On Tuesday this week, Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) met. Tucked away on the fourth of five pages of a report of the meeting by an NEC member is an innocuous-seeming passage that holds the key to the latest attempt by the Labour right to rig the party’s power-structures against the wishes of the membership:
National Youth Policy Conference 14th/15th October
A paper was presented which outlined that the delegates to this youth policy conference must be under the age 27 at the beginning of the conference, with the sole exception of serving members of the Young Labour National Committee.
All delegations must be gender balanced. There are 303 delegate seats to allocate. There were various proposals for how the seats allocated to the young members’ section should be chosen.
For example, ballot of all young members within regions and nations, or alternatively first-come-first-served. It was felt that this issue needed further consideration and also further discussion within the Young Labour National Committee. In view of the shortness of time it was agreed that the NEC officers would make the necessary decisions.
The National Youth Policy Conference (NYPC) is the annual conference of Young Labour (YL). Young Labour has around 90,000 members, all under 27 years of age. Every couple of years, it elects one NEC member.
One member to an NEC narrowly stacked in favour of the Labour right by last year’s imposition, against Conference rules and the wishes of most members, of two unelected additional members.
And the innocuous-seeming paper described above – and the manner in which its proposals were decided – represent a naked attempt to cement a right-wing member permanently onto the NEC.
In early 2016, Young Labour elected Jasmin Beckett as its NEC member – according to the SKWAWKBOX’s sources, Ms Beckett has voted with the right on every occasion. Her election was hugely controversial, surrounded by allegations that she had encouraged supporters to fabricate smears of anti-Semitism against her rival – whom she eventually beat by a single vote. A complaint lodged against her stated that:
It is clear from the evidence presented below that Jasmin Beckett has a) disparaged another candidate, labelling him as antisemitic to a large group of young members, and b) encouraged her supporters to disparage another candidate, using their access to publicity via Facebook and Twitter, to label them as anti-Semitic.
The next NEC member election is due to take place early next year.
The paper presented to the NEC contained a series of options for deciding how delegates would be elected to attend future conferences – including this year’s YL policy conference and next year’s conference to select its NEC member.
Those options ranged from a random selection of candidates to an ‘electoral college’-type system in which one third each of the delegate count would be given to Young Labour, union affiliates – and Labour Students. More on Labour students shortly.
NEC General Secretary Iain McNicol announced that it was too late in the day – the meeting having overrun as most do – for a proper discussion and vote on which system will be used, so the matter would be given to the NEC’s officers (Chair etc) to decide.
The right has a majority among NEC officers.
Some members objected and were able to force a vote on that proposal. The proposal was accepted by a single vote.
Now here’s the crucial thing: the paper given to the officers already assumed the ‘electoral college’ proposal was included in the paper passed to the officers.
In other words, the choice of system was already a done deal by the time it was handed to the officers to ‘decide’.
Young Labour’s vice-Chair Charlotte Nichols was quick to catch onto the significance of this pre-decided choice. In an impassioned rant on her Facebook page, she wrote:
It’s time we talked about how Labour Students, which is an actual joke of an organisation that doesn’t even know who its own members are, has once again been instrumentalised by the party bureaucracy to subvert Young Labour democracy.
A motion was sent to the NEC which the Young Labour National Committee had never even seen, let alone discussed, drawn up by a party staffer regarding our upcoming Policy Conference which had the absolute audacity to say it was a proposal from us. Absolutely untrue.
This proposal makes Young Labour members a minority AT OUR OWN CONFERENCE- with a third of delegate spaces going to trade union affiliates, a third going to Young Labour members, and a third going to Labour Students.
Labour Students has its own policy conference, and resources that Young Labour could literally only dream of despite being the party’s official youth wing and boasting around 90,000 members.
Many of these members will be students, but most won’t be and it’s incredibly elitist to see students votes being given a weighting *far* in excess of ordinary members and young workers who may or may not be students. If they are under 27, they are perfectly able to attend as ordinary members, why the special treatment particularly when there are hardly a founding partner in the party like the trade unions (who legitimately should have some of the allocation of spaces)?
The only reason for this is to gerrymander democracy in favour of a small clique of party moderates on a conveyor belt into HQ, and away from ordinary members. It stops more spaces being allocated to newbie Young Labour members who haven’t previously been able to attend our national events, as they’ll now be going to Labour Students hacks instead.
Labour Students was set up by the Labour right in the 1970s to fight the left-wing Young Socialists.
A senior Labour source confirmed to the SKWAWKBOX that General Secretary Iain McNicol did present the paper to the NEC as being a YL proposal – a claim that is utterly denied by the organisation’s vice-Chair – and went on:
This is absolutely about Young Labour’s NEC member. This year’s Young Labour conference may only be a policy event, but next year the election of its NEC member will be decided and the delegate change sets a precedent that will apply to next year and beyond. The way that this has been done is scandalous.
What better word for a move that will, according to the organisation’s vice-Chair, effectively disenfranchise 90,000 Young Labour members.
The presentation of the supposed Young Labour paper to the NEC and the move to allow the right-dominated NEC officers to ‘decide’ on the system appears to have been an elaborate charade to implement a pre-decided gerrymander to rig the YL Conference, with at least the aim of ensuring Ms Beckett or someone similar is returned to the NEC next year and possibly further aims.
Unless a way can be found to block this anti-democratic change, the only way to overturn its effects is for Young Labour and its union affiliates to start working now to make sure that they control the composition of their delegates to the 2017 and 2018 Conferences for the sake of the party, its members and its democracy.
The SKWAWKBOX is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable – in spite of mainstream media libels to the contrary, this blog runs on coffee and a shoestring. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your support so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.