Labour NEC member should reconsider her position if she continues to oppose democracy

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

By “reconsider her position”, I mean Ann Black should resign and make way for somebody who is willing to represent Labour Party members, if she is determined to deny the facts.

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?

Send me your opinion using the comment box below. Please indicate whether you are  a Labour member or not.

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5 thoughts on “Labour NEC member should reconsider her position if she continues to oppose democracy

  1. Vanda Bubear

    You’re totally right, of course. This woman was re-elected under false pretences and should be unceremoniously booted back off the NEC, just as she and her cohorts underhandedly trawled social media, breaking data protection laws in the process, in order to suspend members. HER actions, and those of the rest of the NEC, have caused many long-standing Labour party members extreme stress and anxiety, and in the real world she should be utterly and thoroughly ashamed of herself. I would like to see the back of her, personally, and the likes of Eagle and Umunna who continue to spit venom to the mainstream media, such is their hatred of Corbyn.

    I’ve said it before. DEMOCRACY within the Labour Party died this summer, to the eternal shame of those given responsibility of upholding it. Nothing short of blatant gerrymandering, in order to bolster Smith’s pathetic campaign and make him look less pathetic. If the purge of Corbyn supporters had not been allowed, as per true democracy, then Corbyn would have won by a 75-77% landslide.

    This whole episode has been, and continues to be, a stain on the reputation of the party and we will not be electable until the likes of Mcnicol and Black are gone, and replaced with true Labourites with socialist values who will support their DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED leader. I would support mandatory deselection of all those who perpetrated this coup, and who continue to subvert democracy for their own ends.

    You only have to look at what happened in the Commons under a three-line whip – Blairites again saw only their own egos and their own agendas, never mind the women and children being blown up and starved to death in Yemen, let’s get a dig in at Corbyn. DISGUSTING. The very same MPs who chose to vote in support of the Iraq war and bombing Syria.

    We will not let this pass by the wayside. Justice has to be seen to be done. Blue Labour’s days are numbered, precisely because we, the members, do not want Tory lite, or centrist, or Blair. He’s the reason we lost the last 3 elections – people want a left-wing, socialist Labour Party once again. Those MPs and NEC members who cannot accept this and who are only interested in themselves, and feathering their own nests, should go join the Tory party.

  2. Florence

    Mike, our CLP voted to support a similar motion regarding the composite motion. I had several of the “old guard” arguing before the meeting in terms uncannily similar to Ms Black’s against the motion. Those were also noted as being of the computer illiterati. However, a much delayed conference report was given first, which condemned the vote. As a result we passed the resolution with a large majority.

    All this is a preamble to the main point. There is a sizable minority in the party who still use the BBC and the odd email for news. These are somehow convinced that any member of the party in elected or appointed positions, such as the new Welsh NEC member, are all inherently decent socialists who would not act to harm the party, and that their opposition to Corbyn must therefore be because they have genuine and noble ethical (socialist) doubts about him. They refuse to believe that Eagle and an NEC report, for example, would not be truthful. They refuse to accept that any information gained, say from an Independent article, if accessed by the internet is of any value, but a printed newspaper copy is, while ignoring that fact that much journalism is now only accessible online. Apart from these attitudes revealing a deep rift among members split along the lines of choice of media, it is also a gift to the members such as Ms Black in being able to use email to create their versions as the only truth in town. The Yemen vote is another such casualty.

    The position of Black, and indeed others such as Tom Watson, have been secured by misleading members in their elections. This has damaged the Party greatly, especially for newer members. Of course one can support the great intentions outlined in the first comment of repopulating the Party heirarchy with differently-thinking members, but in the meanwhile we have the actual day to day reality of trying to deal with this at branch level. We have to have a strategy on his to do that, before the elections in May (in Wales) as these are the same stalwarts who will be out on the doorsteps with their “won’t win the next GE under Corbyn” attitude.

    Any suggestions? Anyone?

    1. Steven

      Lets be totally sure Ann is against the members first. She was against the disenfranchisement of recent joiners by the NEC at the time, and voted to have corbyn on the ballot and always publishes her thoughts. I explained to her that i think the party machine has either misled her or shes been too forgiving of it, but im still a long way from sure shes been against the membership.

      In this case, Mike seems intent on throwing his rattle out of the pram over relatively minor technical details shes clearing up and the premature implication of censorship.

      With Ann;s high level responsiveness, high level transparency and near total oppostion to the worst manipulations of the Blairite right INCLUDING the NEC package (see that she was worried about a stitch up on leftfutures, and here stated the concerns were “legitimate” and “serious” I am still a million miles away from concluding that shes acting to support the antidemocratic machinations of the Blairites but consider it entirely reasonable to consider that she and the the rest of the left are outnumbered by the right at the NEC and misled by the right both at the NEC and by party staff, who are all Blairite controlled.

      Ann shows too many signs of democratic legitimacy for me to have any level of certainty that she is actually supporting the blairite corruptions.

      An indication of exactly which motion she will support in realtion to the NEC stitch up- if for example, she actually endorses the Lewes motion now, will give us a better indicator of where she stands.

      But knowing Ann, with her progreammer type mind, dont expect her to support something which she knows contains faults.

      For her and those with a technical mind, the rules do not in fact state what Mike said they do. But such a fine point shouldnt be cause for anger when we all know that the CAC report does, and is specified by the rules as the source of the restrictions on the panel for card voting.

      So lets see if we actually have her support in this, because it seems to me that we actually might.

      “legitimate” and “serious” are significant points of agreement.


      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Well, Ms Black had her say, and I had mine.
        I stand by my words.
        I disagree with yours.
        I invite comment from readers.

Comments are closed.