I won’t tell you the exact number of people attending, but it was more than usually attend meetings of the Constituency Labour Party.
Why so many?
They were angry – and with good reason.
Over the course of a long summer, they have been dismayed to see their democratic rights as members eroded or removed altogether by the self-interested actions of privileged members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, and enacted by the party secretary. They want payback – and who can blame them?
So the meeting agreed to send two motions to the Constituency Labour Party, to be ratified there before going on to the appropriate authorities.
The first “notes with alarm the imposition of new rules of conduct by the National Executive Committee which said to be intended to prevent abusive behaviour between members but seems to have been used as a tool to purge people from the party prior to the leadership election, by suspension or expulsion. There seems to have been no rigid standard, and the NEC ‘panels’ enforcing the new rules seem to have relied on their own arbitrary prejudices.
“This means that people have been purged for things they have said on social media in the distant past that do not relate to their political lives in any way. Some have been purged over previous support for policies put forward by other parties – but why should they be barred from Labour just because they have come here from another political organisation? Others have been purged for reasons that can only be described as ridiculous – such as the person who expressed her support for a particular rock band in a forceful way. All of the letters notifying members that they are no longer members had Iain McNicol’s name attached to them.
“As general secretary, Mr McNicol has legal responsibility for the Labour Party and must ensure that everything done by the party is legal. He has not ensured that the processing of complaints against members has achieved an acceptable standard and – because this directly relates to the leadership ballot – this means he has not ensure that the processing of ballots to members has been carried out properly.
“We therefore call for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Mr McNicol and demand his removal from the post of general secretary of the Labour Party.”
The second calls on the NEC “to nullify the recent vote at party conference on a package of 15 rule changes, including the addition of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour representatives to the NEC, on the grounds that Mr Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time of the vote, prevented members from voting on the changes in the proper manner.
“On Sunday, September 25, Mr Lillis refused calls by members for a proper debate and ballot on each individual NEC rule change and called a vote by a simple show of hands on the Conference Arrangements Committee’s report, that said the NEC’s proposals would be packaged as one ‘take it or leave it’ bundle. Forcing the vote to be by show of hands only meant there was no proper oversight. Although the numbers of hand for and against were clearly closely-matched, Mr Lillis called out “overwhelmingly carried” and moved on, ignoring demands that he abide by the rules and carry out a card vote that would be properly monitored and counted. If a single delegate requests a card vote, then it must take place, so this was a clear breach of the voting rules.
“The following day, delegates against asked for ‘reference back’ – a proper debate and vote – on the ‘pre-pack’ of the rule changes, and again Mr Lillis refused.
“On Tuesday, September 27, the vote on the packaged rules was scheduled to take place. Once again, many delegates stood to denounce the pre-pack as anti-democratic and demanded both a proper debate and vote on each change and that each decision should be made by card vote. Mr Lillis and the CAC chair dismissed demands that the rules of the Labour Party be followed, insisting on only a show of hands – even when a member of the NEC itself, Christine Shawcross, spoke to remind him that the party rules state, unequivocally, that if a delegate requests a card vote, a card vote must take place.
“The show of hands was again hard to judge, but Mr Lillis simply said it was clearly carried. The vote then took place in the early afternoon. Because the Unite union had a number of rule changes it wanted included in the bundle, delegates from the UK’s largest union were instructed to abstain, meaning that the eventual vote (which was always going to be by card) was won by a significant majority that does not reflect conference’s feeling on the individual rule changes or the manner in which they were presented.
“The decision to allow the rule changes cannot be allowed to stand as Labour Party voting rules were broken on at least two occasions. As they stand, these rule changes are unenforceable and no party unit is obliged to abide by any decisions made under them. According to party rules, the NEC is authorised to adjudicate in disputes that arise at any level of the party and, according to party rules, the NEC must find that the vote on the new rules was carried out improperly and should be rendered null and void. We call on the NEC to do so, at its earliest opportunity.
“Note: As this matter concerns the rule change which allows representatives of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour to sit on the NEC, it is clear that they have a conflict of interest and may not vote on it.”
Undoubtedly members of other Labour party branches and constituency organisation across the UK. Perhaps they would like to consider submitting their own motions or supporting these.
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