Labour right’s one-delegate scam has no basis in the party’s rules

The SKWAWKBOX has learned from a huge number of sources that many CLP ‘execs’ (constituency Labour party executive committees – the Chair, Secretary etc) are forcing their CLP this year to only send a single delegate to the Party’s annual Conference in Brighton this autumn.


This appears to be happening almost exclusively in the many CLPs where the majority of the members are pro-Corbyn but the exec – either inherited or else kept that way by various tactics or subterfuges – is anti-Corbyn.

It also appears beyond reasonable doubt that it is a tactic intended to help the right defeat the McDonnell Amendment, which is intended to make sure left-leaning members have a good candidate to vote for in future leadership elections.

The number of delegates a CLP sends to Conference is important for at least two reasons. Firstly, while in theory a single delegate votes with the weight of the numbers of her/his whole CLP, this only really works if a ‘card vote’ is taken – and, as we saw at last year’s Conference, when the right wants to push through or defeat a measure, they’re more than willing to unlawfully deny a card vote.

In a ‘show of hands’ vote, the Conference Chair has no way of knowing which hands belong to which CLP or union, so having more hands there is crucial – this is what Jon Lansman was sensibly talking about in the recording that Watson ludicrously misrepresented last week – hypocritically, too, given that the right are furiously attempting to do the same.

Secondly, if an exec imposes a single delegate on a CLP and the right-wing members can manoeuvre their candidate into the position – a tactic right-wing groups like Labour First have been quietly telling their members to adopt since at least the beginning of this year – then that delegate, even in a card vote, carries the whole voting power of the CLP.

Even if members ‘mandate’ the delegate (instruct him/her to vote a certain way) there is no way to know whether they vote as instructed.

This blog has received reports from dozens of CLPs of this tactic being used. Here’s how a contact in one northern CLP described the situation:

At my CLP I asked if I could be a conference delegate this week and I was told that was highly unlikely as because of costs they would only send one person.

I said that would not be a problem and could finance myself to help out the CLP. I had a second for my nomination but when the meeting came, they talked out the time with guest speakers and other stuff and wouldn’t let the issue be discussed.

In our neighbouring, more right-wing CLP I know they’re sending their full number of delegates.

Let’s be clear – no member should have to self-fund as a Conference delegate, but the fact that the offer was ignored and her candidacy has so far been blocked – also in discussions outside the main meeting – shows that CLP finances have nothing to do with the decision to only send a single delegate.

What do the party’s rules say about delegates? Is there anything in the rules that allows an exec to block members from going as delegates even if they’re willing and able to fund themselves?

Here’s what the 2017 rulebook says about CLP delegates to Conference:

Delegates duly appointed by CLPs to the number of one delegate for the first 749 individual members in the constituency or part thereof paying their membership dues as of 31 December in the previous year, and one further delegate for every additional 250 individual members in the constituency or part thereof.

CLPs must also have paid any outstanding insurance premiums and other levies due before their delegation shall be accepted. To increase the representation of women at Party conference, at least every second delegate from a CLP shall be a woman; where only one delegate is appointed this must be a woman at least in every other year.

In a year where a CLP is required to send a female delegate, following a male delegate in the preceding year, but is unable to find one, they will not be entitled to send a man as delegate. In the following year, permission may be granted to send a male delegate if they demonstrate to the conference arrangements committee that they have made every effort to seek a woman delegate.

There are also rules allowing additional female or youth delegates to be sent, depending on the numbers of each in the CLP; there is a rule about sending a woman if only one delegate is sent – but there is nothing that allows a CLP to block additional delegates, up to the maximum entitlement of the CLP to send, if they are self-funding.

In other words, a CLP is allowed to only send one delegate if everyone agrees, but if another candidate wishes to stand for appointment as a delegate, the exec has no right to prevent them standing – and if they do stand and nobody else wishes to stand against, them, they get a ‘no contest’ appointment as in any democratic selection.

Even if another candidate does stand, then both would be no-contested through, up to the point where the maximum allowed number is exceeded, then there would have to be a vote and the successful candidates would go.

Labour’s rules have the force of law, as a highly-qualified barrister has previously confirmed to this blog. So in order to lawfully block a member from going, the right-wingers would need to stand and send candidates for all the available delegate positions. And, since the CLP has said it can’t afford to send more than one, all those other right-wingers would have to self-fund, making it a very expensive proposition for them.,

This means that pro-Corbyn candidates do have a way to undo the attempted delegate-rigging if a CLP pleads funds (if they don’t, there’s no excuse for not sending a full complement) as a reason for only ‘allowing’ one delegate.

But it’s out of the reach of members who can’t afford to self-fund. However, left-wingers in a CLP can co-fund to bring down the cost and Momentum is apparently organising fundraising in order to fund good delegates. A link to the fundraising options will be posted on this blog when available.

Resisting the attempt by an exec to push through this scam won’t be easy. It will require resolve and a readiness, on the part of those who want to make sure they always have a good candidate in leadership elections, to refuse to take no for an answer and to kick up a stink if they’re ignored. The SKWAWKBOX will certainly help with that.

But it’s vital to do it. As ProgressLabour First and others have let slip in their own publications, they are organising like crazy to try to defeat the McDonnell Amendment so they can prevent left-wing leadership candidates in future. That means those behind Corbyn’s vision and policies must be no less energetic or resolute in defeating them.

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  1. At our last CLP we were told that they could only afford to send 1 delegate. The idea of self-funding was raised but was immediately rejected as being unfair on poorer members who wanted to be delegates but couldn’t afford to self fund. The chairman suggested that if we could find wealthy donors to boost the CLP funds they would consider sending more. Are the more right wing CLP’s finding wealthy donors? (What is Watson doing with Max Mosley’s £500K donation?)

  2. I agree that no express power exists in the rules to allow an EC to reduce the number of delegates. To offer another possible counter argument.

    Under Chapter 1 the rules for CLPs in Chapter 7 apply directly to all CLPs. Under Chapter 7 CLP Rules at Clause XI section 1 it states:

    1. The general provisions of the constitution, rules and standing orders of the Party shall apply to this CLP and the General Meeting has a duty to act within and uphold such provisions. Therefore the provisions of the Model Standing orders in Chapter 15 also generally apply to CLPs.

    Chapter 15 Model Standing orders at Para G section iv states:

    iv. Nominations for delegates and representatives to other bodies should be sought as widely from among Party members as possible. Wherever practicable, any vacancies to be filled shall be advertised to all members as they arise and any Party member who has indicated willingness to accept nomination shall be considered for any post, unless otherwise stated in the rules.

    I would interpret that as meaning that if there are members who are eligible ie have 12 months membership and wish to seek appointment as a conference delegate then they have the mandatory right to do so. It is a ‘shall’ provision for ‘any’ vacancies to be filled. I would suggest a CLP EC does not have the authority under any other rule to restrict the number of delegates if there are eligible members willing to be nominated to those positions. Therefore members must be given an opportunity to seek appointment to any delegate vacancies that exist under the terms of the rules not an artificially reduced number of positions set by an EC.

  3. Sorry to clarify the rule quote for Clause XI section 1 should end at provisions. The therefore… is my view not in the rules.

    Also it is worth noting that whilst the Chapter 15 model SO can be locally varied for a CLP with NEC approval the variations are not allowed to conflict with the model SO. So the SO at Para G iv is always applicable even if local SO for a CLP have been varied in some ways.

  4. We have a meeting tomorrow, what can I say to them so its simple? The meetings are a bit anti Corbyn to say the least. They will just say “We cant do that next” if I cant give something quick and concrete.

    1. Print that page of the rules out and wave it at them – they have no right to prevent delegates from going if nobody else wants to stand against them.

      1. Thanks, how much is it to self fund yourself as a delegate? are they going to ask me about insurance requirements or anything like that? Its going to be v intense

      2. Depends where you live, how far you have to travel, how far in advance you book. I’d say £3-400, unless you’re lucky to live close enough not to need accommodation or have a friend you can stay with. Insurance shouldn’t be a factor, but I’m sure it will be a fight! Let us all know how you get on.

    2. Our CLP decided to only send 2 out of the 4 we were allowed due to funding, but at the meeting the members there overruled in a vote to send all 4 with the support of donations from the ones present. At the end of the meeting there was a queue of people thrusting money / cheques at the treasurer (and yes we tipped up enough to send the other two!).

  5. It can be as much as £700 to get to conference, that’s from the North West and staying in Brighton not far from the conference centre. The further North you go the more expensive travel costs are (obviously). The party have a travel scheme, but check out rail connections or alternative travel arrangements. The party scheme is not necessarily the cheapest. You can cut accommodation costs by staying outside of Brighton and bussing there and back, or by finding other delegates willing to share a rented flat or house either in Brighton or just outside.
    Insurance should be sorted through the party via the CLP.

  6. One of of our members has just booked a Airbnb which is a good idea, many could take over a house. Our MP on Friday tried to talk the CLP into sending only one delegate to conference you can guess she isn’t Jeremy’s biggest fan, we voted to send 6 which is our full quota for 1400 members. I would just like to add they were all of the left.

  7. Comrades in Brighton are offering free accommodation to delegates, to bring down costs. Contact Momentum -Couches for Conference.

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