The contents of this email seems to have been the reason, for the cancellation of Wednesdays Wentworth & Dearne CLP meeting?
It is very good and deserves a wider circulation.
This email is intended for delegates and members of Wentworth and Dearne CLP – apologies if this email does not apply to you. Please can you forward this on to other delegates not included in the distribution, or to those invited to the meeting on Wednesday. And please feel free to forward it to any other member.
The urgent issue that needs to be raised is that the meeting to nominate a leadership candidate has been limited to delegates only, excluding a great number of members from this important democratic process, in particular the large number that joined since the last general election who expected to take part in the democratic processes of the party to make a positive change, but who are now at risk of feeling disenfranchised or alienated.
What makes this particularly problematic, in contrast to the usual delegate structure used for more routine party business, is that it contradicts the mechanism introduced following the Collins Report, whereby the procedure for electing the party leader was intended to be wide-reaching and fully inclusive, reflected by the introduction of the one-member-one-vote method. This was intended to give each individual member and supporter a say in the direction of the party.
The Collins Report stated this in its introduction:
It also observed the following in laying out the context for reform being necessary:
“branches were often moribund and controlled by a small number of overworked enthusiasts … Processes tended to be
bureaucratic and based around meetings and minutes. Most members were far removed from centres of decision making”
[quote from Tony Blair, 1993]
The Collins Report and its recommendations were accepted by Wentworth and Dearne CLP without any significant criticism or disagreement, and thus should be conducting itself in line with the changes that followed from it. On the contrary, the CLP has now resorted to practices strongly criticised in the report.
In particular contrast to the sentiments captured in the above extracts from the report:
- The relationship with ordinary men and women in communities in Rotherham has not been broadened and deepened; it is being damaged by treating them as irrelevant, excluding them from a meeting when the agreed routine practice is to invite ALL members.
- Branches have been excluded, secret meetings have been held, and members have been removed from any decision making.
- People have joined the Labour Party to be agents of change themselves, but are being prevented from being such.
- The CLP is pushing itself inwards by using bureaucratic methods and privileges to exclude the local community and the people that it is supposed to represent. This will push potential new members away from the party, not draw them in.
The only way in which to conduct the nomination meeting, to ensure the Collins Report is not entirely dismissed as irrelevant against the democratic decisions of the CLP and the wider party, is to invite all members of the CLP, and also to give them voting rights to ensure the participatory inclusiveness recommended by the Collins Report with respect to leadership elections.
An equally if not more important matter of fact that must be considered for the meeting is the standing orders of the CLP, which state:
All members of the CLP are eligible to attend CLP GMC meetings as non-voting observers”
- Excluding members from the meeting is in breach of standing orders.
- Not giving any priority to the introduction of new members is in breach of standing orders.
- Discussing matters of interest to party members without them being present seems to contradict standing orders.
- If nominations for delegates and representatives should be sought as widely from among party members as possible, surely this applies to nominations for the party leader.
- Clearly excluding members breaches standing orders in respect of “maximising participation from members”
In addition, the Labour Party rule book states:
“Nominations for leader … shall be sent in writing … and each CLP shall be entitled to make nominations”
The CLP is made up of all members, not just delegates, and by completely excluding the majority of members from voting and participating in the debate about making a nomination for the party leader means that any decision taken has not been made by the CLP, but rather by a very small section of it, which clearly breaches the rules.
In fact the aims and values of a CLP, as stated in the rule book, include [chapter 7 clause II]:
I now urge the secretary or any other person with the appropriate organisational authority and responsibility to immediately postpone the meeting and notify all the members.
It has been suggested that the CLP executive has been following advice that contradicts the specific duties detailed in the rule book and standing orders. If this is the case, such advice must be made available to the members. But surely such important changes to the rules must go through some form of democratic decision-making process; there has been none, and as such any advice must be invalid anyway. In fact, as the standing orders state:
“No alterations shall be made to the Rules and Standing Orders of the organisation except at an Annual or Special Meeting called for this purpose and carried with the support of two thirds of the members present. No alteration shall be effective until it has received the appropriate officer of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party”
Unite delegate, Wath BLP member