The SKWAWKBOX has been regularly covering the undemocratic and even outright anti-democratic lengths to which the right-wing factions of the Labour Party will go in order to try to maintain their grip on party structures and decisions. One of the key areas in which this has been evident has been the selection of CLP (constituency Labour Party) delegates to Labour’s annual conference, which starts in Brighton in a couple of weeks.
The right has gone to such lengths because Conference is the sovereign decision-making body of the party and there are crucial rule-change and policy debates to be decided that will either help free Labour to pursue the direction under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership that has so inspired new members and voters to support the party – or help the right hinder or even strangle it.
Last year, the right was able to orchestrate a power-grab that has hindered the party until the recent resignation of Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. This year, the left has upped its organisational game, forcing the right to extreme measures in the hope of maintaining an edge in the Brighton delegate count.
Concerned members in the Lambeth area of London have contacted the SKWAWKBOX with details of one such measure in the Streatham constituency represented in Parliament, after a fashion, by centrist MP Chuka Umunna.
In Streatham, the ‘old guard’ appears to have ignored not only the national party’s rules but even their own local ‘standing orders’ by organising an election of Conference delegates that has no legitimacy or standing within the rules.
Below is the text of a complaint written by Streatham members to the Labour hierarchy about the anti-democratic and invalid election:
There is a great deal of discontent amongst members of Streatham CLP due to the use of an insecure online survey tool to elect the CLP’s annual conference delegates. We believe this invalidates the ballot and is contrary both to Streatham CLP’s rules and standing orders, as well as to the Party’s commitment to democratic principles. It is my hope that you will ensure this matter is investigated, that the improperly obtained results of this ballot are invalidated and that measures are taken to restore democratic accountability to all selection processes.
My complaint is as follows:
Streatham CLP’s own Standing Orders (attached – see p.3, section 13) as well as accepted practice in Lambeth CLPs, provide that CLP delegates to the LP Annual Conference shall be decided by “secret paper eliminating ballot in rounds or by preferential vote; there is no provision for electronic ballots.
Our CLP Secretary argues that this was necessary given the short time period between the end of the election cycle and the deadline for selecting delegates. However, the ballot easily could have been held in the usual manner at the CLP’s 29 June GC meeting, two days prior to ballots being sent out by email. Moreover, the proposal to use this method was not mentioned at, much less put to, the GC [General Committee] meeting nor was any notice given to delegates that they should expect such a ballot in their inboxes.
Crucially, the online tool chosen to ballot delegates, www.surveymonkey.com is an informal survey tool rather than a secure ballot system, and provides no means of democratic accountability or verification that the one-delegate-one-vote protocol has been observed. Even if Streatham CLP’s adoption of an electronic ballot without prior notification (let alone agreement) of the Streatham GC is deemed acceptable, the process used by Streatham is fundamentally flawed due to:
a) Failure to issue unique URL links: the same computer link (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/B3XDWNM) was sent to all GC delegates rather than a unique link for each voter. Consequently, there is no safeguard against a voter sharing their link with others or using the link on multiple devices. Clearly, this method cannot ensure that the one member one vote protocol is guaranteed.
b) Disenfranchisement of delegates:
i. At least 3 union delegates did not receive an email ballot. It is unclear how many other union and branch delegates were similarly disenfranchised.
ii. At least 1 delegate does not have an email account. No attempt was made to offer her a ballot via post or hand-delivery, leaving her disenfranchised. It is unclear whether this same problem is faced by other delegates.
iii. Delegates sent an email ballot were given only a 2 day period in which to cast their vote, and no prior notice that such a ballot would be conducted during this period. (The email ballot notification was sent out on Saturday July 1, 2017 5:51 PM, along with notice that the ballot would close at 10:00 pm on Monday July 3rd 2017.) At least one delegate did not see the relevant email in time to cast their vote. It is unclear how many others were similarly disenfranchised.
c) Lack of any form of tellers or democratic oversight of the process or count.
I believe that, given the fatal flaws in this selection process, allowing the five conference delegates put forward by Streatham CLP to take up their positions would bring the integrity of the Conference into question. Instead, they should be disqualified until such time as a legitimate selection process takes place.
The letter goes on to note that formal complaints had been sent to both the regional organiser and to General Secretary Iain McNicol.
The former responded by effectively washing his hands of the matter, stating “It is entirely up to CLPs and affiliates how they pick their conference delegates and we don’t interfere with that.”
McNicol responded that he had forwarded the complaint to the governance team, but nothing further has been heard.
So, according to London regional office, CLPs can decide their conference delegates by coin toss, snail race or shoot-out and its none of region’s business – regardless of the democracy or otherwise of the process.
To be clear, there is no allowance in Labour’s rules for any form of proxy or absentee voting in any form of CLP election. Decisions are made by those who turn up – and if you’re not there for the vote, you don’t get a say.
Even in proper CLP elections, multiple tellers are appointed to ensure democratic oversight and proper counting. A SurveyMonkey survey can be completed by anyone who has the email link – one time or multiple times – and without a proper, controlled count with proper oversight, there is simply enormous scope for abuse and rigging.
This is not the first time that Streatham CLP has been linked with anti-democratic manoeuvres. Last year, the Evening Standard reported claims by Corbyn-supporting members that they were locked out of a meeting to decide which leadership candidate the CLP would nominate – and it supported Owen Smith.
In the context of its history and the desperation of the right to seize every possible delegate position in Brighton, left-wing members understandably have no confidence at all that an election method so easy to rig has been conducted and counted correctly – but there has been no support from London region, nor even recognition of the issues.
Members more widely will, naturally, wonder about the extent to which similar measures have stacked right-wing delegates into Labour’s conference from CLPs around the country. We won’t know with any certainty until Conference votes start to be taken on the key, contentious issues.
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