Umunna CLP members complain of stitch-up ahead of vital meeting

Members of Streatham CLP (constituency Labour party), which is represented in Parliament by ‘centrist’ Chuka Umunna, have told the SKWAWKBOX that they fear their executive committee is rigging a meeting – called under Labour’s new rules to vote on switching their monthly meeting to an ‘AMM’ (all-member meeting) structure – in order to maintain their hold onto power.

The meeting was supposed to take place in November, as the party’s rules say that if members call for a vote on switching between AMM and ‘GC’ – a delegate-based ‘general committee’ structure – the vote should be done at the first opportunity. However, the November meeting was cancelled without explanation:

Streatham’s executive has already been accused by members, only two months ago, of using anti-democratic methods last October to secure right-wing nominations in Labour’s elections for the National Constitutional Committee.

While both GC and AMM structures have their supporters, GC meetings are generally considered to make it easier for a smaller faction to maintain control, while AMM allows members to have a direct input at a CLP-wide level, not just within their smaller branch. The Streatham St Leonard Branch tweeted a video on Friday about their wish for AMM:

But CLP members claim that many of them had not even been informed by the exec that a motion to switch to AMM had been put forward.

After an acrimonious meeting of the executive, the four left-wing members sent a report to CLP members:

“Update about the AMM Meeting

Last week, the 4 left wing activists on the CLP executive attended its most acrimonious meeting to date. The right wing CLP officers who dominate the executive are furious that Brixton Hill and St Leonard’s branches have triggered the process for switching to a ‘one member one vote’ All Member Meeting system.

Since the rules require that, whatever their views on the matter, they are obliged to hold the next CLP meeting as a special All Member Meeting to consider this matter, they have cancelled the planned meeting on 29 November altogether – so that now the vote on future organisation will now be held in place of the January CLP meeting. They have no power to do so as the rule requires the motion to override the next scheduled GC meeting. To cancel a scheduled meeting is clearly contrary to this rule.

Their purported justification for this was that the meeting had not been publicised sufficiently – despite Brixton Hill and St Leonard’s having emailed them repeatedly for a month urging them to publicise it! This is clearly an abuse of process aimed at suppressing the democratic initiative envisaged by Jeremy Corbyn’s democracy review. The excuses about not having a suitable venue are also nonsense – we had provisionally booked a huge church but despite their own branch meetings taking place in churches, they mocked this proposal, feigning concern for attendees who are not Christian!

Their purported justification for this was that the meeting had not been publicised sufficiently – despite Brixton Hill and St Leonard’s having emailed them repeatedly in vain for a month requesting that they publicise it! This is clearly an abuse of process aimed at suppressing the democratic initiative envisaged by Jeremy Corbyn’s democracy review.

Therefore, there is no meeting in November and the likely date of the AMM vote is Thursday 31 January 2019.”

The SKWAWKBOX wrote to the secretary and chair of Streatham CLP to ask for their comment on these complaints and other issues raised by members:

I’m going to run a story…about various complaints by Streatham members about the conduct of the executive, including:

– the delay, contrary to Labour’s rules, to a special all-member meeting (AMM) to discuss and vote on a switch to AMM meetings instead of GC/delegates
lack of communication to large parts of Streatham’s membership by the executive
withholding of information and email access from officers including the women’s forum officer – described as blocking and anti-democratic, although recently reinstated after the arrival of a new London regional director
an unlawful decision to prevent the election of delegates for the London region conference, instead disenfranchising members by announcing that delegates to September’s national conference would attend the regional version without further elections, when many GC members had not even been informed about the London conference

The effect of these and other manoeuvres is, according to members, an attempt to stifle democracy in Streatham Labour and to disenfranchise many new members.

Part of a SKWAWKBOX email to the Streatham chair and secretary

No response had been received at the time of publication. There had already been huge controversy over the election of Streatham’s conference delegates, so sending them without a further vote to the regional conference is deeply problematic.

Members fear that the meeting – which takes place this coming Thursday, 31 January – will be stacked against them, especially because of the inadequate communication, but also because the meeting will be run by a former candidate for the National Executive Committee (NEC) supported by the right-wing Progress and Labour First groups.

It is therefore essential that every Streatham member who can attend on Thursday does so. Venue details are below:

Lambeth College
45 Clapham Common South Side
(NB: not the Lambeth College campus on Brixton Hill)

The meeting starts at 8pm but members are asked to arrive no later than 7.30pm to allow time for registration and to ensure they have a vote.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

There were serious problems with the conduct of the meeting to elect Streatham’s executive committee in November.

The decisions of the exec to prevent the election of delegates for the coming London regional conference and to bar the women’s officer from email access suggest that the democratic problems in Streatham Labour, which the right it determined to hold onto, are entrenched and ongoing.

The first step in unpicking these issues is to ensure that Streatham switches to AMM, so all members have a direct say in the CLP’s decisions and the election of its executive. If you’re a Streatham member, you need to be there on Thursday night.

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  1. Thank you though to Chuka Umunna (and Hillary Benn) for opposing President Trump’s impending plans to tear up the INF nuclear missiles treaty that has helped to keep us safe for over 30 years.

    Has your MP spoken out on this vital issue?


      1. The article mentioned Umunna and his CLP. Not, therefore, off topic at all!

  2. Message to Streatham members from Kingswood CLP member – after much hard work and organizing, we held our meeting to adopt AMM which was declared ‘passed overwhelmingly’ by CLP secretary on a massive show of hands. Subsequently this was declared unconstitutional by Regional Office as the actual vote had not been counted and recorded in the minutes. We had to go through the whole process again which thankfully was successful the second time. Please, please, do not trust those with the power, they aim to hang on to it and will stop at nothing. In the case of Streatham, with CU in place there is no time to be lost.

  3. “this was declared unconstitutional by Regional Office as the actual vote had not been counted and recorded in the minutes.”

    Despite my scepticism about the bureaucracy of the Party at frequent times in the past, I think they may have been correct on this. If you’re going to have pivotal votes, they need to be watertight.

    Caucuses of both shades of opinion have always been prone to use constitutional shenanigans and rule bending to achieve their ends – since time immoral 🙂

    1. There is nothing in the Labour rules that stipulates this is there? If the vote is overwhelming on a single decision by a show of hands why would you need an official count?

    2. The salient point was – the CLP Secretary, who was supposedly ‘the fount of all knowledge’, and an inscrutable fellow at the best of times, feigned all knowledge of the rules when it suited his agenda. We were in effect, stitched up!

  4. Great work Squawkbox. The right of the parties arrogance has to be challenged and won against. They are putting off so many members being active right across the country

  5. Seems like the Right there are giving themselves more time to organise their forces, lifts anyone?
    Bit like the Right Wing Labour MPs calling for the 29th March Brexit date to be moved to January 2020 so they can really have a 2nd Peoples Vote?
    Let’s hope the Left in Streatham and us nationally can put an end to their cunning plans!
    We are the many, they are the few!

  6. Streatham’s have no right under Labour party rules to ignore the wishes of the members.
    Bluntly EC is supposed to do what GC tells them and if they don’t they should be disciplined!

    Last year’s Annual Conference agreed a Party Rule change which means that the General Committee (GC) is the management body not the Executive Committee (EC).
    The rules now state clearly:-
    “The management of this CLP shall be in the hands of the General Meeting. The decisions of the General Meeting shall be put into effect by an Executive Committee which shall be appointed by and report to an Annual General Meeting of this CLP and to other such meetings as required by the CLP rules and procedures.” [Chapter 1. Clause X.6A]

  7. I would like an article on the rule change mentioned by IAM Crawford above.

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