On Friday the SKWAWKBOX published complaints received – and made – by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s office about the fiasco of the Labour Party Irish Society’s (LPIS) annual general meeting (AGM). McDonnell is a former LPIS chair.
LPIS is an affiliated society, meaning that its delegates can influence Labour party elections, candidate selections and other matters, so the Labour right is clearly desperate to maintain control – and seems to have gone to extraordinary lengths to do so.
Austin Harney, one of the complainants to McDonnell, has clarified that he did not personally see Labour MP Conor McGinn at the AGM – McGinn has stated that he was out of the country last Wednesday when the AGM was held – and has written a full account of his experience at the AGM, which he has titled “AN OUTRAGEOUS LABOUR PARTY IRISH SOCIETY AGM!“
It makes deeply troubling reading:
On the evening of Wednesday 25th October, I witnessed what many could describe as one of the biggest insults to democracy at the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) AGM!
For the last 10 years since John McDonnell stepped down as Chair of this society, many of us have been deeply unhappy with the LPIS. They have not had a properly constituted conference style AGM on a Saturday of which would appeal to all Labour Party members who are Irish and of Irish heritage. Instead, they have had an AGM on a week night in one of the Parliament buildings with a mere maximum of 20 people. The only other function that they have is the annual St. Patrick’s Parliamentary Reception in the House of Lords. Guest speakers are, usually, Baronesses, Lords, and MPs who appeal to Progress. Such functions are hardly representative of the Irish Working Poor throughout Britain! But more, importantly, a Labour Party Irish AGM is, completely, disadvantageous to Labour Party members in sections of the Irish community that live in Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and the list goes on!
It is the reason that a number of us decided to stand a full slate of candidates against the existing executive committee of the LPIS! It was called a Left Slate but I don’t agree with comments that it was of narrow interest for the Irish Community in Britain! It was our policies that mattered, especially in comparison to so many Progress people that attended the AGM on Wednesday night. With the current series of events in the last 2 years, it was a forgone conclusion that we would have many Momentum members joining the LPIS. As a result, a number of us in London compromised a united Left Slate if we were to be serious in making this LPIS more representative of all Irish people in Britain. Although I objected to standing candidates against Rita Conneely and Liz McShane of who I had worked with for years, changing the LPIS executive committee was seen to be our priority! This opportunity was seen to be very important and we agreed our slate! People may have their views on this matter but the outrageous result of the Labour Party Irish Society AGM has overshadowed everything, enormously!!!
As we were to discover, the Grimmond Room of where the AGM was taking place, was becoming packed hours before it started. Many of us were not allowed in. The executive committee, then, had to open up the Thatcher Room in order to accommodate more numbers.
When the AGM started, I called for a point of order. I requested that the AGM must be suspended as the room was not large enough and 2 rooms was, completely, inconvenient. As a result, I was heckled but I held the floor. Then, I had to make the speech again in the Thatcher Room. My point of order was, completely, voted down in the first room but only narrowly defeated in the second room. Afterwards, the whole evening was dominated by candidates making speeches for positions. I stood for secretary and was very fraternal in the meeting. I stated that we should reach out to the whole Irish community in Britain as well as campaign against austerity hitting Irish community centres such as the elderly. Other campaigns would include fighting anti – Irish racism in other parts of Britain and the brutal discrimination of Travellers. I congratulated the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month and it is time that we have a History Month of Irish Immigrants to Britain for the last few centuries. It should be part of our educational curriculum!
We should, also, campaign for justice of the families of the state collusion with terror that includes Ballymurphy and the Dublin – Monaghan Bombs. We need to build this Labour Party Irish Society with a proper conference AGM on a Saturday that would be accommodating for the Irish community in other regions of Britain! In terms of work, I highlighted the first Irish History Month project in the South East Regional Trades Union Congress. In Barnet, when I was Trades Union Secretary, I worked with the local Labour Party to take out out Brian Coleman as GLA member and Tory councillor after his outrageous speech: “All Travellers are Irish and should stay put in Ireland!” Although my speech had to last for 2 minutes, all of us did the best in a very unfair AGM. I knew that were going to lose.
However, I was receiving reports towards the end of the evening. I had discovered at the AGM that it was filled up by so many MPs, Baronesses, Lords, and paid Labour Party officials who were, also, to have voting rights. Is the constitution clear on whether such people have voting rights, especially for a number who don’t have Irish blood? The MPs included Stephen Kinnock, Stella Creasey, Vernon Coaker (former Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland), Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting and so on. I was sitting next to Siobhan McDonagh. In addition, a number of people from Momentum were still not allowed in as they stood outside the rooms. There was at least 20 people. Some were candidates. I heard several complaints that Stephen Pound MP told many Momentum members in the queue outside Portcullis House that the AGM was cancelled. It was seen by many as an attempt to ensure that they did not enter the building. On the other hand, a number of like minded people to Progress were seen being escorted into the building.
We received the results after the AGM. We were beaten but the process for a fair AGM was not followed. No doubt, this matter will go further. In order to conclude, the handling of this AGM will raise the question of whether the plan to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has gone away? Despite the success in the last general election, we have witnessed the same animosity on Wednesday 25th October. I tried my best to ensure that these nominations were contested without rancour and malice. As a Labour Party society, I called for of us to be comradely with each other and use our energies against the Tories in the next general election. But regrettably, it does not seem to be the case!!!
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