Good news for the Labour left and socialists in the Labour Party. Many members who joined in 2015 and 2016 have now become eligible to stand as delegates to Labour’s annual conference (24-27 September) and there has been a significant increase in the number of delegate registrations. Many Constituency Labour Parties are now sending as many delegates as they are entitled to, rather than just one delegate, or none, as so many did during the Blair/ Brown/ Miliband years.
Nominations coming in for membership of the Conference Arrangements Committee and National Constitutional Council have gone four to one in favour of the left-backed candidates. This is significant; the CAC in particular will have a big influence over the conduct of the 2018 conference, where many motions on rule changes, aiming to democratise the party, motions that have been proposed this year, will be finalised, discussed and voted on.
A big influx of left-leaning delegates and newer and younger members attending conference has the potential to shake up it up and help get the left prepared to win more influence in the Party.
Momentum is gathering information on who has been selected as a delegate and unlike last year, has promised to be organised during the conference to coordinate delegates. It remains to be seen exactly what this coordination will be, but we hope it can promote genuine debate and thus stop some of the stage-managed feel of previous conferences.
Regular delegate meetings, coordinating with the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy on a new delegates’ briefing, and producing material for delegates explaining the business and highlighting the key votes would all be a good start.
MPs should not have a “job for life”
Labour MP for Derby North Chris Williamson has rightly said that MPs cannot expect a job for life and should not be surprised if their local parties wish to replace them. “There are interest groups and individual MPs in this party who think it’s their God-given right to rule. No MP should be guaranteed a job for life and it’s crucial that we all get with the times.
“MPs elected in earlier phases of this party run the risk of failing to understand what is really going on out there in society. Although this Party’s hundreds of thousands of new members were once demonised, the election has shown that the political instincts of these members are in line with popular opinion. For our party to succeed these members must be listened to.”
Unfortunately, this argument for basic democracy in the Party, the idea that Labour members should be able to choose their representative, has once against caused consternation. Shadow Education Secretary and Corbyn supporter Angela Rayner felt obliged to call for a vague unity and for Labour to stop looking inward. The issue flared up after Momentum supporters won a majority on the executive of Liverpool Wavertree Labour Party and publicly told their MP, Luciana Berger, she should “get on board quite quickly” if she wanted to avoid being challenged for her seat.
Rule changes on trigger ballots and attempts to reform Labour selection procedures will be discussed at the 2018 Party conference. One such motion says; “If a CLP is represented in parliament by a member of the PLP, then a timetable for selecting the next Westminster parliamentary candidate shall commence no sooner than 36 months and complete no later than 48 months after the election. The sitting member of parliament shall be automatically included on the shortlist of candidates, unless they request to retire or resign from the PLP.” It is unclear what Corbyn thinks about these proposals. He has said he does not want to see re-selections and believes the trigger ballot process is adequate.
However there has been manoeuvring behind the scenes to try and shake up the bureaucracy of the party. Other sources have said; “Jeremy has not taken a position on any reforms of the system for the future and that would be dealt with by the party at the conference.”
Ultimately the issue will be put to the vote at a conference, but for now the Conference Arrangements Committee, including some of the union nominees, is hostile. There is no guarantee the issue will make it through for debate in 2018.
Stop the Purge relaunches
The Stop the Labour Purge campaign, which was quiet during the election, is relaunching to decisively end the purge, reinstated expelled activists, and get the party’s disciplinary procedures changed. Its first action post-election has been getting five Constituency Labour Parties to submit a rule change (constitutional change) on the purging of socialists to Labour Party conference — despite only having a few weeks to do it. If they are not ruled out by the Conference Arrangements Committee, rule changes are usually taken the year after they are submitted, so this rule change would go to conference in 2018. It deletes the text which says that members can be expelled if they “join and/or support a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party”.
Taken literally this would allow the expulsion of a majority of members — certainly of anyone who joins Momentum, Progress, Labour First, Greenpeace, Amnesty, etc.… In fact, at the moment, is it used as an excuse for expelling members of socialist organisations such as Workers’ Liberty and Socialist Appeal. It is a licence for the party machine to purge others in future if they become more confident.
Expelled members are launching challenges and demanding appeals. If you have been expelled or suspended but haven’t done this yet, you should. The campaign can help. We need to demand the leadership gets serious about fighting the purge, and meanwhile launch the widest possible grassroots campaign. Stop the Labour Purge will be launching other initiatives in the coming weeks, including a statement for Labour Party activists to sign and circulate, local activist meetings and various activities at Labour Party conference.