In July, the SKWAWKBOX reported the case of Labour members elected by their CLP (constituency Labour party) to attend Labour’s annual conference as delegates, who were subsequently blocked from attending because they had joined between 25 June and 7 July last year.
The original cut-off date for delegate applications was 24 June this year, with a 12-month membership requirement to be eligible as a delegate. However, because of the General Election that date was moved back by two weeks to 7 July.
This meant that the 12-month membership cut-off should have moved to the same date in 2016, but Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) backed a decision by the party’s currently right-dominated Conference Arrangements Committee to retain the June date.
According to legal analysis by the excellent barrister Duncan Shipley Dalton, this was entirely unlawful – but the decision stood. Of course, the more recently a member joined the party, the higher the chance that s/he is a Corbyn supporter, which may explain the CAC’s decision.
However, Labour party democracy activists – in line with the wishes of most Labour members that know about this issue, based on the reaction to this blog’s original article – were unwilling to let this disenfranchisement of members proceed unchallenged and lobbied NEC members and other senior Labour officials to raise awareness of the issue.
Now NEC and Labour grassroots member Darren Williams has scheduled the following motion for discussion at the next NEC meeting on 19 September:
The NEC notes that:
LABOUR PARTY RULES Chapter 3 Party Conference Clause I. Delegations 4. F. states:
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.”
This committee resolves that:
1) The rules make it clear that dates of both the deadline for receipt of names and address and the calculated period of at least 12 months of individual party membership are clearly inextricably linked and the membership period is calculated as a direct mathematical function of the set date for receipt of names and addresses of delegates.
2) The correct application of these rules with regard to conference 2017 is to set the receipt date for names and addresses as the 7th July 2017 then calculate a period of 12 months required membership cut-off on that date as being 7th July 2016. Any decision to separate these dates clearly breaches the express intent of the Party rules.
3) No conference decision to permit “relaxation” of rules can permit the increased restriction of conference eligibility rules without a separate, express provision to do so.
If passed, the motion will mean that barred delegates will immediately regain their eligibility to attend – but will have only a few days to rearrange schedules, transport and accommodation.
A letter endorsed by a number of Labour figures and members is about to be sent to the party’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, putting him on notice of the motion and warning him to begin preparations now for the notifications, delegate passes etc that will need to be sent out in a hurry if the motion passes on the 19th – and of the potential 6-figure legal claims that could be awarded against the party if it fails to rectify the disenfranchisement.
While the potential work involved for HQ staff will not be insubstantial, this letter gives them two full weeks to prepare everything in readiness for the decision of the NEC.
Activists believe that the motion should pass the NEC with a clear majority and have received pledges of support from several senior NEC members, with many union delegates also expected to back it.
However, it’s important that any SKWAWKBOX readers with connections to NEC members contact them to ask them to vote for the motion – and if you’re one of the estimated 75-100 delegates affected by the initial decision and would still like to attend the conference, start making provisional preparations now, in anticipation of a positive result in ten days time. In either event, please contact this blog to let us know.
The SKWAWKBOX applauds Williams’ commitment to party democracy and urges any NEC members reading this to vote for the motion to give would-be delegates affected by the earlier decision at least the opportunity to attend Conference as they were elected to do by their local members.
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