Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: the leaked legal letter sent to Labour as members seek to block power-grab by right-wing NEC tomorrow

Unions and left organisations also object to attempt to bypass members in rule-change to elect NEC members

Four Labour members have sent a detailed legal letter to the Labour Party attempting to block an attempt, tabled for tomorrow, by right-wingers on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to bypass member democracy and change the way NEC representatives are elected – which activists on the left believe would permanently stack the NEC in favour of the right..

Left unions including Unite, the Bakers, FBU and Aslef, along with left activist groups, have raised objections to the move, which would change the party’s rules without the approval of Labour’s conference – which the rules require.

But four members have engaged legal firm Bindmans to contact the party to advise that unless the NEC follows Labour’s rules and defers any change until the next annual conference, they will take legal action.

Bindmans’ letter, of which the key elements are shown below, is addressed to new general secretary David Evans and begins by outlining the power-grab of which their clients have become aware:

The firm reminds Evans that conference is sovereign according to the party’s rules – while the NEC’s powers with regard to elections to places on the NEC are limited to executing what the rules set by conference say:

Our clients’ concerns regarding the STV Proposal

3.1 The relationship between the members of the Party, including the members of the NEC, are governed by the Labour Party Rule Book (the “Rules”), which constitutes a contract between those members. That contract includes rules relating to the powers of the NEC and the election of representatives to the NEC, including Division III (CLP) representatives.
3.2 The Rules make clear the supreme authority of Party Conference as to amendments to the constitution and rules of the Party, in
particular at Chapter 1, Clause X.4

3.3 No other constituent part of the Labour Party is given such overarching powers [as conference is]. It is therefore the case that the powers of any other constituent body within the Party, including the NEC are strictly limited to those delegated to them by the Rules.
3.4 The NEC’s powers in relation to the election of representatives on national committees are in this respect are limited to the determination of procedural matters and guidelines on the conduct of such elections and do not extend to the method of election.
Thus, Chapter 4, Clause III includes the following introductory words: “The NEC will also issue procedural guidelines on nominations, timetable, codes of conduct for candidates and other matters relating to the conduct of these elections.”

After providing legal precedent for their interpretation of the party’s rules, Bindmans makes clear that if the NEC attempts to exceed its powers by changing the rules, legal action will follow:

Conclusion

4.1 In light of the above, should the NEC proceed to introduce STV for Division III (CLP) representatives at the NEC meeting on Tuesday 30 June 2020, our clients will have no choice but to consider a court challenge.
4.2 We therefore look forward to a response to this letter by return confirming that the STV Proposal will not be considered by the NEC at the meeting on 30 June 2020. We would otherwise welcome a full substantive response to this letter within fourteen days, that is by 13 July 2020.

Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) assistant secretary Jake Rubin has described the implications of the change:

[T]here is a real danger of the party sleepwalking into a change that Labour’s members have not scrutinised or debated through its democratic structures, at either local CLP level or at party conference…

Saying that STV would risk NEC elections becoming a ‘beauty contest’, Rubin went on:

This sudden decision to change the voting system so soon before the election will happen is even more suspicious given there is no conference this year and calls into question whether the motivation is really to improve the party’s democratic process or actually to change the make-up of the NEC for factional advantage.

Activists fear that STV – single transferable vote – would render the NEC elections far more complex for the left to coordinate and would permanently entrench a right-wing advantage on the body responsible for key organisational and disciplinary decisions – which also has the power to summarily expel members.

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39 comments

  1. It looks to me as if the various factions are trying to present us with a false choice of being either ‘stitched up’ by the NEC or being ‘stitched up’ conference.

    Why can’t the members decide?

    Why can’t we have an all member vote?

    1. Good news. The NEC have voted by 19 to 12 in favour of STV, The switch from FPTP to an STV system will apply to this years elections of the NEC’s CLP section.

  2. It looks to me as if the various factions are presenting us with a false choice, we either get ‘stitched up’ by the NEC or Conference,

    Why can’t we, the members, decide?

    Why can’t we have an all members vote?

    After all, we are told that we are a democratic members led party.

      1. Toffee – Don’t you believe in democracy, what do you have against the membership deciding on this issue via a democratic OMOV ballot.

    1. Absent a Conference, that is the only acceptable option. But …. to do that would require a vote of Conference, I reckon, or we’re shafted by the justified reason for opposing the idea. It comes full circle.

      The Labour Party is in a mess, one component of which is a general historical support for FPTP in general elections, which has actually handed the Tories the keys to the door. There is nothing supremely ‘democratic’ about FPTP in essence..

      1. RH
        FPTP, comes down to small swings in key seats making a huge difference
        Not least the fact that the Tories can buy these votes

  3. The problem that does exist in (all) our elections can be found in candidate statements which are never more than, ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie’ accounts of my worthiness. Sir Charmers leadership election for example, told me nothing much of what is coming to pass, except perhaps by reference to double-meaning generalisations. On so many occasions when voting for union candidates, I understand little of what the various, quite opposing, candidates stand for on the major issues. Beauty contests will perpetuate this lack of clarity if candidate statements become the sole means for judgment. For me, a preference vote is not really the main concern. I could readily accept preference voting if it was accompanied by clarity of the programmes upon which the beauties stand – which in practice means slates.

    1. It’s called the TWatson and Lansman dilemma
      Left can commit on manifesto and statement on AS Scam and ask candidates to sign up to it with power to sack them if they let us down
      Now remind me how we get rid of Pantomime Dame

  4. Two unions missing in action GMB and Unison
    Twas GMB wot gave us our new General Secretary, never again, who is organising their election campaign

  5. 1st July- righwing Likud Government prepares Trump-enabled annexation of occupied Palestinian Territories and pro-billionaire labour right wing prepare to annex Europe’s largest democratic socialist party – I AM VERY GLAD I DECIDED TO STAY AND FIGHT in the Labour Party

    1. The hard right billionaire’s free press support Sir Nicely Nicely’s centrist agenda, so thank you SW for reporting this dirty, devious move by Starmer and his Trilateral Commission backers.

      Goodness and Strength to you and Skwawkbox.

  6. I decided not to ‘stay and fight’ because those three words are a travesty of the truth.
    Being milked as cash cows is not fighting.
    How will you fight handcuffed with their knees on your necks?
    Meekly accepting the cancellation of Conference is not fighting, it’s unconditional surrender.
    Good generals withdraw and regroup rather than be taken prisoner.

    1. “Being milked as cash cows is not fighting.”

      Quite. Interesting to see how FaceBook soon responded when large advertisers began withdrawing revenue. What a pity the same is unlikely to happen with the Labour membership, especially when you think the party was on it’s knees financially before Corbyn became leader and the membership more than quadrupled.

      Unfortunately, it also gave the right wing a sense of security enough to attack the left mercilessly, safe in the knowledge that the party was now solvent again. I’ve no idea of the real figures but the additional membership plus their donations must have brought in somewhere around £15 to £20 million extra at a conservative estimate.

      While the rightward shift might bring back some of the large corporate donors lost under Corbyn’s tenure, it would be unlikely to match that sort of figure or else why was the party’s financial situation so desperate beforehand. Nor would a Tory-lite party be likely to attract much income from traditional Tory donors – why pay for a copy when you can have the real thing instead for the same price?

      Sadly, money always speaks louder than principles to these scumbags, so hit them where it really hurts – trying to appeal to their sense of reason and fair play is hardly ever likely to cut it.

      1. @PW

        They made enough money from Corbyn to pull Labour our of massive debt after their disastrous remain campaign. They now have a nice little war chest again.

        Some of that money was mine, and I feel fleeced.

    2. Lots of things are a ‘travesty of truth’ David, but ‘making socialists’ and working hard to keep Labour left (and resist the vile subterfuge of the labour right) are not two of them.

      I respect your decision to leave but cannot myself.

      1. qwertboi – It was reported back in January that Labour had gained an additional 100,000 members in the period immediately following the 2019 GE. It has recently been reported that we now have around 580,000 members.
        Labour is getting more popular, not less as some on here falsely proselytise.

  7. What a shambles his Lordship’s party is becoming, quite what it is that he hopes will eventually appeal to us muggles I have no idea.

    1. Thing is, John – it’s not a ‘shambles’ from the perspective of the Israel Lobby. For them, it’s all going swimmingly.

      JVL has re-published a couple of articles by Jonathan Cook on this issue, which are well worth reading :

      https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/jonathan-cook-on-america-israel-starmer-and-antisemitism/

      To those leaving the Party over Starmer, he has an important point to make :

      “Starmer will doubtless sigh with relief if the outpouring of threats on social media from left-wing members to quit over Long-Bailey’s sacking actually materialises. …….

      …..His only remaining challenge will be to keep the membership in check.”

      1. Yes the whole thing looks designed to get the left to leave the party and leave them a clear opportunity, however looking to the future if it eventually does become clear that the Labour Party isn’t a home for socialists then we should collectively up sticks and reform as a genuine British Socialist Party and take some Unions etc with us hopefully.
        Four and a half years to a GE so we can afford a few to try and get it right- I mean left 🙂

  8. You have to hand it to the corrupt, careerist, Labour Right and their new ‘Trilateral Commission creature’, Starmer – compared to the pathetic , always accommodating to the Right, servile timidity of the short Corbyn years of squandered opportunity, these bastards are moving ruthlessly at warp speed to get permanent control of all component parts of the Party – as it rushes headlong from being the biggest, most Left Wing democratic party in Europe under Corbyn – to one that is essentially indistinguishable (apart from minor opportunist tactical quibbles) from the Tory Party !

    Such a politically bankrupt neoliberal ‘Reserve Party of UK Capitalism’ will of course shed members so quickly that Labour will soon be back to the pitiful numbers of the later Blair/Brown years, totally dependent upon dodgy billionaires for funding, and doomed to be forever in Opposition – given that those old Labour heartlands (including Scotland) are lost to a neoliberal Labour Party forever now .

    What is to be done ? As someone once asked. Battle fruitlessy AGAIN to ‘turn Labour Left’ for the umpteenth futile generation of activists political lives ? Or say, ‘fuck it – Labour is lost forever to neoliberal careerists’, and work to persuade the handful of Left-led trades unions to back a new radical Left socialist party – but deeply rooted in the working class this time, not the dilettante, Left Liberal middle classes (and their often crazy obsessions) – and one with some aggression and bottle this time – unlike the timid pseudo radical , solely Parliamentary-focussed play-acting of ‘Corbynism ! Its a big task – very difficult to achieve – but then the endless, always doomed-to-failure, task of the Left in the Labour Party to ‘turn it Left’ – is an IMPOSSIBLITY – as surely four futile years of ‘Corbynism’ should show all but the most politically blind. !

    1. Oh, it was all ‘play-acting’, was it?! Well THAT obviously explains why the Establishment and their MSM propaganda machine just spent four years demonising and smearing Jeremy and his allies and the left-wing membership and Momentum, and Momentum activists in particular.

      Yep, four futile years, during which Jeremy came very close to winning the 2017 GE (and THAT of course is why the saboteurs then trebled down on their smearing and machinations).

      1. You are evidently a political novice with the memory of a goldfish , Allan Howard. And seem to have failed to actually read my post. When did the Corbyn circle, who were backed by the vast bulk of the Labour Party membership, and key unions like UNITE, EVER seriously confront the constant sabotage of the Labour PLP Right ? Was a single Right wing saboteur MP deselected ? Was Momentum ever built into the politically educated mass movement it could have been ,(before Lansman’s ,Jeremy Corbyn approved, coup turned Momentum into a depoliticised canvassing force and tame vehicle for Lansman’s crony’s personal career advancement) ? The Corbyn circle spent their entire time during the 2015 to 2019 Corbyn Surge years watering down their previous lifelong socialist politics and grovelling to the Labour Right’s constant abuse and sabotage .

        So , yes, all the Corbyn Circle of long term career tame PLP Lefties, did, when they were , for the one and only time, the Leadership of our Party, was play-act a purely verbal Left radicalism, but in fact retreat from the attacks of the Right . The proof is today’s re-captured by the Right Labour Party – with hardly a serious bit of opposition by the Labour Left . The constant attacks of the PLP Right and constant smears of the entire MSM should have been expected if a Left Leadership ever got elected in the Labour Party – and a forceful, organised Left response pre-planned . Instead we got constant retreat and accommodation by the Left to the Right – as per usual in the entire sad history of the Labour Left. Deny that as much as you like , bozo – but that is what happened. The reformist , Parliamentary politics-obsessed, very comfortably off with those Parliamentary salaries thank yo very much, posturing PLP old Left can never build a party of genuine transformative socialist radicalism . The Labour Party is a busted flush. A new socialist party is our only hope.

      2. Yes, it’s true, I do have the memory of a goldfish (my friends call me Klaus!).

      3. jpenney, rightly or wrongly I thought at the time that Corbyn probably felt the “Stalinist!” smear to be more dangerous than any other and tried hard to compromise for that reason.
        I find it hard to believe that it was weakness from a man whose whole political life has been spent fighting powerful established interests.
        I don’t believe he’d submit to blackmail either, except possibly blackmail by the unions.
        Bad advice from trusted old friends? Possibly.

      4. Bad Penny
        On one level your right
        Your a fucking anti semite and a racist MH
        I’m sorry you feel that way JC
        Supports you on weakness of JC, John McDonnell was touted as the enforcer and called both the AS Scam and Brexit wrong
        But to ignore the effect of Brexit on all parties is naive

  9. It may be arguable but in my judgement Corbyn’s personal qualities were entirely responsible for the huge membership expansion.
    The “Oh Jeremy Corbyn/Glastonbury effect” may never be recapured even by Jeremy, but I’d put my hopes on him rather than on anyone else I’ve yet seen.
    “Squandered opportunity” is unfair I think, given that we now know the lengths to which the Blairites went to block him and prevent the party being pushed to the left.
    I’ll admit to personal frustration at passivity in the face of constant attacks, but nobody can be sure even in hindsight that counterattacks would have succeeded any better.

    One little question just this minute occurred to me – am I correct in thinking the 2019 manifesto is still Labour’s official manifesto until the next Conference – and isn’t there surely some rule obliging a new party leader, the PLP and the officers to pursue its policies even from opposition – or can they simply overrule Conference decisions?

  10. We are well on the way to an economic crisis that will delight George Osborne purely because “It will be visible from space”, which was his crude measure of the value of any project. Meanwhile, our new leadership spends most time giving the impression that it is working to earn the plaudits of the Tory-biased media.
    In the four years of the Corbyn leadership of the party, what did the left actually do to properly organise the renewed enthusiasm for left leadership? What did the left do to create proper processes for party democracy, and what did it do to neutralize the pernicious activities of the right -including the precipitous push from the right, into the anti-Semitism crisis?
    Why is the left internally factional to the point, quite clearly, of almost total paralysis such that the right factions can easily come together to create and promote their own brand of mischief apparently to much greater effect than the majority left? Is the left naive enough to believe that setting an example of better behaviour will encourage the right to meekly fall into line?
    Answers on a postcard please…..

    1. Karl – “In the four years of the Corbyn leadership of the party, what did the left actually do to properly organise the renewed enthusiasm for left leadership? What did the left do to create proper processes for party democracy”

      I wish I was able to say sweet FA because that would be a distinct improvement on what has actually occurred where we have seen various Union leaders doing all they can to thwart the democratisation of the party because they are more concerned about maintaining the power of their block votes than the progression of the Labour movement led by the hopes and dreams of its membership.

  11. I see on Twitter that Gabriel Pogrund is reporting that Lara McNeill asked Keir if he will uphold the same zero tolerance approach on AS to Rachael Reeves praise for Nancy Astor? He said ‘I’m not going to discuss that.’ One rule for one and another rule for everyone else. I’m seriously thinking of leaving. I might wait to see how the NEC elections go but I’m on the cusp.

      1. Why 12 months
        No one knows when financial pandemic will hit, not least what damage No Deal will have, oppositions rarely win elections governments tend to lose them badly
        My dog would have won in 97

    1. Hard to disagree with Counterfire’s cogent analysis there, Pat Roberts – unless one is a perpetual blind optimist about the potential for shrugging off every defeat by the Labour Right in the vain hopes of ‘turning Labour Left’ at some very far in the future point – which never arrives ! .

      1. The advances made on the left in 2015 and 2016 are still firmly entrenched in the party,
        It is simply upto us to take advantage of them, the demographics are all in our favour, where is the natural leader
        The internal Labour report has set us up for the biggest clear out of Quislings and Bad Actors this party has ever seen, starting with Blair

  12. Yesterday (Tuesday) the NEC voted by 19 to 12 in favour of STV, The switch from FPTP to an STV system will apply to this years elections of the NEC’s CLP section.

    1. That’s what you need to learn from right wing nothing stops them
      So now let’s see the legal challenge

      1. Doug – Why are the self appointed guardians of ‘the left’ so afraid of STV.

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