Earthquakes and eruptions
Recent SKWAWKBOX coverage of selection scandals in local Labour parties, with allegations of abuse of the rules and outright rigging made by left-wing members against entrenched right-wing figures, appears to have turned over a hornet’s nest to reveal members so sick of untoward practice in their areas that they are working together to raise their voice and take action.
The LCF (Local Campaign Forum) in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell at the heart of the Labour right has been suspended by General Secretary Jennie Formby and Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) after a string of complaints – including detailed allegations by one of the region’s few MPs not wedded to Labour First or Progress.
The members of Enfield Southgate CLP then triggered an earthquake of their own by sending a detailed list of the improper actions they say were taken by their own LCF and information that they claim was withheld from them by officials during the selection process.
Around the country, local Labour members are banding together to say ‘enough’, with reports of CLPs (constituency Labour party) taking action constantly reaching the SKWAWKBOX.
One such is Rochdale.
The Rochdale revolt
Rochdale Labour has been in revolt for many months against prominent figures, especially around the behaviour of now-deposed council leader Richard Farnell – who was subsequently judged by the ‘IICSA’ inquiry into child abuse to have lied under oath about his knowledge of events. On top of that, members had to contend with the disgrace and suspension of their then-MP Simon Danczuk.
But members’ anger about the behaviour of those in positions of power and influence is not limited to these issues. Branch after Labour branch has lodged its rejection of the local selection processes and the conduct of those behind them.
Local sources have told the SKWAWKBOX that Rochdale’s LCF – the body that controls the selection of Labour candidates – has only met at most three times in over four years as far as it’s own delegates and Labour members know, with two of those meetings being AGMs (annual general meetings).
This has been the case in spite of numerous local and national elections and EU referendum taking place during this time, all of which should have required the LCF’s involvement. If other meetings have taken place, many LCF delegates have not been invited to them – nor even to the AGMs – with one member who has been their branch’s delegate since the LCF structure was formed only ever invited to a single AGM.
This means that for the majority of its existence Rochdale LCF has been constitutionally invalid – and has had repeated complaints made about it to Labour’s regional office and the then right-dominated NEC.
In spite of this fact, it has still somehow managed to control the selection of candidates panel for all the elections affecting the area.
Local members say that many of their branch delegates to the LCF appear to have been imposed on them. Many branches say they have never elected a delegate and only recently found out that they had delegates and who they were – and others that still don’t know.
Two examples illustrate the nature and extent of the problem.
Who – me?
Members of one ward say they asked the LCF Secretary – who was there as an observer for a selection meeting – who their LCF delegate was, as they had never elected one. The name of a councillor was given, but the surprised councillor in question said that not only did he now know he was the branch’s LCF delegate – but also that he had never been to a meeting.
At a different branch’s most recent meeting, the LCF delegate was asked to give a report back from the LCF. Again the councillor had no idea that he was the branch delegate – and even had to ask what the LCF is.
A very male affair
Of the LCF delegates that Rochdale members have been able to identify, the vast majority are male councillors – posing problems of gender balance as well as democracy, since the problems of councillors dominating the body that will decide their selection are obvious.
At one of the AGM’s that did take place – which most delegates say they were not informed about – Rochdale Council Labour Group members decided to give themselves ten delegate places, almost all going to men.
This is about the limit of the information Rochdale Labour members have about those who supposedly represent them on the LCF, as requests for details of those on it have been refused or ignored. Since its formation, members have received no reports back to branches or to CLPs from any LCF member – and some party members claim that officers of the LCF were elected when they were not even delegated to the forum.
Why and wherefore
Rochdale members have told the SKWAWKBOX that they believe the LCF has been rigged as a vehicle to keep current councillors in place, controlling who is placed on the selection panel of potential candidates.
Members also allege that key members of Labour’s regional administration have failed to act because of excessive closeness to Danczuk, Farnell and others, including a senior councillor now under investigation by Rochdale council but not by the regional party.
Seven Labour branches so far, as well as the whole Heywood and Middleton constituency party, have passed the resolution shown below and have sent it with evidence they consider shows rule breaking. However, because of distrust of Labour’s regional office, the resolutions have been sent instead to the regional board, the body that oversees councillor discipline. Emphases have been added by the SKWAWKBOX:
We the members of …… branch request the secretary/chair of our branch to send a letter to the Regional Board requesting the suspension of Rochdale LCF due to political malpractice and an investigation to take place. There are very few meetings, and if there have been, CLP and branch LCF delegates are not being advised. The LCF Secretary is not responding to officers correspondence. There are no LCF minutes being produced. There are no LCF reports being produced for branches or CLP meetings. In short the LCF is not running to party rules, is not fit for purpose and needs investigating.
1. There have only been two LCF AGMs since the AGM in November 2013.
Labour Party Rule book Chapter 12 Clause 4(i) “The annual meeting shall be held in May each year, or if such a meeting is not held, as soon as possible afterwards.”
2. It is unsure if there have actually been any meetings of the LCF outside the AGMs as delegates have not been invited. Since the AGM in November 2013 there has been one by-election, two general elections, a mayoral election, a Euro Election, the Euro referendum and numerous council elections.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 2 (II) “To co-ordinate the activities of CLPs and branches within the area for the purpose of securing the return of Labour representatives to the borough/ district/ unitary/ county borough/ county council”.
3. The LCF at one of the AGM meetings that did actually take place gave the Labour Group a large number of delegates, meaning the vast majority of people who are now on the LCF are councillors.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 4 (II) “The NEC model will recommend that the membership of the LCF should include the leader and deputy leader of the Labour group or other group officer as determined by the Labour group (where such Labour Groups exists), any local and regional organisers, and appropriate representatives from the relevant CLPs, including CLP campaign co-ordinators, representatives from trade unions and, where appropriate, other organisations affiliated to that constituency.”
Whilst the changing of the structure of the LCF is allowed, this is only allowed if these changes are working effectively to meet the objectives of the NEC. The Rochdale LCF is far from running effectively.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 3(ii) “The local Party/ies shall determine the structure and membership of the LCF with approval from the appropriate RD(GS) on behalf on the NEC, following the principles laid out in this chapter. These may include existing structures where these are working effectively to meet the objectives of the NEC.”
4. The Labour Group formulated the local election manifesto and there was no input from either CLP, their members or as far as the delegates know, the LCF.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 2 (ii) “To work with the Labour Group to organise opportunities for individual members, branches, trade unions, affiliated organisations and community organisations to enter into dialogue with the Labour Group on current local government policy issues and ideas for the Party’s future programme and manifesto.”
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 8 (ii) “The electoral policy and programme for the appropriate elections shall be decided by the council Labour group or by this LCF where no Labour Group exists. In each case this LCF shall work to organise opportunities for wider consultation to assist the development of policy.”
5. Many branch and CLP delegates have not been invited to LCF meetings. One LCF branch delegate, despite being his branch delegate for many years, has only ever been invited to one LCF meeting which was last years AGM.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 4 (ii) “The LCF shall meet whenever necessary to deliver the best organisation and campaigns to secure the best possible representation for Labour in the authority. As a minimum, the LCF shall have at least one meeting a year for each of: the creation of a campaign strategy, the creation of a recruitment strategy, the creation of a selection strategy and to convene a selection panel.”
6. There was no offer to at least one of the CLP’s to nominate a member of the interview panel for the selection of candidates at the latest local election.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 9(i) “The LCF shall select and convene an interview panel for the selection of candidates. This shall include a member of the LCF, and respective CLPs and Labour groups may nominate a member to sit on this panel.”
7. The membership of the Rochdale LCF is predominantly made up of male councillors.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 4 (iii) “The local Party should work to ensure that the membership of the LCF is representative of the communities in which it will work.”
8. No one can remember the last time or if any minutes have ever been sent to branches or CLP’s for any of the LCF meeting that have taken place. There has been no reports from the LCF to branches or CLP’s or the ability to give feedback to the LCF. The Chair of Heywood & Middleton CLP has requested that the Secretary of the LCF provides the minutes of any meetings over the last few years that have taken place a number of months back, however, the secretary of the LCF has not responded.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 2 (ii) “To work with the Labour Group to organise opportunities for individual members, branches, trade unions, affiliated organisations and community organisations to enter into dialogue with the Labour Group on current local government policy issues and ideas for the Party’s future programme and manifesto”
9. CLP Union delegates have not been asked to nominate their LCF delegates.
Labour Party Rule Book Chapter 12 Clause 4 (ii) “The NEC model will recommend that the membership of the LCF should include the leader and deputy leader of the Labour group or other group officer as determined by the Labour group (where such Labour Groups exists), any local and regional organisers, and appropriate representatives from the relevant CLPs, including CLP campaign co-ordinators, representatives from trade unions”
10. Because the LCF has only had two AGM’s since 2013, this will mean that it will not have been constitutional for the majority of this time. Despite this, it was still formulating panels and selecting candidates.
11. At least one branch that we know has had its LCF delegate imposed on it (another male councillor). The branch found out who its LCF delegate was at this year’s selection meeting despite the fact they have never elected him. The situation became more serious when the councillor himself didn’t know he was the branch delegate or how he became it.
The opacity of candidate selections in Rochdale has, for years now, amounted to complete secrecy without even a veneer of democratic process.
This situation cannot be allowed to continue and the national party must urgently intervene before further damage to the party’s reputation and to the morale of members is done.
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