Thursday’s Lewisham Deptford AGM set to be a scandal


The SKWAWKBOX has reported on many abuses of democracy by the right of the Labour Party – and has heard of many more than have been reported. Few have matched the sheer scale of the apparent attempts to gerrymander the results of tomorrow’s AGM (annual general meeting) of Lewisham Deptford CLP (constituency Labour party).

The CLP is organised on a branch/delegate basis – ward-based units meet as branches and select delegates to be sent to the ‘GC’, the general committee meeting, where decisions affecting the whole CLP are made.

Branch/delegate structures are common within the Labour Party, but are notoriously easier for a minority right to rig – and local members have grave concerns that this is exactly what’s happening in Lewisham Deptford.

The branch ruses

The left in Lewisham Deptford has organised well last year and 2017 branch AGM results have tended to reflect the left majority in the membership. But the right – still in control of the GC and ‘exec’ until the AGM – appears to be determined to ensure that the same does not happen in at CLP level.

Tricks and abuses so far include:

  • members not being informed about meetings
  • unequal and retroactive application of gender balance rules to different branches – whichever application would favour right-wing delegates being applied
  • tellers not known to the branch members being imposed on a branch
  • members who had recently changed address being barred from entering meetings
  • wrong results only being prevented by tellers spotting errors in the declarations
  • ballots at that branch’s AGM being taken home by two of the tellers for a second count – and then those tellers lodging a complaint about the result when their ‘out of sight’ count favouring the right was not accepted by the branch(!)
  • the sudden appearance of ‘affiliates’ with the right to attend and vote at the AGM who have never been formally affiliated via the GC as required
  • the CLP exec being prevented from meeting until just before monthly meetings, to prevent exec members having an influence over the meetings
  • CLP members being barred from attending the AGM as is their right under the rules

and more.

On top of all this, the CLP secretary, with the support of London ‘region’, has informed members of the Brockley branch that – because of the spurious complaint about the vote count mentioned above – their newly-elected delegates will not be allowed to attend the AGM at all.

Instead, Brockley’s defunct 2016 delegates will represent the branch at the AGM – resulting in a massive advantage for the right:

  • a drop in the number of delegates from 28 to only 18 people last year – costing the branch more than a third of its representation
  • only three left delegates among the eighteen – instead of the twenty-one elected in 2017
  • six people who stood for election this year and lost are back on the GC. Five of them did not even attend this year’s branch AGM
  • four new female members and five new members in total can’t get involved in the party.
  • three BAME people are denied representation – last year’s delegation had two BAME members, this year’s has five
  • one less woman on the GC
  • and the key point, for the right: the left loses eighteen delegates in the branch and the right gain eleven for the crucial AGM

The manoeuvre used to block Brockley’s democratically-elected delegates from attending at all is probably the most unpalatable in a set of deeply-unpalatable actions – using a complaint that a totally unacceptable, secret count was not accepted to block the whole group of delegates.

Between the blocking of delegates and the expected ‘stacking’ of improper affiliates into the AGM, left-wing – or merely fair-minded – members of Lewisham Deptford Labour fear that Thursday night’s AGM will be a travesty in spite of their democratic efforts and majority.

And, while this is a relatively extreme example, it is far from outlandish in comparison to other situations about which the SKWAWKBOX regularly receives information from around the country.

Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘democracy review’ is desperately needed – and its conclusions need to be fearlessly reached and implemented if Labour’s internal democracy is to be fit for the vision of the party and the movement it is becoming.

And those responsible for such measures in Lewisham Deptford need to be put on notice that if they carry out their plans on Thursday evening, a spotlight is on them.

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  1. Apparently the ‘delegate only’ structure is imposed on CLPs from above, i.e the LP executive. How can this be more democratic than a OMOV CLP?

  2. The Labour Party faces exactly the same problem as the Democratic Party in America.

    Both parties have right wing minorities which prefer to lose elections than lose control of the party and its machinery.

    1. Spot on! In America’s case, right-wing minorities who would rather reignite the Cold War than take responsibility for an awful, smug, complacent, hubristic candidate who fought an awful, smug, complacent, hubristic campaign and got the come-uppance she deserved!

  3. a spotlight is on them.sack the beggers they aint in it for us but themselves

  4. Hi Graham – good holiday I hope. House is progressing well, but it’s all very stressful! Here’s what’s allegedly going on in your local Labour Party. Paul

    From: The SKWAWKBOX To: harpypaul@yahoo.co.uk Sent: Thursday, 9 November 2017, 0:45 Subject: [New post] Thursday’s Lewisham Deptford AGM set to be a scandal #yiv3512414661 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3512414661 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3512414661 a.yiv3512414661primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3512414661 a.yiv3512414661primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3512414661 a.yiv3512414661primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3512414661 a.yiv3512414661primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3512414661 WordPress.com | SKWAWKBOX posted: “The SKWAWKBOX has reported on many abuses of democracy by the right of the Labour Party – and has heard of many more than have been reported. Few have matched the sheer scale of the apparent attempts to gerrymander the results of tomorrow’s AGM (annual ” | |

  5. I thought our Roundhay Branch in Leeds was the only one!
    The left took the executive posts at last year’s AGM and this year the deposed right put a candidate forward for chair who had never attended a branch or CLP meeting.
    At the AGM around half the attendees had never been seen before at Branch or CLP meetings, some were very newly joined….they voted the new chair in and also the new secretary.
    At the end of the meeting the old cabal of right-wingers were punching the air and having their photo taken with the newly elected.
    An observer from Region said it was dreadful but no rules were broken.
    Welcome to the strange world where we fight each other not the Tories!

  6. Rigging the CLP to suit an agenda isn’t exclusive to the right.
    My CLP engineered a coup to remove the chair (who is a Corbyn supporter) because they disagreed with the way a highly successful campaign was run. It resulted in overturning a Tory majority and returned a Labour MP. Most of the CLP are happy with the way the campaign went and are content with the result, but not the shenanigans and back biting since the general election. You would need to ask why this small group are not.
    In 2015 the same group refused to campaign for the candidate because they disagreed with the CLPs democratic decision and we lost by 800 votes. They did similar in 2017, but this time Momentum picked up the slack and campaigned in their area. Labour won.
    OMOV is the only democratic way for a CLP to decide the direction of travel. It appears some members of the CLP would rather have the Tory MP and not campaign for a Labour government. They have no place in a democratic party.

  7. What else can be done with this Gerrymandering on the right?
    Other than waylaying them on the way to meetings, I can’t see that happening!
    Unless Rules and Regulations are changed?
    We on the left have to have a “cunning plan”, as Baldrick would say.
    How about it, all those on the left in Parliament?
    Time, we had a clean out of those who want to destroy our “LABOUR PARTY”!

    1. I was at this disputed AGM and this is not a true representation of what happened at all. What’s worse is that you know it. This is a deliberate attempt to cause division and chaos.

      There is no such thing as an organised ‘right wing’ simply a large number of local people some of whom have dedicated many years to the party. We have watched young elitist upper middle class new comers swoop in and organise a coup. These are people who will swan out of the area as soon as their job is done. Their job is to cause chaos.

      Lewisham Deptford is a settled working class community with a great Labour Party. It is being destroyed by ambitious upper middle class elitists who swagger around talking about ‘the right’ shame on them. They do not represent ‘the workers’ at all, just their own personal ambitions.

      Does anybody else posting in these comments actually come from Lewisham ? Were you there when these things happened?

      1. “young elitist upper middle class new comers swoop in and organise a coup” sounds suspiciously like ‘entryists’…

  8. I am chair of Lewisham Deptford CLP and a left winger. This story is a complete distortion of the facts. Whoever gave you this story should be ashamed of themselves.

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