On Tuesday, one of the most remarkable decisions on a day of remarkable decisions by Labour’s NEC was the approval of a motion to reinstate dozens of members who had been barred from attending Labour’s annual conference – which starts this weekend – because of the unlawful imposition of an incorrect membership cut-off date.
The drive toward that landmark decision – which has already seen many of the approximately 65 affected members reconfirm their attendance at Conference – was powered by a small number of highly-committed and tireless activists, with just a modicum of help from the SKWAWKBOX.
Here one of them, Jade, tells the story of that unprecedented achievement exclusively to this blog:
Throughout July, riding on the wave of an election result that was better than many predicted or hoped for, CLPs [constituency Labour parties] across the country were electing their delegates for Conference 2017.
Many were like myself, newcomers to the Labour Party who joined with enthusiasm and support for Corbyn and his genuine, socialist politics. Unfortunately, having joined the Party on the 1st July 2017, I was told I had fallen foul of Chapter 3, Clause 1, rule 4F – i.e delegates have to be a Party member for at least 12 months continuous membership before the “deadline set for receipt of names of delegates”.
Because of the way this rule was applied, all (democratically elected) delegates who joined Labour between 23rd June and 7th July 2016 were blocked from attending Conference as delegates.
The 12-month freeze date and the deadline for registering delegates are inextricable in accordance with the rule book, which was confirmed by the legal opinion of the excellent barrister Duncan Shipley Dalton.
Other than being just a nonsensical breach of the rule book, the timings involved make this decision even more odious.
25 June 2016 saw the start of a series of high profile Shadow Cabinet resignations and the Coup against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. It is no exaggeration to suggest that most of those who joined in this small period of 23 June-7 July 2016 did so in support of Corbyn.
The decision was challenged at Regional Office, the CAC and eventually with individual members of the NEC, without success. We were informed that the decision was to remain, on the spurious ground that CLPs who had held their
AGMs earlier in the year would only have been able to elect their Delegates based on those who were members 12 months before the original deadline.
Steven B, a member of my CLP Blackley & Broughton, took on the challenge. He obtained the legal advice from Duncan; he prepared a motion, including the legal advice, to overturn the ban, and then successfully lobbied a succession of senior Labour figures, including some contacts provided by the SKWAWKBOX, culminating in Darren Williams on the NEC putting this motion to the September meeting. Steven was relentless – and it bore fruit.
Whether it was the fear of a costly legal challenge or the realisation of the injustice perpetrated on members, something obviously worked and on 19 September 2017, in a huge victory for the left, the NEC ruled that ban the should be lifted.
That was just the start of the process of reinstating the delegates, but Steven and the rest of us had prepared a letter in advance to Iain McNicol, putting him on notice to make whatever preparations were necessary to ensure that the delegates could be reinstated and receive their credentials in the short time that would be available if the NEC approved the motion.
That letter, signed by party officials, elected officers and senior figures, was sent to Iain McNicol ahead of the meeting so that he had two full weeks before the conference to prepare. That foresight is paying dividends now – delegates were able to phone Labour HQ on the day of the decision and be told that their credentials were imminent.
This has affected at least 60 CLPs. Although it is a great decision to be celebrated, it means that CLPs are frantically trying to organise to send these delegates to Conference with just 3 days’ notice – it’s a sign of members’ commitment to the Party and to Corbyn’s vision that so many have been willing and able to drop everything and rearrange their Conference attendance.
But some CLPs are facing a big financial obstacle. As of the last Treasurer’s Report on the 13th September 2017, our own CLP has no funds at all – not for campaigning, not for any potential snap election campaign and not for delegates who hadn’t already been planned for.
[The Manchester constituency of] Blackley & Broughton has been fraught over the issue of delegates. There was a dispute over whether we had the funds to send the three delegates who were elected in the first place.
This has lead to unsympathetic members expressing their discontent with the number of new, pro-Corbyn members swelling the ranks and using seemingly-innocuous motions for the Treasurer to try and restrict the number of delegates on financial grounds. Tension has boiled over and now we are being accused of using up valuable Election Campaign funds.
The overturning of the ban has paved the way for those blocked delegates to overcome the inherent bias of the Party machinery; we don’t want to fall at
the final hurdle and allow arguments from the right on funding to stop properly-elected Delegates representing their CLP at Conference.
So we’ve set up a crowdfunding page to help Steve’s CLP and delegates, like he has helped the 60+ delegates affected by this saga – and we’re asking for your kind support in any way you can give it. The goal is to raise £1500.00 to replace what the CLP has spent on delegates so far – and to build a bit of a fund to help cover the cost of delegates for next year’s Conference as well.
If you would like to help, the link to the crowdfunding page is:
No written account could adequately describe the amount of around-the-clock effort that went into securing a historic win for the pro-Corbyn majority of Labour members. The SKWAWKBOX editor witnessed much of it first-hand and was able to help just a little.
But the scale of the achievement cannot be overstated. A mere handful of Labour members sank their teeth into an issue affecting members all over the country – led by Steven B who was not even a victim of the issue – and changed the course of history for around 60 CLPs and at least 65 members.
If just a few members can do that, what we can all achieve together is huge.
If you would like to recognise that achievement by contributing to or sharing the crowdfund set up to help Blackley and Broughton members who are now reinstated take up their rightful place at Conference for the good of Labour’s democracy and vision, please do visit the crowdfunding page – and even if you can’t contribute personally, please share this article to promote awareness.
Not just of the fund, but of the achievement of a small group of members who decided to change party history.