Analysis Exclusive

Watson’s branch trigger vote – employees, father of expelled councillor and seven family members

Watson allies have trumpeted unanimous vote in last night’s branch meeting – but those attending closely linked and even employed by him

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson last night survived one of a series of branch ‘trigger’ votes that could have resulted in him being forced to contest his place as the party’s candidate in the West Bromwich East constituency.

PoliticsHome and former Sun journalist Kevin Schofield tweeted with apparent relish:

Given that the branch is likely to have hundreds of members, an attendance of just fourteen raises obvious questions – even more considering their composition. Of the fourteen who turned up to vote, according to local sources:

  • two work or worked for Tom Watson – and one was the wife of one of the employees
  • six consisted of the CLP chair – supportive of both Watson and the above employees – and family, one a right-wing councillor
  • one was a parent of a councillor recently expelled by Labour for supporting a rival candidate
  • one was a convenor for a right-wing union

The identities of the remaining three are currently unknown.

Was the result a failure of the local left to organise and challenge entrenched privilege? Undoubtedly.

Was it a ringing endorsement of a deputy leader widely despised among members of the party? Hardly – especially in a context where the West Midlands Labour board has just sent Watson a letter of censure.

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  1. The only relevant question is whether the meeting was properly convened – including the timely issuing of notices.

    It’s up to branch members to challenge it if not.

    Next question : why is the Branch still running on the same basis as was the case of a typical Branch during the Blair era?

  2. No need for all this tomfoolery: Labour should democratise itself and have mandatory reselection a.k.a. open selections.

    1. OK. I don’t disagree. But that isn’t now the case. So it’s a redundant comment in relation to what is happening now.

      … additionally, the idea that it’s a cure-all is naive. In conservative wards/constituencies, it’s still quite possible that candidates of the right will win.

      A problem for the self-identified ‘left’ is recognising that the grass on the other side of the fence is often just the same colour..

  3. “Was the result a failure of the local left to organise and challenge entrenched privilege? Undoubtedly.”

    …… and there lies the problem. We can shout and pontificate all we want but it will all be to no avail if people can’t be arsed to get off their backsides and vote.

    1. A very good point, such branches usually have about 200 or so members (though Watson is likely to drive more away with boredom) but if only 14 out of 200 (7%) sounds inquorate to me, call out the Labour Guard!

      1. 5% is perfectly normal and acceptable for most purposes and if it does not have local standing orders then the it fits the national requirement. The reality we have to face is that the left cannot inspire opposition to Watson – much still to do.

    2. The rules for these Branch meetings about whether to go to a full selection meeting say that it’s not necessary for the meeting to be quorate.

  4. It does seem very strange only 14 turned up and they all happened to vote for Watson. Given the recent shenanigans in that area this should definitely raise a few eyebrows and at least be looked into.

  5. A tiny clique of only 14 members attending – and unanimously voting for Watson – SCREAMS corruption as much as a unanimous vote for Saddam Hussein or any other dictator would.
    If the NEC doesn’t intervene and investigate IMMEDIATELY it’ll once again prove itself not fit for purpose.
    Given the result it was presumably not an attendee who told The SKWAWKBOX about “persuasion and pressure?”
    Five more branches yet to vote – let’s hope they at least have some members with spines.

    1. “A tiny clique of only 14 members attending – and unanimously voting for Watson – SCREAMS corruption”

      No. It screams ‘passivity’, ‘complacency’,’compliance’ and ‘disinterest’.

      Blair rode on those features much more than ‘corruption’. Not to mention simple ‘cluelessness’. I took the minutes of the meetings.

      1. It could mean either ,or indeed both corruption and complacency etc.

      2. RH, I assume you didn’t take the minutes of the private discussions between Blair’s cronies where they worked out their strategies to dominate and manipulate official meetings to exclude Lefties, insert their placemen and manipulate ‘useful idiot’ appointees who wouldn’t notice their corrupt practices?

        They even had/have at least one travelling ‘Corruption Tsar’ who was apparently still giving right wingers lessons in the corrupt arts of Branch manipulation until quite recently – a SKWAWKBOX post even named one of them.

        Corruption I say.

    2. Haha. Would that be the same NEC that did an in-depth report which told us the broken window 20 yards away from Angela Eagle’s constituency office was inaccessible to the public?

      When the truth is that it’s on a public footpath, used all the time, and anybody above four feet tall can walk up at any time, night or day and place their hand on the glass.

      They’re f*ckin’ liars and they don’t really care who knows.

      1. Yerse, but that was under McNicol’s corrupt regime. Then again, that’s not to say that some of them aren’t still in there doing their dirty work.

      2. Yes,and in the photos I saw,the broken glass was outside the building!

      3. And then there was the homophobic abuse towards Angela Eagle at the CLP meeting that she wasn’t at, and which the vast majority of people present (in a relatively small and closely packed room) didn’t hear, and none of those who supposedly DID hear it – who just happened to all be ‘moderates’ – didn’t say anything WHEN it happened, or report it to CLP officers after the meeting had finished and – if I remember correctly – it was THREE days before they said anything about it.

        And as for the hundreds of abusive calls to her office, yerse, as if anyone would just go on answering the phone(s) again and again and again in such circumstances. In the REAL world, once it had happened a couple of dozen times, at most, you would stop answering the phone(s) AND call the police. Oh, right, and they were ALL phoning up and saying: “Oh hello, I’m a Jeremy Corbyn supporting Labour Party member, and I just want to say #### ### ##### ###!”. Well, you WOULD, wouldn’t you!

        The BIGGER the lie……..

    3. But if it was corruption David, as you suggest, then surely ‘spines’ don’t enter into it, and the two points you make are contradictory?

      Skwawkbox obviously suspects foul play, and if there ARE indeed hundreds of members, as SB says is likely – and even if there were only between 50 and a 100 – it seems inconceivable that only fourteen people would turn up to vote AND that two or three dozen other members opposed to Watson wouldn’t have turned up to vote. That said, the only explanation *I* can think of is that numerous members weren’t informed about the meeting, but if that’s the case, then surely it will soon come to light, and surely Watson and his buddies would have known that if they did such a thing it would soon come to light and, as such, lead to an investigation and the vote found null and void AND with serious repercussions for Watson and Co – ie fraud, in effect.

      The only OTHER thing I can think of is that members of the left in said area are not organised (in the literal sense) AND that they individually felt too intimidated to vote for reselection because of the media outcry and condemnation if they did and won, with Watson crying foul and Marxist bully thugs, and that it was all covertly organised by JC etc, etc.

      1. BELOW, you mean – ie your post about the Hull North vote, that is! Yes, I saw it before, and couldn’t help but wonder how one branch had 75 participants, and the others only had 2 or 3 and up to 11 participants. Any thoughts on why there would be such a large difference/discrepency?

        It would be interesting to ascertain how many members normally, on average, turn up to the branch meetings of the ‘Tom Watson’ branch in question – ie how many active members there are in that branch. Is it really possible that there are ONLY fourteen, and they just all happen to be TW supporters?!

        NB And even with the very low turnout in six of the seven Hull North branches you cite as an example (of low participation), five of them had people voting both ways, and in the other two which only had people voting one way, the branches in question voted for a different outcome to each-other, and with only TWO people voting in one case/branch, and only THREE voting in the other case/branch. My point being of course that what are the chances of fourteen people turning up to vote and ALL of them just happen to vote the same way (And against a trigger ballot).

      2. Allan Howard 11/09/2019 at 11:33 pm

        I think the voting pattern just reflects the diversity in the constituency which includes high rise flats, several large council estates, new build estates through to relatively prosperous areas like The Avenues which consists of tree lined avenues of high status Victorian buildings. The constituency also includes the university along with a substantial student population in several of its wards

      3. “But if it was corruption David, as you suggest, then surely ‘spines’ don’t enter into it, and the two points you make are contradictory?”
        Not really Allan but anger made me use uncharitable language, for which I’d apologise to any of those absent members reading my comment.
        Where there’s corruption in high places it does take what I called “spine” to challenge it or even vote against it publicly.
        It takes determination and courage to face down a dominant, probably scornful right wing cadre at meetings rather than take the easy way out and just stay away.
        I shouldn’t have accused members of lacking spine.
        Decent people understandably get worn down by entrenched corruption and the corrupt understand that only too well.

  6. Apparently to gain entry you’d had to show that you’d had ‘I X Willy Wonker ‘ tattooed on your arse!
    Rule 4, Local Rulebook.
    You’ve got to laugh or….

  7. Christ FOURTEEN just fourteen eff me there has to be an investigation into this , there is no way that the hundreds of CLP members , just couldn’t be arsed to get up and vote ,,, this STINKS of corruption

    1. 14 members at such an important meeting? I’m thick but not that thick. Let’s see what happens at the other votes. Really, 14 members. That’s taking the proverbial. It must be nice to have 100% at any vote. Remarkable really. Best wishes to all, minus 14.

  8. It shows what rubbish the trigger arrangement is, which of course was the idea. All Tom had to do was open another branch and pack the meeting. Unless there is a straightforward procedure to vote in every nomination this will just go on forever.

  9. I’m poor in the West Midlands.
    And will you fight for me?
    Or abstain on welfare cuts.
    And from voting on DV flee?
    We need socialist working class fighters.
    To rally to the working class cause.
    And need a socialist champion.
    To win the bitterest of class wars.

  10. It is worth bearing in mind that the decision to go to a trigger ballot in the Hull North Constituency was decided by 16 people.

    Below are the voting figures listed by branch. The first figure in each case represents those supporting Diana Johnson (sitting MP) and the second figure represents those voting for a trigger ballot.

    Avenue – 52/25
    Central – 0/2
    Orchard Park – 4/7
    North Carr – 4/7
    West Carr – 3/0
    University – 6/3
    Kingswood – 2/1

    It is worth noting that in its wisdom the NEC decided that although normally, branch votes are subject to a minimum turnout this is not the case for trigger ballots concerning parliamentary candidates.

      1. Carlene Edmonds 11/09/2019 at 6:40 pm

        “She says it’s not fair and is going to challenge it”

        It would be difficult to argue that the new ‘system’ isn’t flawed.

      1. RH 11/09/2019 at 6:54 pm

        Diana Johnson MP for Hull North, who was the first sitting Labour MP to be triggered, has been re-selected having attracted the overwhelming proportion of the OMOV ballot, 292 votes out of almost 400 cast.

  11. Cabals in CLP’s and branches are choking the parties ability to be truly effective. Limits on the number of years officers can stay in post would be a start and then theres the necessity to move from delegate systems to “All member meetings” where every member in CLP gets a vote

    1. “Limits on the number of years officers can stay in post would be a start”

      The more usual problem in anorexic branches is getting *anybody* to take on the various roles.

      It’s chasing after the end of the rainbow to think that there’s some massive radical block of deprived members being stymied from taking power.

      It just ain’t so. It’s a case of hard work and persuasion (and a capacity for getting bored shitless). Nothing new.

  12. There also has to be strict rules on reminding members of the trigger meetings

  13. Internet all-member voting with phone voting for those few without internet.
    I know it’s not perfect but it’d be far better than this pathetic attempt at democracy. I haven’t heard of problems with the online votes Labour’s run so far.
    There are computer programs capable of detecting anomalous activity and there’ll be more in time – the likelihood of improved systems catching today’s cheats tomorrow should put off those who’d otherwise risk it.

    1. From Wikipedia:
      In several countries, there have been allegations of retirement home residents being asked to fill out ‘absentee voter’ forms. When the forms are signed and gathered, they are secretly rewritten as applications for proxy votes, naming party activists or their friends and relatives as the proxies. These people, unknown to the voter, cast the vote for the party of their choice. In the United Kingdom, this is known as ‘granny farming.’

      Didn’t we once see something similar in the West Midlands?
      Limit the number of proxy votes one person can control and make it clear that voter fraud, even in internal Party matters, is an imprisonable offence – and if it isn’t, make it so.

    2. A great old socialist I knew had a stroke a while back and became housebound and was unable to attend meetings again so thus was disenfranchised.
      Sureley we can have a branch vote and a vote on-line to cater for all comrades including Carers and those working etc?
      What if it happened to you?
      Of course face to face discussion is best and social media may miss out on 80% of communication being non-verbal but is worth piloting or just go for it!

  14. Silly me -there was me assuming a hundred or two or at the very least or a few scores of members attend these meetings. Looks like a touch of corruption has been going on here. NEC must intervene and open selection must be passed at the conference.

    1. “Silly me”

      No – not ‘silly’. Just a bit unaware of what some branches are actually like.

      If there has been any skullduggery, then we need to know from affected branch members. But – absent that, all conspiracy theories collapse.

  15. Update on Tom Watson trigger ballots
    Four party branches have voted unanimously to reselect so far, needs one more

    It looks like TW is going to escape facing a reselection ballot.

    1. Given the pivotal roll Watson plays in sabotaging JC’s leadership and smearing and demonising him and the left, the PTB will have made absolutely certain that he stays in his position as Deputy Leader, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have ‘packed’ local branches with their minions, as such. And it certainly appears that way!

      Do you have any figures for how the branches voted?

      1. If as we both suspect the number who voted is quite small it does unfortunately indicate that it would have been relatively easy to get the opposite result and that the left are spectacularly badly organised.

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