Ann Black, balance, card, change, committee, conference, executive, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, motion, national, NEC, nullify, overturn, package, Paddy Lillis, power, Reform, representative, reverse, rule, Scottish, Void, vote, Welsh
Readers of This Blog will know that Ms Black has taken issue with me for sending a motion to Labour’s National Executive Committee, calling for it to nullify rule changes that were wrongly imposed at the party’s conference.
Then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time, broke the conventions under which voting is carried out at the conference – its rules, if you like – in order to deny delegate a chance to vote on 15 rules changes separately, and by card (which gives an accurate number of votes ‘for’ and ‘against’) rather than by hand (which doesn’t).
The package of changes included one that would put members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour on the NEC who would not be elected by their respective membership, but nominated by the regional leaders. This would have changed the composition of the NEC in a material way, as the balance of power would have changed from a narrow majority in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to a narrow majority against him.
I have reported on these facts, and on the motion that was raised by my local Labour branch and passed at a Constituency Labour Party meeting which Ms Black attended. You can read my report on it here.
Ms Black, it seems, is not happy with the result of that meeting and has been trying to claim that the motion is based on errors ever since. She is either mistaken, or she is deliberately attempting to mislead Labour Party members. If the latter, then I think it is time she handed in her resignation.
It would indicate that she got onto the Welsh Labour Grassroots ‘Left Slate’ under false pretences and should make way for somebody who actually represents the views of that organisation, including respect for democracy.
Her latest comment to This Blog was received on Thursday, when This Writer was at a meeting of a local organisation, of which I am vice-chair of its board of trustees. The meeting was 30 miles away from my home and took all day. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything but put up a few articles and call it a day. I spent yesterday (Friday) working to get caught up on the blog, and also dealing with other matters (don’t forget that I am a carer and this site is a spare-time occupation).
In the meantime, I received a message on Facebook from a Labour member elsewhere in the country, who has been communicating with me because he is interested in submitting a motion to his own CLP, similar to mine. He told me he had been in communication with Ms Black and she had said she had submitted comments to my blog but I had not published them.
Is it paranoid of me to take this as an implication that I only publish comments that support my own opinions? That would be outrageously offensive.
You can see from the foregoing that I have been busy, and you can also see – from the comment columns attached to other articles – that I publish comments of all kinds, reserving the right to respond if I think it is necessary.
This is the first chance I have had to respond to Ms Black, so I think I’ll make her a special case. After all of the foregoing, I’m sure you’ll want to know what she had to say – and I certainly have a few things to offer in reply. She begins:
Life is too short to pick up all the errors online and elsewhere, but here goes:
Oh, I’m in error online and elsewhere, am I? How interesting that she frames her comment with such an assertion from the start.
1) Lifting the motion from a website. I said this because someone in Lewes submitted a motion with text identical to that on voxpoliticalonline, right down to mis-spelling Christine Shawcroft’s name as Shawcross. Clearly they had the same origin. I don’t believe Mike gave his surname at the Brecon meeting, but accept that he wrote the motion and Lewes lifted it, rather than both lifting from the voxpolitical original. Interestingly after I’d corresponded with Lewes they amended their motion to keep the sense but correct most of the inaccuracies in Mike’s version;
This refers to her claim, voiced at the CLP all-member meeting, that I lifted my motion from another website. I commented on this in an email to branch members, who knew that I had published the motion on Vox Political. As a result I received a rather incredulous reply from one member, asking: “She thinks you plagiarised yourself?” Yup.
She accepts now that I wrote the motion and the website where she read it was my own. She says she was confused by a motion that went to Lewes CLP(?) that was exactly the same, including the misspelling of Christine Shawcroft’s name (which is simply a typo. I try to ensure everything is right but sometimes errors creep in).
She says Lewes has since amended its motion to remove the inaccuracies in mine – presumably these are limited to the misspelling of Ms Shawcroft’s name and, possibly, an amendment of the claim that the CAC committee’s conditions are rules, even though they are de facto rules for the running of conference, as we have discussed already. If that’s what she wants to call an error, I think she’s in a minority.
2) I took no part in running the meeting, either to curtail or extend discussion – I’m not a member and would not dream of intervening;
Nor did I suggest that she did. She was a guest speaker whose speech was primarily a long attempt to justify the actions of the NEC over the summer – the moratorium on meetings, the ‘purge’ of party members in the run-up to the leadership vote, and so on.
3) Ditto the vote on the motion, where I gave my views, but as always it’s up to local members to decide;
Again, I did not suggest otherwise. Was it appropriate for her to comment as part of a discussion among CLP members, where she was not a member? I didn’t have the chance to call for her not to take part on the day – I tried but was not able to be heard. It seemed to me that her comments as an NEC member might carry more weight with members than they deserved. As it turned out, I need not have worried.
4) However where Mike says that there was “a huge amount of support”, the vote was recorded as 17 in favour, 11 against, two abstentions. I can understand why calls for a card vote at conference were seen as having “a huge amount of support” if that’s your definition;
Yes, the vote was recorded as 17 for the motion, 11 against, and two abstentions. In fact, one of the ‘against’ votes was intended to be for the motion but the lady doing the voting was 96 and was not able to get her hand up in time. I was only made aware of this fact at a branch meeting on Wednesday, otherwise I think the vote should have been run again to allow her vote to be recorded accurately. The motion had nearly twice as much support as opposition.
Even taking the vote as recorded, it’s 56.67 per cent in favour against 36.67 per cent against – almost as large a majority as Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” first Labour leadership election victory. I think support for my motion was big enough – don’t you?
5) Mike and other speakers for the motion said that it was nothing to do with Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC. Which raises the question of why he put them into his motion and why they are mentioned in most of the commentaries here and elsewhere about rule changes at conference.
This comment seems to be suggesting that the motion is about eliminating the nominated representatives to the NEC, and the illegitimacy of the way the vote was carried out is simply a means to that end.
It seems to me that this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack – Ms Black is suggesting that my motives are other than I have presented them – in an attempt to undermine support for me, as the person putting forward the motion, because she cannot defeat the logic of the motion itself.
What a nasty, underhanded way to behave! Is that the behaviour we would expect from a member of Labour’s highest authority? I don’t think so.
I could argue, in opposition, that Paddy Lillis intended to gerrymander those undemocratic, nominated-rather-than-elected, members onto the NEC and denied delegates their right to a card vote, taking each of the 15 rule changes separately, in order to achieve that. Such a suggestion would have more validity than Ms Black’s, because the facts strongly support it.
We have seen evidence, since I wrote my motion, that the 15 rule changes were not sent to the NEC as a package, but as separate measures; that the CAC members were misled into believing they were to be taken as a package; and that there is no precedent at all for new rules to be forced through as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ package at an annual conference, meaning the claim from the platform that it was standard practice is a lie.
None of the above changes the facts as laid out in my motion – that Mr Lillis broke the rules (or conventions, if you like) under which votes are taken at conference, meaning the result of that particular vote is therefore his will and not the will of the conference, and should be disregarded.
I mentioned Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour representation on the NEC in the motion in order to make absolutely sure that there could be no doubt about the package of measures to which I was referring. If I had not, it seems possible (if not downright likely) that attempts would have been made to confuse those measures with some other conference vote, or otherwise render my motion invalid or void.
I have no wish to deny Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour an opportunity to have representatives on the NEC – but I do believe those representatives must be democratically elected by the memberships of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour, not unelected nominees of the regional parties’ leaders (or, in the case of Scottish Labour, the leader herself, having taken it upon herself to seize the seat on the NEC that was offered to her).
There are serious and legitimate concerns here, but it’s helpful to get the facts straight first.
It is indeed – but Ms Black was trying to distort them.
I think she needs to reconsider her position, as a matter of urgency – not just regarding this matter, but also her position on the National Executive Committee.
Looking at the recent controversy over the NEC’s support for a report attacking members of Wallasey CLP, that contains accusations of criminal behaviour without solid evidence to support it, I wonder how Ms Black voted on that matter?
This behaviour should not be tolerated. We need representatives who will actually represent us, rather than peddling lies and distortions.
Am I right?
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