one three times bigger will have only 2 extra.
As Labour generally has fewer members in affluent areas, but they are more likely to be on the right of the party, this switch in structure drastically reduces the value of the vote of a member of a large branch and cancels out much of the voting power of the CLP’s huge pro-Corbyn majority
- Note the massively-multiplied burden of organisation and bureaucracy imposed by replicating executive committees in every branch instead of having just one in an all-member CLP – one voted for by all members equally.
- The only constituency-wide activities open to all members under the new structure will be ‘forums’ to discuss (but not vote on) policy and campaigning events. In other words, ‘most of you members can have a chat as long as you don’t vote – but we still expect you all to turn out to campaign when it suits us‘
- If you want to be a delegate, you will have to undergo training on antisemitism. Why? Nobody has been found guilty of antisemitism yet and some of those accused are Jewish.
And whose training? The JLM that was mentioned by an Israeli official, in an undercover reporter’s video, when he talked about setting up groups within Labour to influence the party to suit Israel’s aims? The same JLM that (probably unlawfully) filmed equality campaigner Jackie Walker, then breached data protection laws by released (carefully selected) excerpts to try to get her expelled from the party when she attended one of their ‘training’ events?
- If you want to be a delegate, you similarly have to undergo training on ‘inclusivity‘. Since the allegations were, apart from antisemitism, that left-wing members wanted to organise to get their members onto the executive committee – what most of us would call ‘democracy’ – ‘inclusivity training’ presumably amounts to indoctrination not to try to dislodge right-wing members of the ‘exec’!
This stinks of an attempt by local right-wing members, councillors etc to protect their positions and influence, with the collusion of a subset of NEC members, by making false allegations and exploiting them to rig local structures in their favour.
Yet one more illustration of why Labour can only fight the evils of the Tory party unhindered when the people who are prepared to undermine the party’s democracy and democratically-elected leadership are kicked – hard – out of the party altogether. As one local member put it:
The local high-ups wanted a delegate system all along, but knew that they would fail to get it passed by the members. So they’ve had it imposed by the NEC instead.
Anyone – locally or nationally – involved in this (yet another) ridiculous stitch-up should be the ones under investigation, and for bringing the party into disrepute as well as subverting its democracy. And then kicked out, for the good of the country that needs a fit-for-purpose Labour party, as well as for the underhandedly-disenfranchised Riverside members.
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