NE CLP AGM shows depth of ‘moderate’ democracy-blocking

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The SKWAWKBOX has covered, on numerous occasions, the extent of right-wing (or ‘moderate’, if you’re the Establishment media, though there’s little moderate about its behaviour) anti-democratic attempts to prevent the Corbyn-supporting majority of members having their democratic say on the Labour Party’s structures, processes and policies. The following is an example of the kind of lengths right-wing cadres of local parties will go to in order to achieve that aim.

Last week, a CLP (constituency Labour party) in the north-east held its AGM – a once-yearly meeting at which the ‘exec’, the executive committee that will run the local party, is elected.

Members who attended that meeting, including a union representative, have given the SKWAWKBOX permission to publish their reports and comments on the events that took place.

The member

An interesting to say the least CLP AGM last night, that started with an argument.

The meeting was in a wholly inappropriate venue – a non-family friendly, non suitable for the hearing-impaired bar in a public house, that was being drowned out by the noise in the other bar, and was, through the bar, an open viewing gallery for non members.  Alcohol was served throughout.

The fire door was barred making it a dangerous and illegal venue.  A number of us hadn’t even received and are yet to receive an invite, agenda etc.

The Chair and the Leader of the Council tried to throw out non voting members legitimately attending under some cock and bull interpretation of the rules: allegedly endorsed by the Director of the regional Group, and in direct conflict with a minuted resolution from a previous meeting.

The Chair failed to stand down before his nomination to be re-elected and appeared to interfere with the vote count.  The Chair unilaterally barred someone from re-entering the meeting.

When there was a tie in a vote an un-manageable blank paper ballot open to abuse was held.  This was a slack handful of blank  square papers put on each desk and the delegates requested to write the names in a re-run of the ballot.

The Chair then went on to disqualify some of the votes.  Someone who had already been elected on to the committee was allowed to take up two places when they won another to keep out a delegate that wasn’t in Labour First or Progress section.

The Chair refused to discuss the controversial ‘Chairs report’ on the agenda despite repeated requests from the floor, claiming that it would be discussed at the end – and knowing full well that after a sham election process that filibustered the meeting, it would not be.

He aggressively shut down any criticism of his poor and unconstitutional chairing and loudly talked over people.  The spouse of the MP, whilst trying to condescendingly explain a complicated and convoluted ballot exercise to a delegate, pushed a female delegate out of the way and then screamed at another delegate because it appeared that the Chair was trying to gerrymander him on to the Exec and he called him on it.

The Ethnic Minority Officer voted in was not from an ethnic minority and the disability officer was not disabled.

The Chair, after much cajoling, reluctantly made a candidate speech in a bid to get himself as a delegate to Party conference where he proudly boasted that once he despised his trade union so much that he broke a strike – he went on to be voted in by the heavily attended block which included the office staff, family and spouse of the MP and a former Blairite MP.

Am I despondent? No.  The farce that was last night has reinforced my view that there is a better way.   I am annoyed that our branch was denied two delegates that may have made a difference last night by a Chair who previously has misquoted the rules to us.

I am also angry that a party activist has been forced out by Labour North for making a legitimate complaint against the alleged actions of the Chair and MP in a previous meeting.  I will never back down to bullies.

All this has made me more determined that a party that claims to be a democratic socialist party becomes just that.  I didn’t see much evidence of democracy and socialism last night from an openly hostile chair. I witnessed a comedy of errors where the chairs misogyny, bullying, personal attacks and arbitrary misinterpretation of the rules seemed to be relentless.

Perhaps if he had any level of competence he could have hidden this from view like so many of the others do – but his chairing skills were at best, shoddy – at worst contrived, planned and manipulative.

I saw people shouted down for raising legitimate concerns.  I saw questionable voting practices and I saw a clear anti-left agenda being played out.

I also saw some really dedicated socialists:  people who clearly see the Labour Party as a beacon of hope and not a cliquey right wing club. It was heartening that in spite of being on the back foot – they fought back and stood up for their comrades.  I am proud of these people.

The time of ‘beer and sandwiches’ backroom agendas is over.  The Labour Party, like the country is changing and modernising under Corbyn – these dinosaurs have had their day and the party, like the country, has to be for the many not the few.

This is our party, it is a party my Great Great Grandad was a founder of and it has been hijacked.  This ends now.

The union officer

There were so many things wrong tonight, the fire door that was barred/locked as the meeting started, the venue wasn’t appropriate to allow all members to attend in that children weren’t allowed in the building, alcohol was being served and drunk in the meeting, the door was often open and none party members could see and hear the discussions, the agenda wasn’t followed, the ballots were a farce, the chair was rude and arrogant, he did not allow free debate or discussion.

I went to observe the tellers and was quickly shadowed, the Secretary was out of his depth. When there was a tied vote, I heard him giving a ballot paper ( a blank paper square from a note block) to two people and named one wrong candidate. When the votes were counted the 2 papers were called as spoilt because they had put the persons name on that wasn’t part of that ballot, effectively stopping 2 delegates from casting their vote properly

I chair many meetings as a trade union officer, some get heated and passions run high, but I would never behave as the chair did tonight, it was disgraceful. 

I will be writing a formal letter of complaint to the appropriate person in the Labour Party. It may not achieve anything significant but I will be heard.

Finally, this shambles hasn’t lessened my wish to oust this shower of ‘centrists’, it has made me more determined to be involved and prepare over the next 12 months to remove the lot.

There are some good people in this group, we need to stay strong, commit and organise for next time.

A third member commented:

The running of this AGM is quite unacceptable. There weren’t even any Motions to Conference discussed and these were submitted weeks and weeks before, along with Nominations for CAC & NCC Committees that were sent in two weeks ago.

Its becoming increasingly clear what the objectives are & quite frankly, it really needs nipping in the bud.

Sadly these reports of one CLP are entirely typical of information that this blog receives regularly from Labour Party members around the country. The right-wing faction seems both desperate and entirely unwilling to relinquish its grip on local party structures in many constituencies without first resorting to nakedly anti-democratic measures to maintain it.

This article will be brought to the attention of new party Chair Ian Lavery, who has expressed his determination to improve party democracy, as the behaviour it describes is completely at odds with the principles of both democracy and the Labour party. But members also need to be prepared for such measures and to resist, by knowing the rules and refusing to be browbeaten or outmanoeuvred.

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  1. You can purchase pens, car keys and the like which are actually covert recording devices. These can be obtained via the internet for just a few pounds.

    Might I suggest going to all future meetings armed with covert surveillance?

  2. On the bright side, the movement behind Jeremy is too big, too well informed and too determined to be successfully opposed by mere encumbrancy and gutter ethics.

    The right are acting on the assumption that, at the worst, they can ruthlessly hold on power and wait for Corbynism to blow over.

    Corbynism hasn’t blown over and it isn’t going to.

    Rather than advancing their own cause, their ruthlessness and gutter ethics are ensuring that when the dust finally settles they will be left with absolutely nothing.

    Which, to judge from the reports above, is a lot more than they deserve.

  3. Imagine trying to modernise your party with members like these antideluvian fools hanging round your neck like albatrosses. How fortunate that JC is strong enough and determined enough to deal with them and consign them to history, which is where they belong, as a warning to others.

  4. I received a letter from my CLP inviting me to attend our CLP AGM and explaining to me that although I am welcome at the meeting but would not be entitled to vote. Is this the norm? If so what is the point of me attending the meeting?

  5. Seems like a small part of a much larger scorched earth policy by the [cough] moderates, and a very, very incompetent and ill-judged one at that.

    As Kay said, Corbynism is far too big and far too motivated to be troubled by this nonsense.

  6. I can only say to the CLPs having problems like this is to join or start a local Momentum group and organise, may of us have different views than the right but they organise and beat you, they cannot do that with a determined group. JOIN MOMENTUM.


  8. If nothing else, it shows how essential it is for members to attend their branch and CLP meetings. Find out what the standing orders are. Read them, read the Rule book, understand when the posts in both are being elected, get candidates to do all those roles lined up. But be prepared, just getting elected isn’t the end, its just the start, as chair or secretary or any other post will actually entail work. If the branches and CLPs are neglected or badly run then there will be a lot of work needed to move them into the state we need them to be. But most of all everyone must attend meetings, participate, volunteer and campaign. Please .

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