Tag Archives: Labour

2019 elections: Not impossible for Labour to win the most seats

What seems to happen in elections nowadays is that Labour starts off way behind and then catches up over the course of the campaign – the reasons are doubtless complex, but a combination of dogged class loyalty and surging hope for the future delivers millions of unexpected votes. This current election seems to be conforming to that pattern – the commanding lead previously held by the Tories appears to be dwindling, meaning that it is quite conceivable that Labour could end up with the most seats in the House of Commons.

Going back just a bit, the near sensation on November 27 of YouGov’s constituency-by-constituency poll made seductive reading for the Tories and appeared to be very bad news indeed for the Labour Party – it predicted a big win for the Tories with 359 seats (an extra 42), giving Boris Johnson a majority of 68 to “get Brexit done”. As for Labour, it was back to 211 seats – a result in line with the fairly disastrous 1983 election.

As pointed out by YouGov’s political research manager, Chris Curtis, the “only silver lining” for Labour is that there are still 30 seats where it is currently 5% or less behind the Tories – meaning it might be able to “paste over the cracks” in the so-called “Red Wall”.

But, rather wisely, perhaps, Dominic Cummings – the supposed cunning mastermind – warned about the dangers of complacency in a typically lengthy blog post: “Trust me,” he writes, “as someone who has worked on lots of campaigns, things are much tighter than they seem and there is a very real possibility of a hung parliament.” Cummings recommends that the “most useful thing” people can do is “make the time to speak to friends and family” and convince them to vote for Boris Johnson – anything else means a “Corbyn-Sturgeon alliance controlling Downing Street”, which would be a “disaster”.

Surge

Cummings’ fears can be seen as realistic when we look at a couple of the latest opinion polls, which represent quite a contrast from the week before. Of course, the unexpected can always happen – the same for spectacular cock-ups or idiotic gaffs (here’s looking at you, Boris). Events can undermine even the most brilliant-looking strategy.

Coming out just after the YouGov MRP survey, a poll conducted by the BMG group for The Independent paints a different picture. The Tories are now on 39% – down 2% compared with the last BMG poll published on November 23 – while Labour is on 33% (up by 5%). Then the Lib Dems are down 5% to 13%, with the Brexit Party languishing on 4% – coinciding with the general picture of the party more or less disappearing for the purposes of this election. Needless to say, this was precisely the calculation of Team Boris and Dominic Cummings – which is turning out to be a pretty reasonable assessment. Lastly, in terms of the BMG/Independent poll, the Greens are stuck on 5% (out of kindness we will not even bother mentioning the UK Independence Party or Change UK).

Clearly, 39% is a significant drop for the Tories – going from a fairly consistent 14%-15% lead down to a mere 6%. Journalists who had been writing confidently about a Tory majority of over 50 are now penning articles discussing how we could be facing a repetition of the last election – it being generally accepted that a lead of 7% or less for Boris Johnson means we might be heading towards another hung parliament.

This poll suggests that Labour’s bounce, if that is what it is, is attributable to a growth in support among ‘remain’ voters, with 49% saying they will vote for the party – a 10-point rise on two weeks before. By contrast, just 21% of ‘remain’ backers say they will vote for the ‘revoke now’ Lib Dems, down from 24% in a fortnight. Not that surprisingly, there has also been a solidifying of Labour’s support among those who backed the party at the last general election, with 77% of those who previously voted Labour now saying they will do so again – up from 69% in the previous Survation poll. Maybe crucially, 13% of Labour’s 2017 voters remain undecided, compared to 8% for 2017 Tory voters – figures which could make all the difference, when it comes to who ends up in No 10.

Making the election result even more uncertain, BMG found 30% of people said they would be “voting for the best-positioned party/candidate to keep out another party/candidate that I dislike” on December 12 – which is a lot of people going for the ‘lesser evil’. This is significantly up from 22% at the start of the election campaign, and 24% in an identical poll last week. Only 51% of voters said they would pick “the candidate/party I most prefer, regardless of how likely they are to win”. The pro-EU campaign group, Best for Britain, calculated last week that just 117,000 voters in 57 constituencies have the chance to change the course of the election by voting tactically. In 27 of these seats, it seems, it would take less than 2,000 tactical votes to prevent a Tory victory. Best for Britain believes that, if anti-Brexit voters deny the Tories victory in all of these 57, Johnson would wake up on December 13 with just 309 seats – a dozen short of a majority (whilst Labour would be on 244).

With a week to go before election day, it is timely to remember that in 2017 there was a last-minute surge towards Labour. We also have to take into account that between the election announcement and the deadline more than 3.1 million people have registered to vote. According to official government statistics, 660,000 people registered on the day of the deadline – of these people the vast majority were young, with 252,000 in the under-25 age bracket and another 207,000 between 25 and 34. Now, were these young people frantically registering at the last moment in order to vote for Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage, heroes for their generation? The question answers itself – no, it is highly likely that Labour will benefit.

Either way we say this: vote Labour but without illusions.

What if?

Things could still go disastrously wrong for Labour, it goes without saying, but the line of march seems pretty clear. For a perspective, look at the strategy pursued by Team Boris – which was based on the premise that the Tories are prepared to lose some seats in the south-east, but that would be more than compensated for by gaining Labour seats in the Midlands and the north. That is beginning to look decidedly ropey, especially when it comes to the northern seats.

What seems to be happening is that Labour’s much derided “ambiguous” stance on Brexit seems to be paying off, though by how much is yet to be decided. Rather than securing the vote of the 51.9% who voted Brexit, the Tories are losing ground to a Labour Party promising a second referendum and a ‘Brino’ (Brexit in name only) – which effectively means staying within the structures and regulations of the European Union. But, of course, the argument is not just about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s professed neutrality on the issue, but also Labour’s manifesto – its ‘extravagant’ spending promises and ‘broadband communism’ garnering a level of support from the electorate – certainly not antipathy. Jon Cruddas helpfully reminded us recently that Harold Wilson effectively ‘did a Corbyn’ during the 1975 referendum, letting the cabinet fight it out, whilst taking an Olympian view himself – nobody at the time thought Wilson was crazy or a cowardly fence-sitter.

As this paper has pointed out on many occasions, the main question we face, should Labour emerge as the largest party – or even it were to win an overall majority – is, would that necessarily mean a Corbyn government? The two main fears of large sections of the ruling class are, firstly, even if Corbyn can now be largely controlled from their point of view, would his election provoke a ‘crisis of expectations’ among the working class? Secondly, if Labour’s proposed second EU referendum produces a victory for his proposed Brino deal, how would British capital view such a removal of UK influence in EU decision-making? Surely a safer option would be a straightforward ‘remain’?

If it turns out there shall be a clear ‘remain’ majority in the new parliament – why not install a cross-party national government that will not only reverse Brexit, but ensure that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be prime minister? And there might well be more than enough rightwing members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who would be prepared to go along with that. After all, they too not only oppose Brexit, but are desperate to see Corbyn removed as leader.

The failure of the Labour leadership to give the membership the power to deselect these pro-capitalist traitors means that such an outcome would be more than possible.

Labour manifesto: Within the current order

Win or lose the general election, the fight to transform Labour will continue, writes Peter Manson (first published in the Weekly Worker)

It is clear that Labour’s manifesto for the December 12 general election is considerably more radical than its 2017 programme, For the many, not the few. While that phrase appears in small letters on the front of the new version, the title this time, however, is rather more bland: It’s time for real change could in truth be used by just about any party.

While ‘capitalism’ is not mentioned at all and ‘socialism’ only once – in the claim that the national health service is an example of “socialism in action” (p31) – the notion of class at least makes an appearance, as opposed to being merely implied in the title of the 2017 manifesto. However, while Labour says it will “put class at the heart of Britain’s equality agenda” (p66), that obviously implies the “equality” of all classes within the current order.

Nevertheless, the claim that the party will be “shifting the balance of power back towards workers” through “the biggest extension of workers’ rights in history” (p60) is, of course, welcome (if not a little exaggerated), as is the declaration that “Strong trade unions are the best and most effective way to enforce rights at work” (p63). Labour pledges to “repeal anti-trade union legislation, including the Trade Union Act 2016” (p62) – note that the word ‘all’ is missing, although at least this statement implies that perhaps it is not only the 2016 act that will be repealed.

Another key word that also features is ‘imperialist’, but only in the context of the UK’s previous foreign adventures, which resulted from “outdated notions of charity or imperialist rule” (my emphasis, p103). Similarly the manifesto promises to “conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy” (p96) – in other words, imperialism, like colonialism, is merely a regrettable feature of British history.

True, Labour will “end the ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach” to foreign policy (p95), but it is committed to “protect our security at home and abroad” (p8). And that means we must “maintain our commitment to Nato”, not to mention “the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent” (p101). In fact, “Labour’s commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence will guarantee that our armed forces are versatile and capable of fulfilling the full range of roles and obligations.” Well, at least under Labour we will ‘talk first and bomb later’, even if it means the obliteration of an entire population, thanks to nuclear weaponry.

Would you believe it? – the manifesto implies that Labour can be regarded as more reliable on ‘defence’ than the Conservatives, under whom “Trained army personnel have been cut from 102,000 to just over 74,000” (p100). Similarly Labour will “restore total prison officer numbers to 2010 levels” (p46). However, the commitment to the armed forces is totally in line with Labour’s vision for a ‘new’ global order, whereby it will “use Britain’s influence within the World Bank, IMF and WTO to transform the rules of the global economy, so they work for the many” (p101). It is difficult to imagine a more naive ‘socialist’ illusion than this commitment to a ‘fairer’ form of global capitalism.

Spending

There are several positive pro-worker commitments, such as the banning of zero-hour contracts, and the pledge that “Within a decade we will reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy, with no loss of pay” (p62) – although the promise to “rapidly introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over” (p59) falls far short of what is now needed.

Then we have the entirely supportable policies relating to state ownership of essential public services. Gas, electricity, water, the railways and Royal Mail are all to be renationalised, and Labour will also take over BT’s internet division, in order to provide free broadband to every household, in addition to “taking public ownership of bus networks” (p19). It is claimed that all this will help “make Britain’s public services the best and most extensive in the world” (p29).

When it comes to the NHS, Labour will be “taking back all PFI contracts over time” (p30) and in general it will “end and reverse privatisation” (p32). What is more, while it does not go into detail, it will “establish a generic drug company” (p35) – presumably as an integral part of the NHS, in order to ensure that healthcare is no longer the victim of the private drug companies’ blatant robbery through their monopolistic overcharging. Labour will also “abolish prescription charges” (p35).

Then there is education, with “free school meals for all primary school children” (p40) and the pledge to “abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants” for further education (p41). In relation to housing, the party has committed to building at “an annual rate of at least 150,000 council and social homes, with 100,000 of these built by councils for social rent” (p78). Labour also claims it will “end rough sleeping within five years” (p80).

However, taxation of the rich and big business is not to be increased by a huge amount: “We will reverse some of the Tories’ cuts to corporation tax, while keeping rates lower than in 2010” (p29). Which means that much of the increased spending will have to be financed by borrowing.

This, of course, has opened the way for the usual charges of an irresponsible failure to balance the books. However, it is hardly unusual for bourgeois states to raise funds through borrowing. In fact, depending on the overall political and economic situation, it is considered perfectly normal to do so – the aim, particularly during a downturn, being to boost the market and thus increase production (and therefore income from taxation). It is ironic that, at the very time the usual charges of irresponsibility were being levelled against Labour, the newly appointed president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, was calling on EU governments to raise their spending in order to stimulate the economy.

Democracy

In line with others, Labour is now committed to “reducing the voting age to 16” (p82) – good. But what about its attitude to the second chamber? It states: “We will act immediately to end the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, and work to abolish the House of Lords in favour of Labour’s preferred option of an elected Senate of the Nations and Regions” (p81).

Well, first of all, the abolition of the Lords is an absolutely fundamental requirement, so why the delay? What is this “work” that needs to be done before it can be entertained? And in the meantime the existing members – including those who are there as a result of the “hereditary principle” – will continue as before. All those who say they are democrats must oppose not just the current monstrosity, but any second chamber – whose purpose is to impose ‘checks and balances’ against the democracy of directly elected representatives.

However, while it is all very well to state your opposition to the “hereditary principle” in relation to the Lords, aren’t they overlooking something? What about the monarchy, which does not get a mention in the manifesto? This is the biggest affront to democracy of all. Every piece of legislation requires the monarch’s assent – and there is no doubt that they would actually exercise that power of veto in the event of a genuine threat to the ruling class being posed by the elected parliament.

And, of course, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions, it is the monarch who formally appoints the prime minister, and there is a distinct possibility that, if Labour were to be the largest party after December 12, the queen would summon someone other than Jeremy Corbyn to the palace to head ‘her’ government (no doubt with the acquiescence of sections of the Labour right). The principled position is clear: abolish the monarchy, abolish the second chamber!

Then there is Scotland. The manifesto states:

Scotland needs the transformative investment coming from a Labour government, not another referendum and not independence. A UK Labour government will focus on tackling the climate emergency, ending austerity and cuts, and getting Brexit sorted. That’s why in the early years of a UK Labour government we will not agree to a section 30 order request [for a second independence referendum] if it comes from the Scottish government (p85).

While communists are opposed to separatism in principle, and call for the greatest possible unity between different nations and peoples, we are adamant that such unity must be entirely voluntary. There must be self-determination and, if the democratically elected representatives vote for independence, that decision must be accepted, however much we may regret it. In other words, it should not be up to the “UK government” (quite apart from the fact that we are for the replacement of the United Kingdom by a federal republic, in which Scotland and Wales would have the right to secede) to decide this question.

European Union

Labour’s official position on Brexit is spelled out, making it entirely clear that the party is for Brino (Brexit in name only). After the UK leaves the EU following a deal negotiated by Corbyn, it would remain part of both the customs union and the single market – not to mention the fact that there would be “continued participation in EU agencies and funding programmes” (p90).

In other words, just about everything would continue as before – except that the UK would no longer take part in EU decision-making. Of course, it goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs, and of the active membership, would oppose withdrawal and campaign for ‘remain’ in the second referendum proposed by the party.

However, the manifesto states:

If in a referendum the British people decide to remain in the EU, this must not mean accepting the status quo. Labour will work with partners across Europe to make the case for radical reform of the EU – in particular to ensure that its collective strength is focused on tackling the climate emergency, tax evasion and ending austerity and inequality (pp91-92).

Thus the same illusion as in relation to capital’s global institutions is displayed. There is no notion of the need to fight for the transformation of the current EU into a workers’ Europe – once again it is a case of a more ‘progressive’ form of capitalism.

Then there is the problem of the leader’s position in the event of a second referendum, where we would be asked to choose between the Corbyn deal and ‘remain’. The Labour leader only – not the party – would stay “neutral” during that campaign – although, as he stated on the BBC’s November 26 The Andrew Neil interviews, he hoped that some “people would argue it’s a reasonable deal” that should be accepted.

While it is fine in some circumstances for a leader to stand aside from the choice between two acceptable alternatives, in this case, as many have pointed out, it would be problematic – the choice in practice would be between remaining within the EU with or without a vote: who in their right mind would vote for the latter?

The manifesto makes several positive points about the right of free movement – and not just in relation to the EU. It states: “Labour recognises the huge benefits of immigration to our country” (p91) and continues: “The movement of people around the world has enriched our society, our economy and our culture” (p70).

Therefore, “We will end indefinite detention, review the alternatives to the inhumane conditions of detention centres, and close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House” (p71). So it appears that ‘non-indefinite’ detention centres – with more ‘humane’ conditions – will remain open. In fact, Labour’s policy will be to “review our border controls to make them more effective” (p45). What was that about free movement?

Anti-Semitism

Rather strangely, in view of the ongoing smear campaign being waged against Labour for failing to ‘root out’ its ‘institutional anti-Semitism’, there is no mention of anti-Jewish prejudice in the manifesto. The substantial section on ‘Women and equalities’ makes clear the party’s opposition to all forms of racial and religious discrimination, but neither ‘anti-Semitism’ nor ‘Jews’ is specified – an absence that has not been pointed out by any mainstream media outlet, as far as I know.

On one level that omission is fair enough, but, in view of the absurd allegations levelled against the party under Corbyn’s leadership on precisely this question, surely it would have been worthwhile not only to mention anti-Semitism, but to make a clear statement condemning the totally false slurs and explaining what lies behind them. But, no, Labour’s position has been to say as little as possible on those slurs – apart from repeating ad nauseum its total opposition to all forms of prejudice and its absolute intolerance of such prejudice within the party.

Of course, the idea has been to keep quiet about it, in the hope it will go away, and, instead of tackling such controversial matters head on, concentrate on issues like workers’ rights and public ownership. But the hope that the whole thing would die a death if you ignore it was totally misplaced – the anti-Corbyn establishment is not going to drop something that has him continually on the back foot. And it was only a matter of time before Labour’s alleged ‘anti-Semitism’ would feature in the general election campaign.

And now we have the latest furore – sparked by the statement of chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis that Corbyn is “unfit for high office”, as he had allowed the “poison” of anti-Semitism to “take root in the Labour Party”. Just for good measure, Mirvis was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

On The Andrew Neil interviews Corbyn once more failed to condemn the malevolent campaign of slurs. All he would say was that he was “looking forward to having a conversation” with Mirvis, so he could clear up the misunderstanding, since only “a small number of members” have been accused of anti-Semitism. He politely disagreed that he had been guilty of “mendacious lies” about its extent in the party and, after all, he had now “toughened up the rules” to prevent it.

Not only is Corbyn’s failure to oppose the campaign misplaced: it could well cost him the election. Of course, as in 2017, he could still head a pro-Labour surge, but this is now looking increasingly unlikely.

Nevertheless, we must be clear: the place for all Marxists and socialists is within Labour, aiding the long-term struggle to defeat the pro-capitalist right and transform it into a genuine party of the entire working class.

Anti-Zionism and self-censorship

The witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and the left is still in full swing – and spreading across society, reports Carla Roberts 

Who would have thought we would ever be relieved to read an attack on Jeremy Corbyn? We are talking about the recent uproar over his “scruffy” attire on Remembrance Sunday – where he, would you believe it, wore a jacket with a hood! This kind of low-level bad publicity looks as quaint as the “donkey jacket” that then Labour leader Michael Foot was wearing in 1981 (and which turned out to be a £250 coat from Harrods). There are even rumours that Corbyn wore it on purpose – perhaps to get some kind of short reprieve from the far more serious, political campaign against him and the Labour left.

Alas, it did not last long. Just in the last couple of weeks, the witch-hunt against Corbyn and the left has been ratcheted up:

* Scotland Yard launched a well-publicised investigation against some members of the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitic comments.

* Chris Williamson MP was de-invited by Sheffield Labour Students after complaints by the Jewish Student Society that he was “encouraging a culture of anti-Semitism”.

* Most bourgeois newspapers breathlessly reported that a Labour Party branch in Stockton-on-Tees “voted down a motion on the Pittsburgh synagogue attack”, because “there was too much focus on ‘anti-Semitism this, anti-Semitism that’”.  Far from being voted down by the left (which all the articles imply), this was actually opposed by the ‘moderates’ – perhaps because they resented the idea in the same motion that there was a need for ‘anti-Semitism training’, which the mover had previously suggested should be delivered by the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement. Incredibly, the proposer of the motion thought it was a good idea to publicise his branch’s non-adoption far and wide. Of course, the right jumped on it and predictably used it to batter Corbyn some more. The technical term here is ‘useful idiot’.

* The Labour Party’s national constitutional committee has just expelled Mike Sivier (see below) – apparently explaining that their lack of evidence against him were “technicalities” and that “it’s about the impact in the public domain” and “about perception … It’s about how this is perceived by the Jewish community.”

* Scottish Labour Party member Peter Gregson is under investigation for producing a petition that states: “Israel is a racist endeavour.”

* A council worker in Dudley was suspended from work for publishing the same phrase online, while advertising a lobby of Dudley Labour MP Ian Austin’s surgery.

Of course, these are just the cases, allegations and ‘scandals’ that make it into the public. We know of plenty more cases of Labour members currently being investigated on the most absurd allegations (and not just to do with anti-Semitism).

Clearly, the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left shows no sign of slowing down – in fact, it is spreading into all areas of society and, perhaps most worryingly, the workplace. Labour Party Marxists secretary Stan Keable remains sacked, having been secretly filmed by a journalist at the ‘Enough is enough’ demonstration in March 2018, when he stated that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazi regime – a historically inconvenient truth.  We know of at least one other similar case. There will be more, but – not surprisingly – not everybody accused of such ‘crimes’ will want their name dragged through the mud in public and many choose to keep quiet.

This is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the witch-hunt: the silencing of debate on the left and the self-censorship.

Sheffield

Take the events in Sheffield: Chris Williamson MP had been invited by Sheffield Labour Students (SLS) to speak on ‘Why we need an anti-war government’. But they got cold feet when the local Jewish Society (JSoc) complained publicly that he should be banned from campus, because he “repeatedly defended, and shared platforms with, anti-Semites expelled from the Labour Party” (they mention Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone – the latter two have of course not been expelled from the party). Apparently, according to JSoc, comrade Williamson is “encouraging a culture of anti-Semitism” and his invitation was “a betrayal of Jewish students in Sheffield”. 

At first, the SLS committee – which has a clear pro-Corbyn majority – confirmed that the meeting would go ahead, though its affirmation that Williamson “has never been and is not accused of anti-Semitism through disciplinary procedures within the Labour Party” probably sounded sheepish enough to further encourage the right.

And, yes, all hell broke loose: JSoc secretary Gabe Milne publicly resigned from the Labour Party, stating that this was the “final straw”.  Needless to say, he has never been a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, to put it mildly. He seems to be a member of the Jewish Labour Movement and has re-tweeted its demand that Chris Williamson should have the Labour whip withdrawn. 

Labour Students BAME (run by the right) quickly jumped on the bandwagon, stating how “disappointed” they were over the planned event, “which can only further damage Labour’s relationship with British Jews”. Other rightwingers piled in … and then Labour Students committee saw its first resignation: Caelan Reid – who is, incredibly, also a member of the Momentum Sheffield leadership – stated that he had argued the committee should have followed JSoc’s “quite reasonably request” and that he “had hoped that the committee would listen to and accommodate the requests of a minority group”.

When Labour Students committee met again on November 2, they had been spooked enough to overturn their previous decision. In a jaw-dropping statement, they first wrote that the event was to be “indefinitely postponed” and then clarified that they will revisit the decision after “the current Scotland Yard police investigations into allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party has been resolved”. They continue:

Although Chris Williamson MP is not personally implicated by these allegations, Sheffield Labour Students believes that due to the nature of the investigation calling into question the efficiency of the disciplinary procedures within the party, and the current climate within the wider movement, we do not feel that the event should take place at this moment in time. Another vote will be held after the conclusion of the investigation to determine if the event should take place.

Needless to say, Scotland Yard is unlikely to ever “resolve” this investigation. For a start, no fewer than 45 different allegations were passed to the police. After “assessing” the charges for over two months, Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick announced on November 2 that “some” of the material is now being investigated, “because it appears there may have been a crime committed”.  Even the widely quoted former Met officer, Mak Chishty, managed to identify only four cases of the 45 that could be described as “potential race hate crimes” (my emphasis).

Of course, this highly political police investigation was always a cop-out, conveniently used by the remaining members of the SLS committee – as they quite rightly state, it has nothing to do with either Chris Williamson or holding a meeting on ‘Why we need an anti-war government’.

During this debacle, a total of seven members of the SLS committee resigned their position (most of them more ‘moderate’ than left, as it turns out). Credit must go to Sheffield Labour Left, which quickly took over the hosting of the event and organised a petition against the decision, which has been signed by almost 90 Sheffield Labour Party members. After Jeremy Corbyn himself, comrade Williamson must by now surely be most vilified politician in Britain – and not because he “encourages a culture of anti-Semitism”. He is in fact pretty much the only MP who has taken a principled stand on the ongoing witch-hunt that seeks to label opposition to Zionism “anti-Semitic”. A sad state of affairs indeed.

Mike Sivier

The case against Mike Sivier is intriguing, because he seems absolutely right when he claims that there is precious little evidence that supports his expulsion from the party.  Even those claiming that Sivier is clearly anti-Semitic and have written long articles about his case cannot actually produce any real proof. In a piece entitled The ballad of Mike Sivier,  the hostile author, Marlon Solomon, draws a long list of examples of Sivier’s ‘crimes’ – which basically amount to the fact that he was defending various people falsely accused of anti-Semitism.

We read, for example, that he supported Ken Livingstone’s reference to the 1933 Ha’avara agreement between the Nazi regime and the Zionist Federation of Germany (which paved the way for the migration of around 60,000 German Jews to Palestine), sided with Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein and recommended that people should watch Al Jazeera’s excellent programme The lobby, which exposes how the pro-Israel lobby has helped to manufacture the anti-Semitism ‘scandal’ in the Labour Party. And that is it.

Solomon laments that (at the time of writing in January 2018) “none of the above is now considered sufficient to expel someone from the Labour Party”. Quite right – it should not be. In August, Sivier won a complaint taken to the Independent Press Standards Organisation against the Jewish Chronicle, which had falsely claimed he was a “holocaust denier”. Interestingly, back in February 2018, Labour’s national executive committee discussed Sivier’s case and voted 12-10 to lift his suspension dating back to May 2017 – under the condition that he attend so-called “anti-Semitism training”, conducted by the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement. To his credit, he refused, insisting on his innocence. The NEC, clearly at a loss, thought it best to refer this case to the national constitutional committee.

He had no chance in front of this committee, which is still dominated by the right and will continue to be so, even after its expansion from 11 to 25 members, agreed at Labour Party conference this year. While the six candidates backed by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy will probably win, they will still be in a minority – and it remains to be seen how ‘leftwing’ these six really are, in any case: Sadly, Stephen Marks of Jewish Voice for Labour is the only one who has come out against the witch-hunt. In any case, the NCC, still chaired by rightwing witch-hunter general Maggie Cousins, decided on November 13 to expel Mike Sivier – but only for 18 months. And without providing any proof of Sivier’s alleged anti-Semitism. As he writes on his blog, his requests to produce actual evidence were rebutted with “No comment”; “We’ve not provided evidence – it’s about the impact in the public domain”; and “This is about perception … It’s about how this is perceived by the Jewish community.”

In other words, he has been expelled because his refusal to receive pro-Zionist training by the JLM makes the Labour Party look bad! This expulsion is clearly a travesty and should immediately be overturned by the NEC.

Similarly ridiculous is the case of Edinburgh Labour Party member Peter Gregson, who is currently “under investigation”. We will not be surprised if Gregson is also either told to undergo the JLM’s pro-Zionism training and/or referred to the NCC. The NEC’s dispute panel, meeting on November 20, will decide his fate (and that of a large number of other cases, presumably including the absurd allegation against Lee Rock, who stands accused of having argued “in favour of masturbation at the workplace” (!) in a Facebook discussion with radical feminists in 2015, over 15 months before he joined the Labour Party.  We could make some guesses as to the kind of ‘training’ he might be offered, but maybe not).

Firstly, we should say it is to be welcomed that there have been some positive changes to the disciplinary process introduced by the new general secretary, Jennie Formby. The automatic suspensions doled out so liberally under her predecessor, Iain McNicol, seem to have stopped altogether. That is hugely important, because it allows an accused member – in theory – to retain their full membership rights. As it turns out, this is not always the case and we hear of examples where members who are merely “under investigation” have been blocked from standing for various positions, because the mere fact of the investigation against them could bring “the party into disrepute”. Full circular logic there.

Right answer

Judging by the examples of recent investigations we have seen, the accused usually receives a number of leading questions they have to answer to each piece of ‘evidence’ (usually a Facebook post or Tweet), along the lines of: “Do you accept that some people might find this offensive?” The right answer is almost always ‘yes’, naturally. And the questions are formulated in such a way as to coax the accused to apologise and, crucially, to promise never to do it again. In many such cases, the investigations then end in a rather patronising “official warning”, which will be “kept on file”.

Clearly, this method encapsulates the opposite of the culture of open debate and exchange of ideas that Marxists strive for. It is designed to shut people up. This is not just undemocratic: it is also dangerous. Rather than politically challenging wrong ideas and prejudice and thereby changing somebody’s viewpoint, this method encourages people to bottle ideas up and let them fester.

Still, it is good that at least formally the disciplinary process now seems to acknowledge the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. However, the actual reasons why investigations are launched against somebody have been expanded massively. This is particularly true since the NEC’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism, together with all 11 examples. Only the most naive or wilfully ignorant could really have believed that the IHRA document would bring the ongoing witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left to an end. Quite the opposite: it has been used by the right to increase and widen the attacks.

Peter Gregson is a perfect case in point. Just after the NEC’s collapse over the IHRA document, he produced a petition that boldly states: “the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour”.  This refers to the most disputed of the 11 examples – and the one that Jeremy Corbyn tried to ‘neutralise’ with his unsuccessful amendment to the NEC. The petition has been signed by more than 700 people who claim to be “Labour Party members”. So far, only Gregson seems to have been charged over it. He has also been suspended by his union, the GMB – a move that he claims was orchestrated by outgoing NEC member Rhea Wolfson, a member of the JLM. We would not be surprised if that was the case.

Of particular interest is the reaction of Momentum owner and Labour NEC member Jon Lansman, who lost his rag when Gregson emailed him for the umpteenth time. He admitted that “declaring Israel to be a racist endeavour and challenging the NEC to expel him alongside others who signed a petition he launched may not be anti-Semitic …” But he continued: “… it is a deliberately provocative act, which is most certainly prejudicial to the interests of the party and I therefore urge the general secretary to take the appropriate action against you.”

Labour Against the Witchhunt quite rightly condemns Lansman’s intervention: “‘Provocative’ acts are the stuff of political debate. Lansman is effectively calling for the silencing of support for the Palestinian struggle against Zionism and Israel’s apartheid.” LAW, while defending Gregson against any disciplinary action, does not support the petition because it is, in parts, rather clumsily (and unfortunately) formulated.

Clearly, the NEC must halt the investigation into Peter Gregson immediately. It is exactly such unnecessary and politically charged disciplinary cases that bring the party into disrepute.

 

NCC ‘left’ slate farce ends in another Jon Lansman surrender

The manoeuvres over joint candidates for Labour’s disciplinary committee exposes the political vacuity of the existing left groupings, says Carla Roberts.

If any more proof was needed that the organised Labour left is in deep trouble, the last week has surely provided it.

Since its foundation in 1995, the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance has operated as an underground club, to which only a few lucky reps of approved groups are invited. This thoroughly undemocratic and unaccountable lash-up has always taken it upon itself to ‘recommend’ various candidates for Labour Party internal elections – consistently guided by its original assumption of the necessity of reaching out to ‘honest’ moderates.

For many years, the CLGA stuck to its mantra that the only way to defeat the Blairite right was through an alliance with centrist candidates, and rejected any moves to present an openly leftwing platform. This hopeless perspective explains how Ann Black could remain on the CLGA ticket for so long, despite being very much on the centre-right of the party.

Despite its name, the CLGA’s two main current constituent parts – Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) – are, of course, both on the left of the party. But they have now fallen out quite spectacularly over which six candidates to support for the newly-expanded national constitutional committee (NCC). This is a crucial body in the Labour Party. It deals with all disciplinary matters that the national executive committee feels it cannot resolve and – given that it is dominated by the right – the referral of a left-winger to the NCC usually results in expulsion from the party. Incredibly, even after its expansion from 11 to 25, only a minority are to be chosen by rank and file Labour members. The rest are appointed by affiliates, which explains why in the last few crucial years, the NCC could be so (badly) chaired by Maggie Cousins, a delegate from the rightwing GMB union.

After three meetings, the CLGA talks deadlocked on October 10, apparently because Momentum (aka Jon Lansman) refused to support Stephen Marks, a member of Jewish Voice for Labour, which has been included in the CLGA negotiations for the first time. Lansman tried to veto Marks, allegedly arguing that “‘the Jewish community’ will not tolerate a JVL representative”.

So, on the morning of October 11, the CLPD simply put out its own slate of candidates, which included Stephen Marks. The slate was also supported by JVL and the “Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament”. (The whole CLGA project has the definite whiff of ‘Potemkin Village’ about it. Jon Lansman, for example, is representing two organisations – Momentum and his own blog, Left Futures, which is so crucial to the labour movement that its latest entry is dated February 5). After a lengthy discussion, the Labour Representation Committee also decided to support the slate, despite the fact that the only candidate they put forward, LRC treasurer Alison McCarty, was rejected by both the CLPD and Momentum.

Momentum published its slate later the same day. And indeed, it did not feature Marks (though there were three candidates who were also on the CLPD/JVL slate: Khalid Moyer, Cecile Wright and Annabelle Harley). Now Lansman let it be known that Momentum “had been prepared to back Stephen Marks”, but did not include him because of ”concerns about the geographical balance of the CLPD slate”. Or, in Lansman’s own unconvincing words: “Half of CLPD’s slate live in London or the south-east. So do three out of four of the existing CLP reps”, he tweeted . This transparent obfuscation over “concerns with the geographical balance” reminds us of his crass attempt to bullshit his way out of his ill-judged attempt to become Labour’s next general secretary. Remember, he claimed then that his only motivation in standing was to increase the gender balance – oddly enough, by standing against a woman, Jennie Formby!

What do they stand for?

Lansman opposes Marks for political reasons, of course – not geographical ones. Stephen Marks has written about how the problem of anti-Semitism in the party has been “exaggerated and weaponised by JC’s enemies”. Clearly that makes him, in Lansman’s view, the ‘wrong kind of Jew’. Which also reveals as utter bullshit Lansman’s claim that Marks could not represent “the Jewish community” (our emphasis). There is no uniform, politically homogeneous Jewish community – the simple fact of the existence of Jewish Voice for Labour proves that. There are pro-Zionist Jews and there are anti-Zionist Jews – and that is just for starters. Politically, in today’s toxic climate, you cannot get two more implacably opposed viewpoints in the party. We know which of the two viewpoints Lansman supports.

He has been on the wrong side of the Labour witch-hunt from the start: a soft Zionist who has argued for the party to adopt the full ‘working definition on anti-Semitism’ put out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – including the full list of highly disputed “examples” that effectively bans criticism of the state of Israel. ’Zio’, the diminutive form of ‘Zionist’, should be banned as ‘insulting’, according to him. And don’t forget, Lansman – alongside Margaret Hodge (that charmer who branded Jeremy Corbyn a “fucking racist and anti-Semite”) – recently attended a conference organised by the Jewish Labour Movement. Readers will not need reminding that this outfit supports and aligns itself with the Israeli Labor Party: that is, the foul organisation that orchestrated the nakba (the forced expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in 1948) and which presided over the colonialist conquest of the Golan Heights and the West Bank in 1967. Momentum’s constitution – enforced by Lansman after his coup – bans from Momentum membership anybody expelled from the Labour Party. It internalises the witch-hunt, in other words.

The farce continued when a candidate on the CLPD slate withdrew: “We understand that Kaneez Akhtar has been put under pressure to withdraw,” the CLPD’s statement read. “We are seeking further info and if true will ask another BAME woman candidate to put her name forward.”

Put under pressure by whom, exactly? We are not told. But apparently, it had something to do with the fact that Jabram Hussain, a candidate on the Momentum slate, is the brother of Bradford East Labour MP Imran Hussain and that Kaneez Akhtar is a Labour councillor for Bradford City. We can only guess at the power games being played out here. She was replaced by Sonia Klein, who, like Annabelle Harle, is a member of Welsh Grassroots Alliance (we can only guess how Jon Lansman must have suffered under this geographical and gender imbalance).

Of course, the whole Labour left went berserk over there being two rival leftwing slates. But, after a week, ‘harmony’ was again restored on the morning of October 17. Momentum released a press statement: “Following our call to reopen negotiations, we’re happy to announce a joint list of candidates backed by Momentum and CLPD.” Clearly, they did not even bother inviting any of the other organisations who are officially part of the CLGA. The agreed candidates are Cecile Wright, Khaled Moyeed, Annabelle Harle, Susan Press, Gary Heather – and, wait for it, Stephen Marks.

So, the new “negotiations” basically led to Momentum collapsing and accepting Stephen Marks after all. In turn, the CLPD now supports Susan Press (a councillor and Lansman loyalist, who had been put forward by Momentum for all sorts of other positions in the past). Sonia Klein and Michael Menear, another loyal Lansman supporter and member of Momentum’s national coordinating group (NCG), have been dumped. Not that they matter, to be quite frank. The real disagreement was always over Stephen Marks.

Apart from Marks, who has written on the question, we have to guess what these candidates think about the witch-hunt in the party, the necessary reforms of Labour’s disciplinary process or the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. The CLPD and Momentum give us some short information about the colour of their skin and where they live – but no politics at all.

It does not bode well that both Momentum and the CLPD have been very quiet on the witch-hunt against Corbyn and his supporters. When Willsman was accused of anti-Semitism (see below), he incredibly chose to publish an apology and referred himself for equalities training … when clearly the witch-hunters deserved a two-fingered reply. Both Willsman and Lansman support Cecile Wright for the NCC – it was she who smoothly and swiftly replaced Jackie Walker as Momentum’s vice-chair when she was first suspended from the Labour Party on false charges of anti-Semitism. Can we really rely on her to speak up for other members who are similarly falsely accused?

Kaneez Akhtar, the CLPD candidate from Bradford who eventually withdrew, said in an interview: “I fully support the IHRA definition on anti-Semitism and was indeed proud that Bradford council adopted this definition.” The acceptance of the IHRA by the NEC has already led to an increase in suspensions and investigations, as it dramatically widens the definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism (calling Israel a “racist endeavour”, for example). How on earth did she end up on a ‘left’ slate?

Labour Against the Witchhunt seems to be the only organisation that has asked the candidates some pertinent political questions. That is a much better approach, in our view. But, for the time being, we have to guess about the politics of the other candidates. We fear that – apart from Stephen Marks – no other candidate can be relied upon to challenge the false narrative that the Labour Party is awash with anti-Semites. That is a truly worrying state of affairs.

Lansman humiliated

The joint CLPD/Momentum slate represents without a doubt a new political humiliation for Jon Lansman. Pretty much all leftwing organisations had backed the CLPD slate, while Lansman’s was supported by Momentum – and nobody else. Funnily enough, even Lansman’s former NEC ally, Christine Shawcroft, came out for the CLPD: “The only result of supporting the Momentum ‘slate’ for the NCC will be getting rightwingers onto the NCC,” she wrote on Facebook. Did we mention she is a director of Momentum Campaign (Services) Ltd?

Most local Momentum groups who said anything on the matter also fell in behind the CLPD slate. We hear of a number of frustrated Momentum members setting up ‘secret’ WhatsApp and Facebook groups to start organising around Momentum nationally. An online petition of “active members of Momentum” who are “increasingly concerned about the lack of democracy in Momentum” is spreading like wildfire.

No doubt, Momentum is in deep trouble. Yes, Lansman still owns the data of tens of thousands of Corbyn supporters. But politically, he has managed to make one huge mistake after another, shedding support and members in the process. It all started with his coup of January 10 2017, when he simply abolished all democratic structures in Momentum, imposing his own constitution on the organisation.

But dumping Pete Willsman from the slate for the NEC elections earlier this year was the real turning point for many. Willsman, long-term secretary of the CLPD, was a victim of the witch-hunt directed against Corbyn and his supporters. His comments, recorded at a closed NEC meeting and leaked to the press (by whom, we wonder?), forcefully called into question the ‘anti-Semitism problem’ in the party. While someMomentum members followed Lansman’s toxic advice not to vote for Willsman, he was nevertheless re-elected to the NEC (albeit with a smaller share of the vote than the rest of the CLGA slate).

This was followed by Lansman’s collapse over the question of mandatory reselection at this year’s Labour conference. Despite the fact that over 90% of delegates wanted to discuss the issue (and presumably vote in favour of it), Lansman urged Momentum supporters to vote against. Few people followed his advice and, in the next vote, 75% of delegates continued to support open selection.

Clearly, Momentum enjoys less and less political authority amongst the Labour left. Some people seem to think that it can be reformed: the petition quoted above, for example, demands that “minutes from all past meetings” are published, “calls on the NCG to oppose individual opinions that are not in line with Momentum members” and “calls on the NCG to be accountable and contactable, and carry out a review of the structure and democracy of Momentum with widespread input from members”.

Obviously, none of these rather naive demands would change how Momentum is run. There are probably some more radical ideas being discussed right now. But this monstrosity of an organisation cannot be reformed. The constitution imposed by Lansman makes sure of that. Both organisationally and politically, it is deeply flawed. Yes, it has played a relatively useful role in getting Corbyn re-elected and has organised some useful training for local party members. But it plays no real role in educating, politicising or even just organising its 30,000 or so members. They are treated as mere voting fodder.

Flawed method

Lansman and Willsman are old comrades – and it shows. They are both presiding in pretty unaccountable fashion over their respective organisations. In March this year, they first came to blows over which candidates to support in the elections to the NEC. Lansman refused to continue backing Ann Black. Quite right, in our view – and long overdue. But Pete Willsman insisted on giving her support – he had worked well together with her on the NEC, despite some political differences. He even, undemocratically, overruled his own executive committee’s decision to drop her from the CLGA slate. So Lansman simply leaked his nine candidates to the press – minus Ann Black, of course (at this point the list still included Pete Willsman).

For decades, Willsman and Lansman worked together in the CLPD: both feature in a very entertaining BBC drama, which shows how the CLPD successfully fought for mandatory reselection in the Labour Party back in 1980. Funnily enough, as soon as Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, both gave up the fight for this important leftwing principle: CLPD dropped it; Momentum never adopted it. In this, they were following Corbyn’s lead. Unfortunately, he still attempts to appease the right, in the vain hope that this will keep the centre on board and thus eventually neutralise the right.

This is tactically inept, of course. The majority of Labour MPs have been plotting against Corbyn from day one, if not before. Should he become prime minister – which is far from certain, even if Labour wins the next general election – he would be held hostage by the Parliamentary Labour Party. In all likelihood the right would try one manoeuvre after another to get rid of him. By refusing to back mandatory reselection (aka open selection) at conference, which would have allowed the membership to rid the PLP of the anti-Corbyn right, Momentum and the CLPD (as well as Corbyn himself) seriously undermined the leader’s position.

This is very much in line with the old political method of the Labour left: getting the Labour Party into 10 Downing Street trumps everything. Open criticism of the party’s flawed programme or the Labour leader are taboo, as they could harm electoral prospects. Political differences are treated as a huge problem, to be kept under wraps. Socialist politics are hidden, because they could be perceived as unpopular.

This latest farce ought to spell the end of the CLGA. Its politics and methods belong to the scrapheap of history. We fear, though, that even if it was killed off, it would probably be replicated under another name – reborn as an organisation with the same flawed political method. After all, programmaticallythere is very little that distinguishes Momentum and those Labour left organisations that supported the CLPD slate. Neither organisation involved in these abortive subterranean negotiations have seen the need for transparency on any of the political differences involved, let alone the views of the candidates they support.

Clearly, there is a huge space for a principled organisation of the Labour left that criticallysupports Jeremy Corbyn, fights against the witch-hunt and campaigns openly for socialism and the thorough democratisation of the party and the left itself. Reporting openly and honestly about what is going on must be an integral part of the culture of such a new organisation.

Rule changes at Labour conference 2018: The good, the bad and a huge betrayal

This article looks at the most important rule changes that were adopted – or defeated – at Labour Party conference 2018. Please note that it deals with rule changes only. For a political assessment of conference, please click here. We also recommend this article about the conference session on Palestine: Rhea Wolfson and Emily Thornberry – pro-Zionist sisters in arms.

Most rule changes were pushed through at conference in eight ‘packages’ coming out of the Party Democracy Review. The original recommendations from Katy Clark to the party’s ruling NEC – while far from radical – actually contained a number of very sensible proposals. Unfortunately, meeting the night before party conference, the NEC decided to reject most of those, which means conference did not get to vote on them:

– that a CLP/union should be able to submit both a motion and a rule change in any one year;
– that the 3-year rule for rule changes be abolished (if a proposed rule change touches on a subject that has been discussed in the last three years, it is automatically ruled out of order)
– that policymaking in the party should no longer be outsourced to the National Policy Forum (which has been established by Tony Blair)
– that the Local Campaign Forums should revert back to the more accountable Local Government Committees;
– that there should be a number of democratic changes in the local government area – for example, that members would vote for the local Labour group leader on the council and the election manifesto;

THE BAD

Leadership Elections: Just like before, any candidate will still need the support of at least 10% of MPs/MEPs. But in addition, they will now also require nominations from 5% of individual party members, or 5% of union and other affiliates. Marxists demand the scrapping of all hurdles – surely it should be up to the members to decide who their leader should be, not the right-wingers in the PLP.

The national constitutional committee (which deals with disciplinary cases that the NEC does not want to deal with itself) will more than double in size from 11 to 25. However, the right is likely to retain an inbuilt majority, because it is mainly made up of delegates from affiliates rather than CLPs: it is an outrage that union delegates can decide on disciplinary matters affect Labour members. Also, adding 14 members might indeed “speed things up”, but this does not mean that the proceedings will become any more just or fair – especially now that the NEC has adopted the ‘working definition’ on Anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaus Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Witch-hunters’ charter: In order for Labour to become the umbrella organisation for all trade unions, socialist groups and pro-working class partisans, all undemocratic bans and proscriptions must be abolished. Unfortunately, a constitutional amendment from Mid Worcestershire, Rugby, Truro & Falmouth, Bexhill & Battle was defeated, which wanted to remove the first part of the infamous rule 2.1.4.B (‘membership conditions’) from the rulebook: This bars from membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party”.
This rule has been applied in an entirely one-sided way against leftwingers only – among them supporters of Socialist Appeal, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Labour Party Marxists. Groups such as Progress and Labour First remain untouched and can continue to operate freely and in a highly organised fashion. And what about members of Stop the War Coalition or Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? Surely they are also examples of a “political organisation”? This rule should go. A small consolation: 24 % voted for it to go.

Membership fees: The fact that the NEC’s decision to “review membership rates and discounts” had been categorised as a rule change (which will “expire” at the 2019 conference!) means that the motion from Tewkesbury, calling for 50% of members’ dues to be returned to CLPs, automatically fell. CLPs will continue to be seriously underfunded – they receive only £2.50 per member per year from party HQ.

Online Omov: The NEC will now run “pilots” to allow “electronic attendance” and “online voting” locally to look into ways of “maximising participation”. We think this is a retrograde step. Decisions should be taken by members who are fully informed and aware of the issues at stake. Online Omov atomises comrades and makes serious political engagement very difficult. For example, how do you question a candidate when all you have is a short statement and s/he does not reply to emails? In terms of making policy, how can you effectively move an amendment when you do not have the possibility of talking to people and explaining some of the nuances? Online voting also marginalises the role of the unions in the party. Yes, the representatives of rightwing unions have played an entirely negative role on the NEC and when it comes to trigger ballots. But in general, the affiliation of unions is an enormous strength of the Labour Party. While they should not be allowed to stop the democratic selection of parliamentary candidates, unions have clearly played an important role in preserving the character of the Labour Party as aworkers’ party, even under Tony Blair. In fact, we should fight for a serious commitment to a vigorous national campaign to affiliate all unions to the party.

THE GOOD

The category of “contemporary motions” at annual conference has been abolished. Previously the word “contemporary” has been used to automatically reject motions which were considered to overlap with reports from the NEC or National Policy Forum. Instead, CLPs will be able to submit motions to conference on any issue they choose and they do not have to continue to scramble around for ‘recent’ studies or articles to justify their submission.

Rule changes will be heard at conference in the same year they have been submitted by CLPs – getting rid of the undemocratic ‘tradition’ of delaying them for one year (which was never part of the rule book).

No second deputy leader: Wirral West withdrew this rule change when it transpired that Tom Watson was backing it, prompting fears that a right-winger was being groomed for the role. From Marxists’ point of view, the position of leader and deputy leader should actually be abolished altogether – it is very difficult to hold them to account or to get rid of them.

Trigger ballot: The NEC proposal has replaced the current trigger ballot with two separate ones: the first for local affiliated bodies like unions; and the second for the local Labour Party branches. The threshold in both has been reduced from the current 50% to 33% and it would be enough for one of the two sections to vote ‘no’ to start a full selection process – ie, a contest between the different candidates. This should make it easier to get rid of some right-wingers.

Quorum reduced: At the same time, the NEC has reduced the quorum for meetings with an all member structure to 5% of eligible members or 75 eligible members, whichever is lower. For meetings with a delegate structure, quorum remains 25% of eligible members.

AND ONE HUGE BETRAYAL

Much better of course if the undemocratic trigger ballot had been abolished altogether. This was a proposal moved by International Labour, which wanted to introduce open selection (aka mandatory reselection) of parliamentary candidates. And conference came within a whisker of adopting this important democratic principle. But it was defeated by Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey (who went against his own organisation’s position) and Momentum’s inept owner Jon Lansman. Click here to see a full report.

On the positive side, comrades in the Open Selection campaign have to decided to establish a permanent, national campaign that will bring back the rule change again – and again, if necessary, until we have won this important democratic principle.

Constitutional amendments, Labour Party conference 2018

Please note that not all of these will end up before delegates – some will be composited, others superseded by the Party Democracy Review. Click here to read our political assessment.


1. Battersea, referencing Chapter 1, Clause VIII, Section 1.G, The National Executive Committee, BAME rep, page 5 in existing rule book

Remove all of sub clause 1.G and replace with:

One member who self-defines as Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) who shall be elected in a national one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of all BAME members. No elected member of the House of Commons, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly shall be eligible to stand for this position.

Abstain

Our reason: Previously, the NEC BAME rep was elected by BAME Labour, which is a seriously rigged and undemocratic organisation (which is how Keith Vaz could get elected to the position as NEC representative). We would prefer to abolish this position altogether and instead increase the amount of NEC members elected by members in the branches and CLPs.


2. Tower Hamlets, referencing the same as 1.

Remove all of sub clause 1.G and replace with:

One member who self defines as Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) who shall be elected in a national one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of all BAME members, plus one BAME member elected by trade union delegates to the BAME Labour Conference. No elected member of the House of Commons, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or a member of the House of Lords shall be eligible to stand for this position.

Abstain

Our reason: See 1.


3. Aylesbury and Walton, referencing Chapter 1, Clause VIII, section 1 F, The National Executive Committee, Youth Rep

Remove all of sub clause 1.F and replace with:
One young member of the party who is at the close of nominations under 25 years old and who shall be elected in a national one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of all members of Young Labour as defined by Chapter 1.II.2.F, plus one young member who is at the close of nominations under 25 years old elected by trade union delegates to the Young Labour Conference.

Vote Against

Our reason:We prefer the NEC member to be elected at a democratic conference of Young Labour, as this allows members to question the different candidates and makes them accountable to said body. This should be viewed together with the rule change from Stockport, which seeks to democratise Young Labour and its conference. Note that this rule change also wants to reduce the maximum age of Young Labour members to 25 from currently 27.


4. Garston and Halewood, referencing Chapter 1, Clause VIII, section 1 F, The National Executive Committee – Youth Rep, Page 5

Remove all of sub clause 1 F and replace with:

One young member of the Labour Party who is at the close of nominations under 27 years old will be elected in a national one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of all members of Young Labour as defined by Chapter 1.II.2.F, plus one young member who is at the close of nominations under 27 years old elected by trades union delegates to the Young Labour Conference.

Vote Against

Our reason: see above.


5. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, Ceredigion, Swansea East referencing Chapter 1, Clause VIII, Section 1 H and I, Scottish and Welsh reps on the NEC, page 5

Remove all of sub clauses 1.H and I and replace with:

  1. One member of the Scottish Labour Party elected by the Scottish Labour Conference
  2. One member of the Welsh Labour Party, elected by the Welsh Labour Conference.

Vote For

Our reason:Just before the NEC shifted in favour of the left, the right majority pushed through a rule change that created two more seats on the NEC. This allowed the leader of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Party to choose an NEC member, who had to be “a front bench member” of the Scottish Parliament/the Welsh Assembly. This rule change tries to hand this power to the delegates at conference.


6. Mid Worcestershire, Rugby, Truro and Falmouth, Bexhill and Battle referencing Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 4.B, Conditions of Membership, page 10

Remove: ‘joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party, or’

Vote For

Our reason: This rule had not been used for decades – until the election of a certain Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the Labour Party, that is. Since 2015 though, it has been liberally applied to “auto-exclude” dozens of supporters and alleged supporters of Socialist Appeal, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Labour Party Marxists – many of whom had been active Labour Party members for many, many years. It was, for example, used to expel professor Moshé Machover after an article of his was published by Labour Party Marxists, which was handed out last year’s Labour Party conference (he has since been reinstated after an international outcry). It has also been used to auto-exclude people who have merely sharedarticles online published by the three organisations.

Members of Progress or Labour First – clearly very highly organised factions in the Labour Party – remain untouched. If applied consistently, the party would also have to expel supporters of the Stop the War Coalition or the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. But, of course, it has exclusivelybeen used against the organised left in the party. It is a McCarthyite anti-democratic rule that needs to go.


7. Broxtowe, referencing Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 4.B, Conditions ofMembership, page 10

Remove section B and replace with:
‘A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation that is in conflict with the aims and principles of the Labour Party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.’

Vote Against

Our reason:This adds a few words to the first sentence: “that is in conflict with the aims and principles of the Labour Party”. This might have been inspired/pushed by Momentum, where Jon Lansman has made clear his opposition to rule change 6. This proposal begs the question as to how on earth you prove that the aims of an organisation are not “in conflict” with those of the Labour Party. This formulation has been used, for example, to expel supporters of Socialist Appeal, because they self-define as Marxist. The CND clearly wants to abolish all nuclear weapons; Jeremy Corbyn wants to rearm Trident – incompatible, surely? The amendment clarifies nothing.


8. Tewkesbury, referencing Chapter 2, Clause III, section 6, Membership Subscription fees, Page 13

Replace existing section 6 with:

An NEC approved statement shall be produced setting out the basis on which membership fees shall be allocated, including from January 2017 a minimum cash allocation of 50% of each paid up member’s subscription and a guaranteed minimum package of support for all CLPs.

Vote For

Our reason:Currently, CLPs are allocated a ‘minimum’ of a measly £1.50 per member – per year! Clearly, an organisation that encourages local organisation and autonomy should allocate much more.


9. Copeland, referencing chapter 3, Clause I, Section B and C, Conference delegates, page 14

At the end of section B add:
Where there are an odd number of delegates appointed, or delegation sizes vary year on year, a CLP will be required to make 50% of their delegates female over a four year period. A CLP may only send a delegation which is composed of more than 50% males, if doing so would not take them outside this rule. If a CLP is unable to find sufficient female delegates to comply with this rule, they will not be allowed to make up their delegation with males but will forfeit places. In exceptional circumstances, where the CLP can demonstrate they have made every effort to seek sufficient female delegates, conference arrangements committee may agree to allow a single male delegate to attend in year five; in all other cases the period will be extended to future conferences until such time as the average is 50% female.

At the end of section C add:
CLPs will be expected to alternate between male and female youth delegates

Vote Against

Our reason: The rules already states that, “at least every second delegate from a CLP shall be a woman”. While we encourage the participation of women on all levels of the party, this rule effectively punishes the CLP if it cannot find any female volunteers. It seems to us that this is a pseudo-democratic, unnecessary addition that makes the rule book even more unwieldy than it already is.


10. Islington North and South Derbyshire, referencing chapter 3, Clause III, Section 1, Procedural Rules for Conference, Page 15

Add additional Sub clause at the end of Section 1:
The NEC draw up Standing Orders for Party Conference that will outline procedures for: the conference timetable, procedure in debate, motions, composite motions, emergency motions, withdrawal and remittance of motions, reference back, point of order, chair’s ruling, suspension of Standing Orders, voting, including full procedures for card votes, ending debate and the role of the CAC. These Standing Orders will be presented to the first session of each Party Conference in a CAC report for agreement by the conference.

Vote For

Our reason: This is sorely lacking at present, as anybody who has attended conference will confirm. While each morning delegates and visitors wade through the huge pile of papers, composited motions and votes cast the previous day, the CAC plays hard and fast with conference standing orders (many which are not written down anywhere). It has a huge amount of power. It can decide, for example, if there should be a ‘hand vote’ or a ‘card vote’.

The unions and other affiliates have around 300 delegates at conference, while the CLPs have about 1,200. But in a card vote the affiliates’ vote counts for 50% of the total vote; ditto the CLPs’ vote (which is then further divided according to how many members a CLP has). Roughly, a union delegate’s vote counts for four times as much as the vote of a CLP delegate – and that can make all the difference in a dispute.

At the 2016 conference, for example, a huge row broke out at conference over the NEC’s “reform package” that snuck in two additional NEC seats for the leaders of Welsh and Scottish Labour. Delegates were on their feet, shouting “card vote, card vote” – but the chair simply refused and declared that the hand vote had “clearly won”. In a card vote, the result would have gone the other way, as the unions were firmly against the addition of two rightwingers.


11. Blackley and Broughton, Burnley, Filton and Bradley Stoke, Newport West, referencing chapter 3, Clause III, Section 2, Constitutional Amendments, page 13

Add Additional Sub clause at the end of Section 2:

All constitutional amendments submitted by affiliated organisations and CLPs that are accepted as in order shall be timetabled for debate at the first annual party conference following their submission.

Vote For

Our reason: The practice currently employed is actually not part of the rule book. It delays debate of constitutional amendments to the following year. An utterly unnecessary block to the democratic will of Labour Party members. Apparently, this was also discussed as part of the Democracy Review, but rejected by Katy Clark.


12. Beckenham, Brighton Pavilion, Hereford, Leyton & Wanstead, Solihull, referencing chapter 3, Clause III, Section 2. C Contemporary Motions Page 16

Delete the word ‘contemporary’ in the first sentence
.
Delete ‘determine whether the motions meet these criteria and’ from the second sentence.
Delete ‘which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to conference’, replace with ‘on a matter of policy, campaigning or party organization and finance’
Second sentence: delete ‘determine whether the motions meet the criteria and’
Delete the word ‘contemporary’ in the last sentence

Vote For

Our reason: This is another rule change ‘left over’ from last year – and it should have been implemented a long time ago.Currently, the Conference Arrangements Committee and the NEC rule out tons of contemporary motions, because they deal with a subject that is mentioned in the overlong documents produced by the National Policy Forum. We are strongly against this outsourcing of policy-making to an untransparent and unwieldy forum like the NPF. Conference must become the supreme body of the party. The NPF is nothing but a pseudo-democratic device – invented by Tony Blair, of course – and should be abolished.


13. Washington & Sunderland West and 19 other CLPs, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 2, B.i Election of Leader and Deputy Leader Nominations, page 18

Delete part of first sentence:

‘by 15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP’

Replace with

‘by nominations from: a) 15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP; or b) 15 per cent of the affiliated national trade unions; or c) 15 per cent of Constituency Labour Parties’

Vote Against

Our reason: This still gives parliamentarians too much power. There is a better proposal coming up in the Party Democracy Review, so this rule change will hopefully be superseded: This envisagesthat all candidates would have “to secure the support of 10% of trade unions, MPs orparty members, plus 5% of each of the other groups”, as The Guardianreports the leak. Though Marxists actually favour doing away with any threshold altogether – it should be up to the members to decide.


14. Edmonton, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 2, B.i Election of Leader and Deputy Leader Nominations, page 18

At the end of the sentence

‘15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP’

Add 

‘and Constituency Labour Parties’

Vote Against

Our reason: see rule change 13


15. Wirral West, referencing Chapter 4, Clause II, Section 2. A, Election of Deputy Leader, page 18

Remove

‘Deputy Leader’ and replace with ‘2 Deputy Leaders’.

At the end of the sub clause add the sentence

‘At least one Deputy Leader must be a woman’

Abstain

Our reason:We have sympathy for this rule change, which is clearly designed to curb the power of Tom Watson. But we are in favour of doing away with the position of deputy leader altogether. Incidentally, we are also in favour of doing away with the position of leader, as there are serious issues of how members can effectively hold somebody in such a strong position to account.


16. Hornsey & Wood Green, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 2. A, Election of Deputy Leader, Page 18

After sub clause 2. A add:

At all times subsequent to the 2020 General Election, or earlier if a vacancy arises, at least one of the two positions of leader and deputy leader will be occupied by a woman. If the position of Deputy Leader is held by a man, and a leadership election is required for any reason, Leader and Deputy leader nominations and elections will be held simultaneously.

The existing male deputy leader will only be eligible for re-election if the elected leader is a woman. He will be deemed to have resigned at the point of the declaration of the Leader election, unless the elected leader is a woman.

At the end of 2.B I add:

In the event of an election for deputy leader consequent on the requirement for at least one woman in the leadership, if at the close of the nomination period all candidates for Deputy Leader are male, nominations will be reopened with a threshold of 5% of the Commons members of the PLP. If after the close of such nomination period, there are no women nominations, nominations will reopen with self-nomination from members of the PLP. 

At the beginning of 2 C iii add:

Votes will be counted first for Leader. If a man is declared elected, the first preference votes for any man in the Deputy Leadership election will be disregarded.

The second preference votes of those male candidates will be redistributed immediately and considered in the first round of counting. If a woman is elected leader, all votes and candidates will be counted in the Deputy Leader election.

Vote Against

Our reason: see above – plus, this suggested rule change is unnecessarily complicated and long-winded.


17. Kingswood, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section C. vi, Voting-Registered Supporters, page 19

Remove the phrase ‘registered supporters’

Remove all other references to registered supporters in rule book.

Vote For

Our reason: This was referenced back last year in favour of the Party Democracy Review – as it is listed again, we presume this issue is not covered by the recommendations of the Review. We are against the Americanisation of politics and would argue for Labour Party members only to have a vote.


18. Canterbury,Leeds North West, Newark, Southampton Test, Stockton South, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 4, Election of General Secretary, page 20

Delete section 4.A. and replace with

The General Secretary of the Party shall be elected in accordance with the provisions set out below for a term of up to 3 years, at the discretion of the NEC. The General Secretary shall be accountable to the NEC for the implementation of its decisions and the management of all Labour Party staff. The NEC shall have the power to terminate the employment of the General Secretary, provided that its decision is supported by an absolute majority of its members.

 The first election under these rules shall be initiated no more than one year and eight months after this rule is introduced when the General Secretary at that time shall be entitled to apply and, if s/he does so, shall be entitled to be included as a candidate in the ballot. Thereafter, no later than 2 years and eight months after the previous election of the general secretary, and in the event of a casual vacancy or a decision to give notice of the termination of the appointment of the current general secretary, the NEC shall initiate the process for electing a general secretary.

 In order to ensure a wide choice of applicants, all NEC members may choose up to 4 applicants for interview, at least two of whom shall be women, and the eight candidates with the most support shall be interviewed. Following the interviews, all NEC members may support two candidates, one of whom must be a woman, of whom the top four shall go forward to a national one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of all members of the party to be conducted in line with guidelines issued by the NEC.

 The candidate with the most votes in that ballot shall be declared elected General Secretary at the subsequent Party conference and shall be an ex-officio member of Party conference. S/he shall devote her or his whole time to the work of the Party and shall not be eligible to act as a parliamentary candidate. Should a vacancy in the office occur, for whatever reason, between Party conferences, the NEC shall have full power to fill the vacancy on a temporary basis pending the outcome of a new election. And the NEC shall make necessary consequential amendments.

Vote Against

Our reason: We have a lot of sympathy for this rule change, which has no doubt been inspired by the disastrous reign of Iain McNicol. He had to be bribed out of his job after undermining Jeremy Corbyn for two long years, during which he was responsible for facilitating the witch-hunt against thousands of Corbyn supporters, creating the hostile and fearful atmosphere we can still feel today.

Currently, the GS is elected at conference “at the recommendation of the NEC” and usually stays in the job until s/he dies or retires. We therefore welcome the fact that this rule change seeks to give the NEC the clear power to sack the GS, because that is clearly missing in the current rules. However, this also creates a certain democratic deficit: all party members can vote for the GS, but s/he could then be sacked by the NEC.

In our view, it would make more sense for the GS to be truly accountable to the NEC by being elected by this body too: it is, after all, the NEC that the GS is supposed to serve.

We also disagree with limiting the term to three years. If the person is doing a great job, why get rid of him or her? On the other hand, if s/he is terrible, s/he can be sacked straight away anyway. There is no point to this limit.


19.  New Forest East, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 4, Election of General Secretary, page 20

See rule change 16, but this envisages “… a term of up to 5 years” instead of 3 years. 

Vote Against

Our reason: See above 18.


20. Swansea West, referencing chapter 4, Clause II, Section 8, Election of Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour Party, page 20

Remove sub clause 8.A and replace with

The Leader and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour shall be elected by a one member one vote (OMOV) ballot of members in Wales conducted to procedures laid down by the Welsh Executive Committee.

Vote Against

Our reason: Again, we have a lot of sympathy with the motives behind this rule change: a truly undemocratic weighted electoral college, adopted only recently by the Welsh executive committee, has led to the election of Carolyn Harris MP, who is deeply unpopular among individual Labour Party members (but was favoured by the unions and elected representatives). But if there has to be a position of ‘leader’ – a position we think should be abolished – we would prefer this person to be elected by the (democratically chosen) Welsh/Scottish executive directly. After all, s/he is supposed to be accountable to and recallable by that body.


21. Dartford, referencing chapter 4, Clause III, Section A.i.d, Election of NEC – local governance, page 21

Replace first sentence with:

Division IV (local governance) shall consist of four members from either the Association of Labour Councillors (‘ALC’), directly elected mayors, or elected Police Commissioners, at least two of whom shall be women.

Vote Against

Our reason: This rule change clearly comes from the right. Instead of doubling the figure from two to four, these NEC positions should be abolished altogether.


22. Sefton Central, referencing chapter 4, Clause III, Section C.i. a,b and c, Election of the NCC (national constitutional committee), Page 22

In sub clauses C(i) a, b and c delete

‘their delegations at Party conference on a card vote basis’

Replace with:

‘means of a one-member-one-vote postal ballot among all eligible individual members of the Party, conducted to guidelines laid down by the NEC’

Vote For

Our reason: The National Constitutional Committee is incredibly important in the ongoing civil war. This is where the NEC sends all disciplinary cases it does not want to deal with themselves. Ideally, it should be abolished. But, seeing as this is not an option, we agree with this reform, which takes away the right of the unions, cooperatives and socialist societies to chose who should judge over party members.


23. Manchester Gorton, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, page 27

insert New Sub clause after sub clause 1, to read:

The NEC’s procedural rules and guidelines for the selection of candidates for Westminster parliament elections shall include provision for party branches and affiliated organisations to both interview prospective candidates and make nominations to the long list. The drawing up of the final shortlist will give due cognisance to the weight of nominations each candidate receives.

Vote For

Our reason: This is mainly to do with by-elections, where time constraints are often used as a reason to ignore the nominations by branches. Currently, candidates can be nominated by most branches, but still excluded from the long list. However, this rule change is basically tinkering with a process that is wholly undemocratic. We hope that rule changes 22 and 24 will supersede this one.


24. Portsmouth North, Rochester & Strood, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

Remove sub clause A and B and replace with

If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election the standard procedures for the selection of a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be set in motion not later than 42 months after the last time the said Member of Parliament was elected to Parliament at a general election and before any scheduled or “snap” general election. The said Member of Parliament shall have equal selection rights to other potential candidates save for those outlined in paragraph.

 The said Member of Parliament shall have the right to be included (irrespective of whether he/she has been nominated) on the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be made 

Vote For

Our reason: This rule change does away with the trigger ballot. It would establish the mandatory reselection of all parliamentary candidates, similar to rule change 24. We presume these two amendments will be composited.


25. West Lancashire, referencingchapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

In Section 5 remove all references to ‘trigger ballot’ and replace with the phrase ‘CLP re-selection ballot’

Remove text from Section B and replace with:

If the MP fails to win the trigger ballot, he/ she shall not be eligible for nomination for selection as the prospective parliamentary candidate, and s/he shall not be included in the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection shall be made.

Vote For

Our reason: This will hopefully be overtaken by the much more radical rule changes 22 and 24. If not, then we urge a vote in favour of this rule change, as currently a sitting MP is automatically included on the short list of candidates, even if they lose the trigger ballot.


26. Labour International, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

Remove sub clauses 5 and 6 and replace with:

  1. Following an election for a Parliamentary constituency the procedure for selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates shall be as follows:If the CLP is not represented in Parliament by a member of the PLP, a timetable for selecting the next Westminster Parliamentary Candidate shall commence no sooner than six weeks after the election and complete no later than 12 months after the election.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.
  1. The CLP Shortlisting Committee shall draw up a shortlist of interested candidates to present to all members of the CLP who are eligible to vote in accordance with Clause I.1.A above

Vote For 

Our reason:This is very similar to rule change 22 and the two will probably be composited. It would enshrine a process of real mandatory reselection.


27. Worthing West, Bristol West, Hove, referencingchapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

Remove Section 5 and 6 and replace with:

  1. If a CLP is represented in Parliament by a member of the PLP, that MP shall indicate, no later than 30 months after the last general election, or by an earlier specified date if the NEC believes that there is a significant prospect of an early general election, whether or not s/he wishes to stand for re-election.
  2. A. If a sitting MP has not indicated by that date that s/he wishes to stand for re-election, if s/he has indicated s/he wishes to retire, or if there is no sitting Labour MP, the NEC shall agree a timetable for a selection process for that constituency, candidates shall be invited to express interest in the selection and a Shortlisting Committee shall be appointed in line with procedural guidance to be issued by the NEC.In line with that timetable, party units and affiliates may make nominations in accordance with NEC guidance, and in doing so may interview interested candidates or not as they see fit. Any decision to invite some of the interested candidates to interview by party units must be made at a meeting to which all members of that unit have been invited, in accordance with party rules and with an explanation of the decisions that will be made at it.After the closing date for nominations, the Shortlisting Committee shall present to all members of the CLP who are eligible to vote (in accordance with Clause I.1.A above) a shortlist of nominated candidates. That shortlist must reflect the requirements of the NEC to ensure that candidates are representative of our society in accordance with Clause I.E.i above, and be subject to the requirement that any candidate who has received nominations from party branches representing over half of the CLP membership, or from more than half the affiliates and party units other than branches shall be included, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.
  3. A. If a sitting MP has indicated by that date that s/he wishes to stand for re-election, the NEC shall agree a timetable for a selection process for that constituency, candidates shall be invited to express interest in the selection and a Shortlisting Committee shall be appointed in line with procedural guidance to be issued by the NEC.B. In line with that timetable, party units and affiliates may make a single nomination each in accordance with NEC guidance, and in doing so may interview interested candidates or not as they see fit. Any decision to shortlist some of the interested candidates for consideration by party units for nomination must be made at a meeting to which all members of that unit have been invited, in accordance with party rules and with an explanation of the decisions that will be made at it. Whether party units make nominations following interviews or based on candidates’ applications, the sitting MP must be considered alongside and on equal terms to other candidates. If party units choose not to invite other candidates, then the sitting MP shall not attend the nomination meeting.C. If the sitting MP receives both
  1. nominations from party branches with a combined membership of more than two thirds of the CLP membership, and
  2. nominations submitted by more than two thirds of the affiliates and party units other than branches submitting nominations,
    then the sitting MP shall be automatically reselected. D. Where the sitting MP is not automatically reselected, the Shortlisting Committee shall present to all members of the CLP who are eligible to vote in accordance with Clause I.1.A above a shortlist of nominated candidates. That shortlist must reflect the requirements of the NEC to ensure that candidates are representative of our society in accordance with Clause I.E.i above, it must include the sitting MP and it must be subject to the requirement that any candidate who has received nominations either from party branches with a combined membership of more than one half of the CLP membership or from more than half of the affiliates and party units other than branches making nominations shall be included, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.E. If the said MP is not selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate s/he shall have the right of appeal to the NEC. The appeal can only be made on the grounds that the procedures laid down in the rules and the general provisions of the constitution, rules and standing orders have not been properly carried out. The NEC must receive the appeal by the date on which they consider endorsement of the parliamentary candidate for the constituency.

Vote Against

Our reason: This rule change might do away with the word ‘trigger ballot’, but not with the undemocratic concept. If a sitting MP receives more than 66% of nominations from party branches and affiliated organisations, the MP would automatically be reselected. Such a system would still hugely favour the sitting MP and could be easily rigged by affiliated unions and societies. Much better to have an open and democratic contest between all candidates, to be decided by Labour Party members – as envisaged by rule changes 22 and 24. It smacks of Momentum’s original plan to reform the trigger ballot (see article by Carla Roberts).


28. Hastings & Rye, Kensington, Rayleigh & Wickford, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

Remove Section 5 A and B and replace with:

5. If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election the standard procedures for the selection of a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be set in motion not later than 42 months after the last time the said Member of Parliament was elected to Parliament at a general election. If the nominations, by both party units and affiliates, are over 66% in favour of the sitting MP then the NEC has the authority to endorse the sitting MPs as the CLP’s prospective parliamentary candidate [in those cases where a CLP does not have a branch structure (in other words, does not have the usual structure of party units), the NEC will provide appropriate guidance].

6. The said Member of Parliament shall have the right to be included (irrespective of whether he/she has been nominated) on the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be made.

Vote Against

Our reason: Shorter than rule change 25, but would still give the sitting MP a huge advantage over other candidates. Also smacks of Momentum’s original plan to reform the trigger ballot (see article by Carla Roberts).


29. Richmond Park, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, Point 5, page 28

At the start of Section 7 add:

CLPs have the right to decide whether or not to field a candidate to contest a Westminster parliamentary seat. Such a vote, if moved from the floor and seconded, is to be taken at the beginning of a selection meeting. Should the vote be passed, the selection meeting is concluded. This decision would be endorsed by the NEC, such endorsements would not be reasonably with-held. Should the vote fall, the meeting proceeds to the selection of candidates.

Vote For

Our reason: We presume that this rule change comes from the right and has been moved by people who argued to withdraw a Labour Party candidate in favour of Tory billionaire Zac Goldsmith, who was standing as an ‘independent’ candidate in a by-election in 2016, triggered by his resignation from the Conservatives in protest over their support for a third runway in Heathrow (he is now safely back in the Tory fold).

Nevertheless, it is entirely correct that local members should have the right to decide not just whothey want as their candidate – but also ifthey even want to stand somebody. In the past, local Labour Parties stood down in order to support a candidate from the Communist Party, for example.


30. Cheltenham, referencing chapter 5, Clause IV, Section 1, Selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates, page 28

Remove Section 1 and replace with:

Following a parliamentary election in constituencies that do not elect Labour MPs, all the relevant CLPs will choose and appoint a candidate for any future parliamentary election within six months of the date of the aforesaid parliamentary election. If the chosen candidate later withdraws for any reason, the CLP will choose and appoint another candidate within three months. These selections will be made according to the procedure described in paragraphs 5.IV.6 -7 and clause 5.I.

Vote Against

Our reason: There is currently no particular time frame for choosing candidates. Is it useful to have somebody in this position for over four and a half years? This rule change does not allow for the person to be replaced (unless s/he withdraws voluntarily).


31. Bracknell, referencing chapter 6, Clause 1, Section 2, Readmission to the party following Auto-

Exclusion, Page 31

Remove section 2 and replace with:

When there has either been a decision to expel a member, or an automatic exclusion has been agreed, the body making that decision (NEC or NCC) will at the time of the decision also specify a period of between one and five years which has to elapse before readmission will be considered. The member will be informed of the exclusion period and the reason for their exclusion. The CLP will also be similarly informed. An application for re-admission shall not normally be considered by the NEC until the specified minimum period has elapsed. When a person applies for re-admission to the Party following an expulsion by the NCC on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2 4A above of the membership rules, the application shall be submitted to the NEC for consideration and decision. The decision of the NEC shall be binding on the individual concerned and on the CLP relevant to the application.

Vote For

Our reason:The current period following an expulsion or auto-exclusion is set at a fixed “minimum of five years”. This amendment would give the NEC the right to choose a shorter period. There would probably still be unfair and unjust expulsions, but this is slightly better than the status quo.


32. Stockport, referencing chapter 11, Clause V, Rules for Young Labour, Page 47

Add an additional sub clause 4, as follows:

Young Labour shall have its own constitution and standing orders, to be determined by the Young Labour AGM.

Vote For

Our reason: This amendment should have been discussed and agreed last year, but was referenced back in favour of the Party Democracy Review. So unless this proposal is superseded by democratic changes contained in Katy Clark’s recommendations, socialists should support.


33. City of Durham, referencing chapter 12, Clause I and IV, Rules for Local Campaign Forums, Page 52

In Chapter 12 remove all reference to ‘Local Campaign Forum’ and replace with ‘Local Government Committee’.

Remove sub clauses 1-4 in Clause IV and replace with:

  1. The membership of the Local Government Committee shall consist 75% of delegates from the local CLP(s) and 25% from affiliates. At least 50% of delegates from each group shall be women.
  2. Additionally, CLP campaign co-ordinators shall be ex officio members of the LGC. Any sitting MP, AM, MSP, MEP, PCC and / or PPC may attend their LGC. Where a Co-operative Party council exists for the area concerned and they sponsor candidates in local elections they shall be entitled to appoint a member to the LGC.
  3. The LGC shall meet at least four times per year with representatives of the Labour group where one exists.

Vote For

Our reason: This will probably be superseded by the Party Democracy Review, which wants to re-establish District Labour Parties and do away with LCFs altogether (though we do not yet know on what basis).

The current LCFs clearly need radical reforming: They are dominated by councillors and party officials and are little more than toothless debating chambers. They used to write the Labour group’s manifesto, but this has long been outsourced to the councillors themselves. We would prefer a much more thoroughgoing reform of this body though.

NEC readmits leftwingers

But hopes that this might mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt could be premature, warns Carla Roberts

One of the biggest problems the Labour Party has today is its lack of a media outlet. Apart from the occasional email and snazzily produced video, we receive very little unfiltered, unbiased news from Jeremy Corbyn.

Having said that, it is, of course, far from certain that he and his allies would indeed always be prepared to share important decisions and developments with the membership. Take the last meeting of the party’s national executive committee, on January 23 in London – its first meeting since its expansion following the election of three pro-Corbyn members. We all know of the decision of the NEC to request a “pause” in the housing development in Haringey (we will come that later). But apparently the meeting also took the decision to readmit a number of members previously suspended or expelled from the party. An important and potentially very positive development, that we were informed of through an acidy skewed report in The Sunday Times:

A holocaust denier and a leading member of Militant during its takeover of Liverpool council are among a first wave of expelled hard-left activists who have been readmitted to the Labour Party. Activists have been allowed to rejoin despite still belonging to organisations ‘proscribed’ by Labour – including a Trotskyist group, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Others stood against Labour for hard-left parties as recently as 2016.1)The Sunday Times February 4

Clearly, the information was leaked by a rightwinger on the NEC, with the intention of inflicting damage on Jeremy Corbyn. There are no official reports or records of these decisions to be found anywhere. In fact, we still do not know how many members have actually been suspended since Corbyn’s election (and how many remain suspended) or how many have been expelled for ‘supporting’ non-Labour organisations. The Times last week wrote that the party “had to suspend 18 members for anti-Semitism”.2)The Times February 2
 If this figure is true, that immediately begs the question: how on earth can the right can get away with continuing to claim that anti-Semitism is a huge problem in the party?

We also do not know if The Sunday Times is correct when it claims that “the appointment of leftwing members to review leftwing activists’ membership appeals was part of an understanding that would allow centrist members to review their own allies’ disciplinary cases”. It seems rather unlikely that the right of the party – which, of course, initiated the expulsion and suspension of so many leftwing members – would now simply leave everything to the pro-Corbyn NEC left to deal with. Also, how many disciplinary cases are there against “centrist” members? Not many, presumably. But we have to guess here, of course.

Even the latest, extensive report sent out by veteran NEC leftie Pete Willsman (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) does not mention any of this. We cannot even be sure if the January 23 decisions on disciplinary matters are in any way unusual, as we do not know how many cases have been dealt with at previous meetings.

The Sunday Times (and those leaking to it) does, however, present the decisions of the meeting as highly unusual, as the outcome apparently “shows the extent of the resurgent left’s control over the party after recent elections to its governing body, where Momentum candidates won a ‘clean sweep’ of new positions”.

With a bit of detective work, we can gather that the NEC on January 23 decided that the membership requests from three applicants should come “under NEC review”: They are Ken Livingstone’s “race tsar”, Lee Jasper, who stood against the Labour Party for George Galloway’s Respect in 2012; Kingsley Abrams, who stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the 2015 general election; and a man convicted of fraud in 1981, for which he served a seven-year sentence.

The NEC also decided to reinstate one member suspended for anti- Semitism (under certain conditions – see below) and that the membership applications of two previously expelled activists should be accepted. Here are the cases the NEC dealt with :

Alan Fogg was a Labour councillor in Liverpool, when he was expelled from the party in 1985 for supporting the Militant Tendency (today’s Socialist Party). He stood for Tusc in the 2016 local elections. The acceptance of his membership application is good news for a number of leftwingers who have been denied membership on the grounds that they have stood for Tusc or Left Unity. It is also an indication that Lee Jasper and Kingsley Abrams will probably be reinstated, too. Good.

Author Mike Sivier, according to The Times, is a “holocaust denier” and was suspended last year for “comments about Jews and Zionism”:

On his website, Sivier, 48, said it “may be entirely justified” to say Tony Blair had been “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisors”. He also said he was “not pretending it was a big problem” if Jews were omitted from a list of holocaust survivors, and claimed “I’m not going to comment” on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the holocaust, as “I don’t know”.

Mike Sivier has commented at length on the “libellous article” and, while this writer did not have the time to investigate the whole case or all of the man’s writings, it seems pretty clear that his few words above – which have been taken from a single Facebook thread and seem to form the entire case against him – were presented to the Labour Party by the truly vile ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’ out of context, out of sequence and in a seriously misleading way.

Take his most problematic comments about the holocaust – I mean, how can you pretend not to know about it? Sivier explains the context: a Facebook conversation with somebody called “Ben”, who seemed intent on setting him up. Ben sent him a link to an article in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s publication Workers’ Liberty, which stated:

In 2008, the SWP issued an explanation of the holocaust that referred to “thousands” (not ‘millions’) of victims and omitted any reference to Jews. Whether this was ‘organised’ or ‘just a mistake’ seems irrelevant.

Workers’Liberty featured alongside it a picture of a scruffy Socialist Worker petition against the “Nazi BNP”. And one of the points on the petition does indeed read: “They [the BNP] deny the holocaust, where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled people were slaughtered.” Sivier explains:

I responded: “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’, because I don’t know” – meaning, of course, I don’t know why the SWP had said that. I have always used the ‘high’ figure of six million Jews who were killed in the Nazi holocaust. Perhaps your reporter should have read my recent articles on Holocaust Memorial Day before typing that reference into his piece? Or, indeed, any of my articles.

Clearly, this man is no David Irving, problematic formulations like the “‘high’ figure” above not withstanding. Understandably, the NEC felt it needed to let him back in. According to The Times, “the NEC voted by 12 to 10 to issue Sivier a ‘warning’, but not to expel him, suggesting the new arithmetic on the body had a decisive impact.” Indeed. We also know that Jon Lansman in particular is a firm believer in the anti-Semitism “problem” in the Labour Party, so it is more than doubtful that he would indeed vote for the readmission of somebody who is indeed a “holocaust denier”. We simply presume, of course, that it was the NEC left voting in favour of his readmission, rather than the right – but who knows?

As an aside, we also wonder if the voting figure is correct, seeing as there are 39 members of the NEC and the fact that The Sunday Times got another thing wrong: Sivier has actually not (yet) been readmitted, because he is refusing to attend the NEC-instructed “anti-Semitism awareness training”.

Janine Booth, senior member of the AWL, has seemingly learned nothing from her own expulsion or those of her comrades. On Facebook, she replied “Indeed” to a comment that repeated the description of Mike Sivier as a “holocaust denier”. The writer continued: “Extraordinary to put you in the same article as a holocaust-denier. How utterly appalling. I hope he is not readmitted.” Underneath Janine approvingly posted a tweet by Richard Angell, leader of Progress, who wrote: “Why the leadership on the verge of winning an election would want to be associated with holocaust deniers and the like?” She comments: “Richard Angell (Progress) makes an even stronger connection.”

Well he would, wouldn’t he? No doubt it was his Progress friends on the NEC who leaked the decisions to The Sunday Times – in order, of course, to harm Jeremy Corbyn.

One really has to wonder sometimes about the pro-Zionist AWL. In its blind mission to label everybody on the “fake left” anti-Semitic, it fails to grasp some pretty basic political truths. The witch-hunt against the left in the party has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to stamp out anti-Semitism, real or imaginary – it has everything to do with weakening Jeremy Corbyn by tainting his supporters on the left. Which is, of course, why the witch-hunt is also directed against members of the AWL.

Janine Booth also proudly posted a tweet by Jeremy Newark, leader of the Jewish Labour Movement, who wrote: “Putting other politics aside, I know that Janine Booth’s readmission means the Labour Party gains a robust and fearless voice against anti-Semitism – much needed right now.”

Her lack of political astuteness (acquired through years of membership in the AWL) aside, we do, of course, welcome Janine’s readmission into the Labour Party. The party should be the home of all socialists and trade unionists – and there will be plenty of members with perhaps even funnier ideas.

Her reinstatement gives some hope that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt against the Marxist left in the Labour Party.

Her case is, however, quite different to that of the dozens (hundreds?) who have been expelled from the party for their alleged support for groups like Socialist Appeal and Labour Party Marxists. It does, however, highlight how the rules are being used, abused and even ignored, depending on who is applying them and for what reason.

Janine was expelled from Labour in 2003, after having stood as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance in Hackney in the general election of 2001 and the local elections of 2002. She was expelled under rule 2.4.1. A, according to which “anybody who stands for election … in opposition to a Labour candidate shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member”. It carries an automatic ban of five years.

She applied to rejoin in 2015, when the (not yet Corbyn-dominated) NEC ruled that it had no objections to her readmission and that it was solely up to her CLP (Hackney South and Shoreditch) to decide on the matter. The CLP “objected on the grounds that (a) I (allegedly) support Tusc and (b) I’m a member of Workers’ Liberty.”

The first accusation is quite funny, of course, because it shows how little the witch-hunters know about the left. The AWL never did more than back a few individual Tusc candidates. She “freely admitted the second, arguing that there are plenty of factions in the Labour Party and that is part of healthy debate”.3)www.janinebooth.com/content/my-exclusion- labour-party A week later, she received an official letter refusing her application to rejoin. It mentioned, however, that she could reapply in two years’ time.

Which Janine did again last year, when once more the NEC ruled that it was up to her CLP to make the decision. This time, the local party agreed – no doubt a reflection of the dramatic political changes in its membership.

Bans and proscriptions

The Sunday Times complains about her re-admittance: “Activists have been allowed to rejoin despite still belonging to organisations proscribed by Labour – including a Trotskyist group, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.” Further on though, the same article quotes “a senior party source” as saying that the party

no longer recognised the list of proscribed organisations, so people linked to them could not be banned. “There is a debate about whether these existed at points in Labour history,” the source said. “Our view is that they no longer exist.”

Proscribed-Groups-1935 2Labour has not had an official list of proscribed organisations since 1973. In 1930, the party leadership produced its first ‘proscribed list’, squarely aimed at the Communist Party of Great Britain, which included organisations and unions influenced by the CPGB.4)www.labourpains.group.shef.ac.uk/dust In 1939 the NEC added the Socialist League to the list, then in 1942 the Labour Research Department (which had originally been founded in 1912 as the Fabian Research Department, an offshoot of the Fabian Society). In the McCarthyite atmosphere of the 1950s, a few more organisations and publications were added, including Socialist Outlook and the Socialist Labour League (of which Gerry Healy was a leading member).

In 1973, general secretary Ron Hayward abolished the list, because “Difficulties have been experienced in keeping a current record of the many political organisations that are established, many of which are of short life, change their names or merge with other organisations.”5)R Hayward, ‘Discontinuation of the proscribed list’ (circular to secretaries of affiliates and Labour Party organisations, July 1973 In other words, it was not a democratic policy – quite the opposite. The list had been viewed more and more like an entry visa for all those organisations not featured on it.

For the Militant Tendency (today’s Socialist Party in England and Wales), the bureaucrats had to think of a new trick: after various failed attempts to kick it out, in 1982 they proposed the establishment of a register of non- affiliated groups that would be allowed to operate in the Labour Party. Militant was invited to apply – and was rejected. Not a few of its members were expelled over the next few years.

The bans continued. In 1990, a proposal to ban the newspaper Socialist Organiser was confirmed at Labour’s annual conference. In response, the Socialist Organiser Alliance dissolved and in 1992 launched a new grouping: the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty! Some people claim that this means the AWL and the Socialist Party remain the only two organisations that are featured on the (unofficial) list of organisations proscribed by the Labour Party.

Of course, we welcome the news that the list seems no longer to be “recognised”. It has always been a tool of the right to keep the party ‘safe’.

Whose rules?

While Marxists today are not being excluded for membership of explicitly “proscribed” organisations, they are, of course, still being expelled. In the wake of the publication of Tom Watson’s ridiculous ‘Reds under the beds’ dossier of 2016, supporters – and alleged supporters – of LPM, Red Flag and the AWL have received a standard expulsion letter, which reads:

It has been brought to our attention that you have been closely involved with and supported [named organisation], whose programme, principles and policies are not compatible with those of the Labour Party. Chapter 2.I.4.B of the Labour Party’s rules states:

A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party … shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member” (my emphasis).

The first paragraph does, of course, give the impression that there is – perhaps in some well guarded location – a secret list of dangerous organisations or some sort of overview of banned terms (like ‘revolutionary’) that could explain what makes a group incompatible with the Labour Party.

It seems not. More likely the bureaucrats have been picking and choosing from the rulebook as they see fit. According to the constitution, it does not actually matter if the programme of the organisation you are deemed to be supporting is “incompatible” with that of the Labour Party. Indeed, the organisation in question does not even have to have a programme to lead to the instant expulsion of any “supporter”. The witch-hunters have mangled up 2.4.1.B with rule 1.2.5.A, which deals with organisations wanting to affiliate:

Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party, having their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda, or possessing branches in the constituencies, or engaged in the promotion of parliamentary or local government candidates, or having allegiance to any political organisation situated abroad, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the party (my emphasis).

Neither the AWL, Socialist Appeal, Red Flag nor LPM have applied for affiliation – though we are very much looking forward to the day when socialists organisations can do so again – an absolute necessity in the fight to transform Labour into a real party of the whole class.

It goes without saying that both rules should be abolished (along with a few others!) as part of the long process of transformation ahead of us. According to rule 2.4.1.B, Janine Booth would now have to be expelled again, because she openly admits to being an active member of the AWL.

While it obviously makes sense to stop Labour Party members from standing against the party, rule 2.4.1.B has to go. It is wide open to abuse. Notoriously, Moshé Machover was expelled for having articles published in Labour Party Marxists and the Weekly Worker. That, apparently, was enough to prove his “support” for a non-Labour organisation. After a national campaign, in which dozens of Labour Party branches and CLPs issued statements in opposition, he had to be reinstated within three weeks. How different from the case of Mike Palin, who remains expelled under the same rule – simply for sharing Facebook posts that included a handful of articles from Labour Party Marxists and the Weekly Worker.

All this proves that the problem is not the rules in and of themselves. The problem arises from those in charge of applying them. Of course, we will continue to demand the abolition of the various witch-hunting rules (like 2.4.1.B and 1.2.5.A), but an important part of that fight is to get Labour Party members and branches across the country to protest publicly. The active involvement of the largely pro-Corbyn membership is the best way to aid this necessary transformation – as will continuing pressure from campaigns like Labour Against the Witchhunt.

References

1 The Sunday Times February 4
2 The Times February 2

3 www.janinebooth.com/content/my-exclusion- labour-party
4 www.labourpains.group.shef.ac.uk/dust
5 R Hayward, ‘Discontinuation of the proscribed list’ (circular to secretaries of affiliates and Labour Party organisations, July 1973