Labour’s 2017 annual Conference takes place in September this year. The original cut-off for delegate applications was 23 June 2017 and as delegates, under Labour’s rules, have to have been members for at least 12 months before the application deadline, this meant that members joining after 23 June 2016 would have been ineligible for this year’s event.
However, because of the sudden General Election, the application deadline was moved back to 7 July. It would therefore make sense that the membership cut-off would also move by two weeks to 7 July 2016 – and it seems a significant number of members who joined during those two weeks want to be delegates.
The SKWAWKBOX has received numerous reports of would-be delegates whose application was refused because they had joined after 23 June last year. As most of those who joined in recent years will have done so to support Jeremy Corbyn, the net effect of of this decision by a right-leaning Labour HQ will have been to prevent pro-Corbyn delegates attending Conference.
A Conference at which several vital rule-changes are to be decided by delegate vote.
A commonsense reading of the rules may suggest that this action by HQ is incorrect. However, common sense and legality are not always inextricably linked, so the SKWAWKBOX asked highly-qualified barrister, Duncan Shipley-Dalton, a Labour member and expert in the party’s rules, for his legal opinion.
The full opinion is available at the end of this article as a PDF but the key points are as follows:
The date for eligibility is set in the rules in Chapter 3.
The rule is:
- All delegates must have been individual members of the Party for at least 12 months at the closing date set for the receipt of names of delegates (see III.1.E below).
The date for eligibility is therefore 12 months based on the closing date for receipt of names of delegates. The timetable for receipt of names and address is dealt with in Chapter 3 Clause III, 1, E.
- The timetable for the receipt of names and addresses of delegates appointed by affiliated organisations and CLPs shall be determined by the NEC and submitted to the affiliated organisations and CLPs with the notice convening the conference. In the case of a special conference session called under Clause III.1.A above, the NEC shall also determine a date by which such names and addresses shall be submitted.
The original Conference notice was issued by the General Secretary Iain McNicol in February 2017. The date for receipt of the names of delegates was notified to CLPs along with the original formal notice of the convening of the conference as being determined to be Friday 23rd June 2017. The last date for the beginning of a delegate’s eligible membership would have been 23rd June 2016.
However, on 18th April 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election which took place on the 8th June 2017. As a consequence of this and in order, sensibly, that Labour party members could concentrate on working for electoral victory the date for nomination and receipt of Conference delegates was determined by the NEC to be changed to 7th July 2017.
The obvious application of Chapter 3, Clause I, 4, F is that if the timetable for the receipt of the names of delegates has been varied then as an automatic consequence the appropriate date for the calculation of a period of 12 months membership of the Party is concomitantly altered. This would make the correct beginning eligibility date for 12 months Party membership to be 7th July 2016.
As these dates are clearly under the rules in chapter 3 directly linked it is incorrect to attempt to sever them and apply a different date for receipt of names of delegates and the correct 12-month eligibility period.
The full judgment goes into more detail, but the end result is that if you have been refused as a delegate to Conference and you joined the Labour Party before 7/7/16, you have been unlawfully prevented and can challenge the decision.
And for the good of the party, you should.
Write back to Labour and send them the full legal opinion – and demand that they accept your delegate application.
See you in Brighton.
Full opinion: Conference delegate membership DSD.
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