Tag Archives: NEC

LPM @ Labour conference: Wednesday September 27

In this issue of Red Pages:

  • Don’t relax – now the real work begins!
  • Stuffed parrots, texts from Momentum – but very little real decision-making. A first time delegate reports
  • Transform the Labour Party – the basis of our submission to the Corbyn review
  • Support trade unionists in Iran!

Download the PDF version of this issue here: part 1 and part 2

Don’t relax – now the real work begins!

This conference was certainly historic: almost 1,200 delegates and 13,000 visitors made this the largest Labour conference ever. It was also very left-wing, at least in its composition. There are lots of things the left can celebrate:

  • We defeated attempts by the right to portray Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites. Clearly designed to shut up the left, it achieved exactly the opposite effect: there were dozens of speakers at conference who spoke out against the right wing’s vile witch-hunt and in favour of the rights of Palestinians. This ran like a red thread through conference.
  • Pressure from below (and perhaps Corbyn?) forced the Conference Arrangements Committee to re-insert Labour’s support for the Palestinian cause into the National Policy Forum’s report.
  • Labour First and Progress played no role at conference – and were visibly upset about it: their dismissal of the majority of new members as “naïve” and their rants against the Marxist “bullies”show that they have their backs against the wall.

But conference business itself was still firmly in the hands of the right:

  • There were no real debates on anything. The documents produced by the National Policy Forum (to which Tony Blair outsourced policy making) are full of waffle and without any concrete policies. Contemporary motions were distributed way too late and, once merged, were too vague and non-committal.
  • The NEC exercised a lot of pressure on delegates to remit all their rule change proposals in favour of the ‘Party Democracy Review’, even those that do not fall in the review’s remit. Conference should have had a chance to properly debate and vote on, say, the McDonnell amendment, the need to abolish the 12 months delay affecting CLP rule changes and the fight to democratise Young Labour.
  • About a third of contemporary motions were ruled out of order by the CAC, including some that wanted to end British weapons exports to Saudi-Arabia, because a NPF document touches on the issue.

Clearly, the left still has a long way to go in its fight to transform the Labour Party. For a start, conference must become the sole, sovereign decision-making body of the party and the NPF should be abolished. It is an instrument to stop members from shaping party policy.

The next 12 months are going to be crucial in our fight to democratise the party and take it out of the hands of people like Iain McNicol. It is the bureaucratic middle layer that has been resisting reforms; the top and the bottom are now firmly in the hands of the left:

  • With the addition of three more members chosen by CLPs, the NEC will have a (slim) left-wing majority.
  • The new CAC (in office for two years), has a pro-Corbyn majority: Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes were elected by the membership; two more seats are held by the Unite union.
  • The so-called ‘Corbyn review’ will be run by Katy Clarke, Claudia Webbe and Andy Kerr – all in the Corbyn camp.

This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to transform the party. However! We urge Labour Party members not to rely on Jeremy Corbyn and his allies on the NEC to sort things out for them. Corbyn has relented to pressure from the right on too many issues, be it the ‘anti-Semitism scandal’, Trident or free movement. Corbyn and his allies seem to believe that the saboteurs can been pacified and ‘party unity’ consolidated by giving ground on these issues. This is dangerously naive. The outcome of the Chakrabarti enquiry shows the opposite to be true. The witch-hunters’ appetites grow in the eating.

Members need to exercise as much pressure as possible over two concrete issues arising from conference:

1. The Corbyn review must be as democratic and wide-ranging as possible. Clearly, the party is ripe for radical reform. Branches must be invited to have their views heard – and then implemented! The review could easily become a pseudo-democratic exercise, where people send in their thoughts and we end up with another compromise between the left and the right. This is, of course, the way the NPF currently works.

2. The NEC compromise on ‘prejudice’ is a fudge. The worst excesses of the Jewish Labour Movement’s rule change have been removed. But its fingerprints are all over the compromise and they are trying to enshrine in the new code of conduct the controversial ‘Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’, which conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The JLM must not be allowed to continue to exercise pressure beyond its numerical size. Conference has shown clearly that the membership has no interest in appeasing those determined to destabilise Corbyn’s leadership.


Stuffed parrots, texts from Momentum – but very little real decision-making

A first-time delegate gives his impressions of conference

I really enjoyed my first time at conference. It was fantastic to see so many like-minded people, quite a few of whom were very happy to describe themselves openly as Marxists. I did not expect the mood to be so overwhelmingly pro-left, so clearly behind Corbyn and so visibly pro-Palestinian. It’s evident that the panic in the right-wing press over the anti-Semitism scandal helped to consolidate the left at conference. Of course, delegates were eating out of John McDonnell’s and Jeremy Corbyn’s hands. But I did not expect everybody around me to get up to whoop and cheer when Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi made her pro-Palestinian speech. I could not see anybody staying in their seat. Another speaker got a standing ovation for mentioning that she was a member of Momentum.

I also did not expect the right to be quite so small and useless. Apart from a small group of people handing out Labour First’s White Pages, I hardly came across them and they were almost invisible at conference.

Having said all of that, I can’t say I really understood what was going on most of the time. I don’t think delegates were really in control of things here. Everything is left to the last moment, and because of the various NEC compromises it was difficult to prepare. You really have to study the daily update from the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). For example, it was only by chance that I saw the proposed change to the National Policy Forum’s document on Israel/Palestine in Sunday’s report.

This year’s conference agenda was designed, so we were told, to maximise the number of contributions from the conference floor, as opposed to just the party big-wigs. But the method of selecting these ordinary delegates was hard to believe. Speakers were selected by the chair in groups of three, from different parts of the floor. However, up to fifty would-be speakers attempting to catch the eye of the chair led to the employment of ever more bizarre theatrics: comrades were seen holding up hats, scarves, stuffed parrots, inflated bananas, open umbrellas… you get the picture. Those just raising their hand stood no chance.

But it was worse than that – in one session the chair admitted that they could only see the delegates in the front section of the audience, so anyone wanting to speak from the raised section at the rear would have a long wait. Delegates around me noticed that often the randomly selected speakers seemed to be very well informed with speeches that must have taken a while to prepare. Perhaps it was not that random after all.

This chaotic method of speaker selection was matched by the incoherent structure of the sessions. In no way could they be called debates – there was no order to the contributions and many topics in the NPF documents (to which Tony Blair outsourced policy-making) were not covered at all.

It was not much better when it came to contemporary motions. We only got to see them in the CAC’s report on Sunday morning: a thick booklet with over 120 motions, which were grouped into different ‘themes’. And by 3.30pm we were supposed to have read them all and then decide in the ‘priorities ballot’ which four themes we would like to see debated at conference. That is impossible of course. And of course it is designed to be impossible.

This is where the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy comes in. They certainly worked through the conference agenda (and dragged Momentum along with them – they are linked, of course. As I understand it, Momentum’s owner Jon Lansman used to be a leading light in the CLPD back in the day).

As CLPD’s Pete Willsman has been sitting on the NEC for decades, he gets prior access to material and so his comrades were able to read through all the motions in advance. They used their fringe meeting on Saturday evening to instruct/suggest to delegates which themes to vote on. They already knew that the unions would go for growth and investment, public sector pay, workers’ rights and Grenfell. So, in order to maximise the motions heard, delegates were urged to vote for social care, NHS, housing and railways. Lo and behold, these themes got the vast majority of CLPs’ votes.

As a normal delegate, I felt pretty much out of the loop most of the time, so this attempt to coordinate and explain issues was most welcome. At their fringe meeting on Tuesday night, CLPD comrades also urged CLP delegates to remit all their rule changes in order to get the ‘Corbyn review’ through unopposed. I must say I had my doubts about that tactic, as my own CLP was one of those who voted through the ‘McDonnell amendment’: we wanted to see a dramatic reduction to 5 per cent of the nominations needed from MPs and MEPs in order to get a leadership candidate on to the ballot paper. In th end, we were one of the many CLPs who “regretfully” remitted their rule change.

Momentum was a bit short on the arguments, but better with technology. They were texting us throughout the conference, giving voting advice. Particularly the session on Monday afternoon has to be regarded as a brilliant example of Momentum’s ability to issue voting instructions to delegates at very short notice. The very last speaker in the session moved a reference back of a couple of paragraphs in the NPF document on ‘Work, Pensions and Equality’. As he was literally the last speaker, there was no time to hear other speakers for or against, so delegates really had no idea which way to vote.

But the Momentum organisers must have decided it was an important issue, because text messages were despatched to all their supporting delegates on the conference floor: “Please vote for the reference back to reverse cuts to social security!” The document only criticised the cuts, but the delegate wanted the Labour Party to commit itself to reversing them. By the time the vote was taken a few minutes later, the message had got through. The reference back was carried, with support from a huge majority of CLP delegates. The NPF will now have to look at it again – though of course ordinary members will have to wait to see if the 200 or so members of the NPF will actually enforce this in their next annual report.

This kind of decision-making is very much hit and miss. There were plenty of other issues in the very vacuous NPF reports that deserved to be referenced back, but I presume nobody was called in to make the point! In the end, I ended up abstaining on all of the documents, because they are really full of waffle, without any clear, coherent policy proposals. Ditto the composited contemporary motions. As has been common practice, they have been merged into the most bland and uncontroversial motherhood and apple pie-type statements. Impossible to vote against.

The atmosphere of conference was joyous, even jubilant. It’s just a shame that we haven’t got a hold on conference and the party bureaucracy yet. Conference really hammered home to me the need to change that!



Transform the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to find ways to give more power to ordinary members and a conference that makes the final decision on policy. The democracy commission has now been agreed and will report next year. All this is very welcome. James Marshall presents a 13-point platform that will provide the basis for the submission by Labour Party Marxists

1. Mandatory reselection is crucial,   though it terrifies the right. We read that this, “even more than nuclear disarmament and membership of the European Community, became the main catalyst for the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party” in March 1981. In that same treacherous spirit as the founders of the SDP, Progress – Lord David Sainsbury’s party within a party – furiously denounces mandatory reselection as “a weapon of fear and intimidation”. Yes, mandatory reselection is viewed as an affront by every rightwing wrecker, every hireling, every parliamentary careerist.

It is worth looking at the background. Interestingly, and with good foundation, we read on the Progress website that mandatory reselection carries “echoes of the Paris Commune, and of the Russian soviets, where delegates were subject to recall if they displeased their local citizenry. It rests on the idea that leaders will always be tempted to sell you out, once they get power.” Well, surely, that is what history actually shows.

For decades, sitting Labour MPs – certainly those with safe seats – enjoyed a job for life (or for as long as no better offer came along). They might have deigned to visit their constituency once or twice a year, deliver a speech to the AGM and write an occasional letter to the local newspaper. Meanwhile they lived a pampered, middle class life, frequented various London gentlemen’s clubs and spent their weekends in the home counties with Lord this and Lady that. Despite such evident moral corruption, they were automatically the candidate for the next election. Unless found guilty of an act of gross indecency or had the party whip withdrawn, they could do as they pleased.

With the insurgent rise of Bennism that totally unacceptable situation was called into question. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, founded in 1973, committed itself to a range of rule changes – the mandatory reselection of MPs was finally agreed by the 1980 conference. What this saw, however, was  not a Labour Party equivalent of the Paris Commune or the Russian soviets. There was no right to instantly recall. Nevertheless, once in each parliament, our MPs had to secure the endorsement of their local General Management Committee. Note, GMCs were made up of delegates elected by local party and trade union branches. They were sizable bodies too, typically consisting of 80, 90, 100 or even more delegates.

At the prompting of the bourgeois media, Neil Kinnock, desperately seeking acceptability, sought to extract trade unions from the voting process altogether. He failed, but accepted a compromise. A local electoral college for the selection and reselection of candidates was introduced. Ordinary members were given a direct vote for the first time, leaving GMCs with the right to nominate and shortlist only. This electoral college system gave unions and affiliated organisations up to 40% of the vote, with ordinary members having some 60% (the actual balance was different in each seat, depending on party and union membership).

Trigger ballots were a product of the 1990s. Formally honouring conference’s “desire to maintain reselection”, they made it significantly “easier for MPs to defend their positions”. Trigger ballots allowed for a sitting MP to be subject to a full-scale ballot of the membership. But only if they lost a trigger ballot.

We say, all elected Labour representatives must, by rule, be subject to a one-member, one-vote mandatory reselection. MPs have to be brought under democratic control – from above, by the National Executive Committee; from below by Constituency Labour Parties.

2. We urgently need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be abolished. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, have to go.

3. We are against the idea of electing the general secretary through an all-member   ballot. The NEC should elect all national officers. Therefore the post of Labour leader should be replaced by the post of NEC chair. We favour annual elections with the right to recall at any time. As a matter of basic principle Marxists oppose all forms of Bonapartism.

4. In Scotland and Wales, their executive committees should likewise elect their own officers, including their representatives on the all-UK NEC. We are against a single individual in Scotland and Wales having the right to appoint themselves, or a trusted clone.

5. Scrap the hated compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell). The compliance unit operates in the murky shadows, routinely leaks to the capitalist media and makes rulings in a completely biased manner. We want to welcome into our ranks the bulk of those who have been barred from membership by the compliance unit. Many of them are good socialists with a proven record.

6. Those expelled from membership ought to have the right to reapply, not after five years, but just one year. All disciplinary procedures should be completed within three months. Endless delay violates natural justice.

7. The huge swing towards Labour in the June 2017 general election happened in no small part due to the enthusiasm of young voters. Yet Young Labour a is creaking, uninviting, thoroughly bureaucratic construction. We need a one-member-one-vote organisation. That must include Young Labour’s National Committee. At present, two-thirds of votes are accounted for by appointees from affiliated organisations, eg, the Fabians and Co-op Party, and affiliated trade unions. Instead of the bi-annual policy and national committee elections, their must be an annual conference that can both decide on policy and elect a leadership. Young Labour has to have the right to decide on its own constitution and standing orders.

8. We need a rule that commits the NEC to securing the affiliation of all trade unions to the Labour Party. The FBU has already reaffiliated. Excellent. But what about the RMT? Let us win RMT militants to finally drop their support for the thoroughly misconceived Tusc project. Instead reaffiliate to the Labour Party. And what about the NUT? This year’s Cardiff conference saw the executive narrowly win an amendment, by 50.63% to 49.37%, which in effect ruled out considering affiliation … at this moment. This can be changed … if we campaign to win hearts and minds. Then there is PCS. Thankfully, Mark Serwotka, its leftwing general secretary, has at last come round to the idea. Yes, PCS affiliation will run up against the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Act (1927), introduced by a vengeful Tory government in the aftermath of the general strike. Civil service unions were barred from affiliating to the Labour Party and the TUC. The Civil and Public Services Association – predecessor of PCS – reaffiliated to the TUC in 1946. Now, however, surely, it is time for PCS to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. Force another change in the law.

9. There has to be a shift in the party, away from the HQ, regional officers, the leader’s office, the Parliamentary Labour Party, etc. CLPs must be empowered. Towards that end there has to be proper financing. CLPs should be allocated 50% of the individual membership dues. That will help with producing publicity material, hiring rooms, paying for full-time officers, providing transport, setting up websites, etc. That way our CLPs can be made into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action.

10. Our goal must be a Labour Party, that, in the words of Keir Hardie, can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”. We therefore need rule changes to once again allow left, communist and revolutionary groups and parties to affiliate. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only but strengthen Labour as a federal party. Nowadays affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the left, the Cooperative Party and, problematically, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Encourage the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Communist Party of Great Britain, etc, to join our ranks.

11. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder, not a way for university graduates to secure a lucrative living. A particularly potent weapon here would be a rule requiring all our elected representatives and officials to take only the average wage of a skilled worker – a principle upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. Our MPs are on a basic £67,060 annual salary. On top of that they get around £12,000 in expenses and allowances, putting them on £79,060 (yet at present Labour MPs are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarians’ subscription rate).

Let them keep the average skilled workers’ wage – say £40,000 (plus legitimate expenses). Then, however, they should hand the balance over to the party. Even without a rule change Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Dianne Abbott ought to take the lead here.

12. Relying on the favours of the capitalist press, radio and TV is a fools game. Yes, it worked splendidly for Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. But, as Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband found to their cost, to live by the mainstream media is to die by the mainstream media.

The NEC should, by rule, establish and maintain our own press, radio and TV. To state the obvious, tweeting and texting have severe limits. Brilliant mediums for transmitting simple, short and sharp messages to the already converted. But, when it comes to complex ideas, debating history and charting out political strategies they are worse than useless. We should provide time and space for controversy and the whole range of different opinions within the party. Without that our media will be dull, lifeless, pointless. We should also take full advantage of parliamentary immunity to circumvent the oppressive libel laws. Then we can say the unsayable. That would prove to be electric in terms of shaping and mobilising public opinion.

13. We should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old, 1918, version, but a commitment to working class rule and a society which aims for a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. That is what socialism is all about. Not a measly £10 per hour “living wage”, shifting the tax balance and a state investment bank. No, re-establishing socialism in the mainstream of politics means committing the Labour Party to achieving a “democratic republic”.

johnMcDonnell HopiSupport trade unionists in Iran!

John McDonnell has been the honorary chair of the anti-war/solidarity campaign Hands Off the people of Iran for many years. He outlined its core principles in a speech to our 2011 conference:

“While opposing any imperialist attacks, we positioned ourselves in clear, active solidarity with the people of Iran who are fighting against their theocratic regime. That also led us to clearly oppose all sanctions on the country, because in our view that is just another form of imperialism attacking the people of Iran. I think we have successfully engaged others in that discussion.”

HOPI is now calling for solidarity with three prominent worker activists in Iran. Please sign and circulate this statement and contact HOPI (details below) to receive more info on this important campaign:

Three prominent activists are on hunger strike in an Iranian prison. They are protesting against unjust sentences handed down to them by the Islamic courts. The comrades are in urgent need of solidarity, especially from trade unionists and democrats internationally. The three are:

• Reza Shahbi ‐ a member of the coordinating committee of the syndicate of the Vahed Bus Company;

• Abbas Abdi ‐ executive member of teachers’ guild;

• Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi ‐ former spokesperson of the teachers’ guild.

Shahabi, Abdi and Langaroudi have had these sentences imposed as a result of their activities in defence of their fellow workers. Worryingly, the hunger strike is starting to have a serious effect on their health and is now endangering their lives. Reza Shahabi, for example, has refused food for more than six weeks.

We call on labour activists and defenders of the working class worldwide to do everything they can to save the lives of these leading activists and to build solidarity with them. We also express our grave concern for the lives of these labour activists and urge them to consider ending their hunger strike. The essential work they undertake in defence of thousands of workers in Iran is vital.

To add your name, email office@hopoi.info

LP conference voting guide: Life-long bans and significant silences

Unfortunately, Momentum’s 2017 Rule change guide for this year’s Labour Party conference simply ignores the controversial motions around the weaponised issue of anti-Semitism. In fact, it is vital that these three motions sponsored by the Jewish Labour Movement are voted down, says Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

This LPM voting guide deals with all rule changes submitted by Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) before conference in 2016. In accordance with one of the plethora of undemocratic clauses in the LP rule book, these procedural motions were then ‘parked’ for almost 14 months before they can be finally discussed by delegates at this year’s conference. (Note, motion 12 from Filton & Bradley, Stoke and Newport West proposes to do away with this crassly anti-democratic rule. Absolutely correct!)

Not every motion published in the Addendum to the 2016 delegate’s report will make it to conference floor. Some have already been implemented by the NEC, some might be ruled out of order by the Conference Arrangements Committee and/or the NEC meeting on September 19. The final, detailed agenda and all motions will only be published a few short days before conference and might well contain a package of clumsy compromise ‘reforms’.

For example, there is talk of the ‘McDonnell amendment’ (no:14 in our list below), being tweaked so that any future candidate for LP leader or deputy leader would need nominations from 10% of the “the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP”. Currently, the threshold stands at 15%. The original motion below suggests reducing it to 5% per cent.

In our view, it should be 0%. The relatively tiny numbers of Labour MPs and MEPs should not have any inbuilt constitutional right to thwart the democratic will of our mass membership!

If Corbyn and his allies on the NEC opt for this 10% ‘compromise’, it may be prompted by uncertainty about the political balance at conference – despite Luke Akehurst and the mainstream media suggesting that the left will score important victories in Brighton.

So, the battle lines are clearly draw up, but the actual balance of forces remains blurry. Lukehurst could be reducing expectations on the right with his downbeat comments. This wing of our party is fighting hard to keep its hold over the party apparatus – but its supporters are painfully aware they constitute a minority amongst the grassroots membership. In addition, many CLPs have chosen pro-Corbyn supporters as representatives and have filled their whole quota of delegates with left-wingers. But it’s not a done deal, however. There are also reports of many more CLPs where the right has again cited the “financial burdens” of sending more than one delegate – ‘and, hey, why not send our experienced [read, “rightwing” – CR] comrade X, who represented us in previous years, knows the score at conference…”, etc, etc?

Indeed, if we consider the rule changes as an indicator of the balance of forces in the party, then a clear victory for the left is far from certain. It is remarkable how few progressive, left-wing amendments have been submitted – and how tame they are. Yes, this is partially explained by the 14 months delay, which means we have a snapshot of where our party was over a year ago, not how it looks now. But there’s no doubt that the motions are also a reflection of the fact the left is still playing catch-up with the huge challenges presented to us by the election of a left-wing leader and a mass influx of a left-leaning new membership – some two years after these historic opportunities landed in our laps.

Bluntly put, we are still woefully unprepared and unorganised.

Momentum played a very effective mobilising role in the general election. However, its leader Jon Lansman – and Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter – clearly have no coherent plan for a root and branch political transformation of the Labour Party. The organisation deserves credit for publishing some useful guides to and information on the 2017 conference. (With the partial qualification that its most useful sections have already been covered by NEC member Pete Wilsman’s excellent overview, published last year and which is still available on the website of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.) Momentum’s generally useful contribution has a very loud, symptomatic silence, however – it has nothing to say on the energetic witch-hunt against the left in the party, under the banner of purging of ‘anti-Semitism’ in our ranks. This finds reflection in three rule changes submitted to conference – and the fact that the National Policy Forum wants to end Labour’s opposition to the occupation of Palestine (see Tony Greenstein’s article in Weekly Worker September 7).

There must be no bowing to this foul provocation against the left of the party, or equivocation on the defence of comrades who are caught in the net of the witch hunters.

Motions to oppose

The Momentum 2017 Rule change guide lists six motions that delegates should support (copied from CLPD and LPM) – and only two that should be opposed. Both of those deal with the anti-Corbyn attempt of removing the category of ‘registered supporters’ (who paid £3 and £25 respectively to have a vote in the leadership elections) and ‘affiliated supporters’ (ie, union members and members of affiliated societies). Of course, LPM also opposes these two motions (there are actually three: the Momentum office seems to have forgotten about motion no 1 from Kingswood). You can bet your bottom dollar that neither of the movers of these motions are concerned about the ‘power of the fully paid up Labour Party member’ – this is all about reducing the power of the unions, Jeremy Corbyn and avoiding the possibility that he could be replaced by a fellow left-winger.

But there are far worse motions among the 23 submitted – and they have been composed in exactly the same anti-Corbyn spirit. Motions 3, 4 and 6, all are clearly motivated by the entirely fabricated “anti-Semitism scandal” in the party. Motion 4 from Finchley & Golders Green is the worst of the lot. It proposes a life-long membership ban on anybody who is deemed to have engaged “in conduct which is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on gender; sexual identity; ethnicity or faith; age or disability; or other personal characteristic”. Such a person “shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member” [our emphasis]. And how can you possibly disprove that you were “motivated by hostility or prejudice”? This proposed rule change is incredibly open to abuse.

Ditto motion no 3, which defines a “hate incident” as “as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation” [our emphasis]. This formulation basically does away with the need for any evidence. Somebody thinks you were motivated by something nasty – bingo, that’s your expulsion letter in the post.

Motion 6 has been submitted by, among others, the Jewish Labour Movement. It uses the same formulations as the two motions above – ie, it is up to the “victim or anyone else” to charge somebody successfully with Anti-Semitism or related crimes. Hard evidence is not needed, feelings will suffice. The person charged is guilty until they can prove their innocence. In addition though, the motions also singles out “anti-Semitism (and ‘cleverly’, Islamophobia and racism) as being above the right to express opinions. Their full proposal would read: “The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions, except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism” [we emphasise the JML’s proposed amendment]. Coupled with the proposal to remove any need for evidence, this is a truly anti-democratic motion and a bureaucrat’s wet dream.

Why is Momentum not saying anything on these truly atrocious motions? Unfortunately, Jon Lansman – who since his coup of January 2017 rules Momentum’s national office like an absolute monarch – has been a willing accomplice in the witch-hunt by the right in the party, in the mistaken belief that by not ‘attacking’ them, they might eventually rally behind Jeremy Corbyn.

Also, Lansman, rather ironically, is politically rather close to the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty when it comes to their definition of Anti-Zionism: basically anybody who criticises the actions of the state of Israel. Lansman famously threw Jackie Walker to the wolves when he had her removed as vice-chair of Momentum and then drew up a constitution which bars from Momentum membership all those thrown out of the Labour Party – for example, for the ‘crime’ of having been or being a member of another political group (like the AWL or Left Unity).

And just like the CLPD, Momentum has, at least for the time being, given up its fight for mandatory selection of MPs. And that despite the fact that the CLPD (with its member Jon Lansman playing a leading role at the time) fought for this rule change for many decades – and eventually with success: From 1980 until the early 90s, a form of mandatory selection of MPs was enshrined in the rule book. Noticeably, no constitutional motion on this subject has been submitted, despite all the debates on this subject in the last few years (though there is a slight chance that some of the contemporary motions submitted might touch on the subject – we’ll know after the NEC meeting of September 19. Also, at least a couple of motions on mandatory selection have been submitted in time for the 2018 conference). This shows how far we still have to go: the left is a long way away from the power it wielded even in the 1980s.

Motions to support

Among the motions that should be supported by delegates are, as already discussed, the so-called ‘McDonnell amendment’ (No 14). We also support motion 9 from Blackley & Broughton Exeter, which wants to do away with the restriction that CLPs can submit either a contemporary motion or a procedural motion, but not both. Motion 11 also wants to give more powers to the CLPs: it proposes that motions submitted are not automatically ruled out of order because they touch on a subject that is mentioned in the long documents produced by the National Policy Forum (to which Tony Blair has outsourced policy-making in the Labour Party). We also recommend a vote for motions 7 and 23, which seek to increase the money from membership fees allocated to CLPs (at the moment, they scrape by with an allocation of a measly £1.50 per member – per year!). There are a couple of other motions that deserve support.

Click here to read our voting recommendation in detail. We will produce more voting guides when the agenda and all motions have been finalised. They will be covered by our daily issue of Red Pages that we will upload online hand out at conference. We are keen to hear from delegates and observers – send your impressions, thoughts, observations and short articles to office@labourpartymarxists.org.uk for possible inclusion in Red Pages.


Voting Guide on constitutional amendments, Labour Party conference 2017


  1. Kingswood, referencing: all

Remove the term and entitlement of Registered Supporters from the Rule Book,

Vote against

Our reason: In general, we’re against the Americanisation of politics and would argue for Labour Party members only to have a vote. But clearly, this is an anti-Corbyn attempt by the right to reverse the changes made in the aftermath of the ‘Collins review’ – which was of course designed to curb the powers of the unions.

  1. Socialist Health Association, referencing: Clause IV Constitutional Rules, Page 3

Delete all and replace with:
Labour is a democratic socialist party working for a fairer, healthier and more equal society

Vote against

Our reason: Clause IV deserves to be torn up and replaced – but neither this lame alternative nor a return to the Fabian 1918 version are sufficient. We need a commitment to socialism, the rule of the working class, a democratically planned economy and a democratic republic.[1] Labour Party Marxists have drawn up an alternative formulation along those lines.[2]

  1. Folkestone & Hythe Hendon referencing: Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 4 Membership Exclusions Page 7
    Insert new paragraph:
    Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary action from the following options […]
    Vote against

Our reason: This is a blatant attempt by the right to continue to use the fabricated ‘Anti-Semitism’ scandal to attack and silence the left. It wants to remove the need for evidence to punish trouble makers: the phrase “something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility” is very much open to all sorts of abuse. Guilty until proven innocent.


  1. Finchley & Golders Green, referencing: Chapter 2 Clause I, Section 4 Membership Exclusions Page 8

Add a new paragraph D, and restyle current paragraph D as paragraph E: A member of the Party engaging in conduct which is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on gender; sexual identity; ethnicity or faith; age or disability; or other personal characteristic, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6, Clause 1 below of the disciplinary rules.

Amend Section 8 as follows: insert after first sentence: No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or otherwise expressing hostility or prejudice based on gender; sexual identity; ethnicity or faith; age or disability; or other personal characteristic.

Add at end of last sentence: except in cases of conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or otherwise expressing hostility or prejudice based on gender; sexual identity; ethnicity or faith; age or disability; or other personal characteristic.

Amend Appendix 6, Procedural guidelines in disciplinary cases brought before the NCC as follows:

Insert new paragraph 19, and renumber paragraph 19 as paragraph 20:

  1. Where a panel has found a charge of conduct that is racist or expressing prejudice under Chapter 2, 4, D, expulsion is required by the terms of the rule unless the panel is satisfied that an unqualified undertaking in the form required by the NEC has been given, in which case a disciplinary measure short of expulsion may be imposed.

Vote against

Our reason: It is true that the rules make no reference to the kind of sexist and racist behaviour mentioned in the amendment. But this gives way too much power to the bureaucrats, including the issuing of lifelong membership bans. It is – again – very much open to abuse, especially the formulation “which is motivated by hostility”.

It would be much more useful to challenge point B in this section, which has been used, for example, to bar from membership former parliamentary candidates for Left Unity and members of the AWL. It states that, “A member of the Party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the 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.”

Why should members of political groups be banned? Surely, if the party is to become a real party of the class (ie, a united front), we need to welcome all those from different political backgrounds.

  1. Hastings & Rye, referencing: CHAPTER 2, Clause I, Section 8 Conditions of membership Page 9

At the end of Section 8 add: “A member of the Party who in the opinion of the NEC engages in intentional anti-Jewish or racist abuse in public or in writing shall be deemed to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Party. Where there is a case to answer within objective criteria and the party’s values, a clear dividing line shall be maintained between
a) investigation to establish the full facts; and
b) informed judgment on their political implications. Hatred of Jews shall not be evidenced by non- abusive words or actions regarding Israel or Zionism that are part of legitimate political discourse. If the Party seeks Jewish or other community views or advice on definitions, these shall be sought from all sections of that community as deemed appropriate, and any alternative views that are offered from that community shall be heard.”

Vote against

Our reason: This would appear to be a well-meaning attempt to oppose the entirely fabricated Anti-Semitism scandal in the party and to base any accusations on factual evidence. However, the motion starts from the premise that the party indeed has an “anti-Semitic problem”, which is palpably untrue.[3]

  1. Bury South, Chipping Barnet, Hertsmere, Jewish Labour Movement, Manchester Withington, Streatham, Warrington South, referencing: Chapter 2, Clause I, Section 8 Conditions of membership Page 9.

After the first sentence add a new sentence: A member of the Party who uses anti-semitic, Islamophobic, racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions in public, private, online or offline, as determined by the NEC, shall be deemed to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Party.

Add at the end of the final sentence after “opinions”: except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism.

Insert new paragraph E: Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options from the following options: [same as D]

Vote against

Our reason: This is supported by the Jewish Labour Movement, an affiliate to the World Zionist Movement, which has played a shameful role in the witch-hunt of anybody in the Labour movement who is speaking out against the role of Israel in oppressing the Palestinians. This already tells you that you should probably oppose without even having to read it (though of course we would urge you to do so). Like motion 3, it puts ‘feeling insulted’ first and removes the need to rely on rational evidence.

But it also puts Anti-Semitism (and ‘cleverly’, Islamophobia and racism) above the right to express opinions. Coupled with the proposal to remove any need for evidence, this is a truly anti-democratic motion.

Their full proposal would read: “The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions, except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism.”

  1. York Outer, referencing Chapter 2 Clause III, Section 6 Membership subscriptions Page 10

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 10% 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.

  1. Cheltenham, referencing Chapter 3 Clause I, Section 4F Party Conference – delegations Page 12

Add at new sentence at the end of Section 4F as follows: Any exceptions to this rule can only be made with the approval of the NEC or an officer exercising the powers given to them by the NEC.

Vote against

Our reason: This amends the following sentence:
“F. All delegates must have been individual members of the Party for at least 12 months at the closing date set for the receipt of names of delegates (see III.1.E below).“

We believe that this entire section should be scrapped. Full members should be given full membership rights from day 1. This amendment further complicates an already bad situation – and allows ‘special’ members to enjoy special rules.

  1. Blackley & Broughton Exeter, referencing: Chapter 3, Clause III, Section 2C Party Conference – submissions by CLPs and affiliates, Page 13

At the start of the last sentence delete “Alternatively” and replace by “Also”

Vote For

Our reason: This would allow CLPs and affiliated organisations to submit one rule change motion and one contemporary motion (at the moment, it’s either one or the other).

  1. Bracknell Burnley, City of Durham, Colne Valley, Solihull, Wealden, referencing: Chapter 3 Clause III, Section 2G Policy documents, Page 13

Amend the first sentence as follows: after “strategy” end the sentence and insert: “Conference has the right to refer back part of any policy document without rejecting the policy document as a whole. Conference shall also consider

Already implemented.

  1. Brighton Pavilion, referencing: Chapter 3 Clause III, Section 2C Conference Motions, Page 13

Amend the first sentence as follows: delete “contemporary” and delete “which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF or Conference.” and replace the latter with “on a matter of policy, campaigning or Party organisation and finance”.

Amend the second sentence: delete “determine whether the motions meet these criteria and”

Amend the last sentence: delete “contemporary”.

Vote For

Our reason: 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 long 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.

  1. Filton & Bradley Stoke, Newport West, referencing: Chapter 3 Clause III, Section 2H Constitutional Amendments – debated in year of submission, Page 13

Add a new sub-clause 2I at end: All constitutional amendments submitted by affiliated organisations and CLPs that are accepted as in order shall be timetabled for debate at the first party conference following their submission.

Vote For

Our reason: Definitely. It’s an outrage that rule change motions are only debated at conference in the year after they were voted through at CLP level; NEC motions however, can immediately be discussed at conference.

  1. New Forest East, referencing: Chapter 3, Clause III, Section 2D, Women’s Conference to submit motions to Conference, Page 13

Add a new Section D as follows and re-number rest of Section 2 accordingly:
The annual women’s conference may submit to conference up to two motions not substantially addressed by reports to the NEC or NPF or contemporary motions already put forward as a result of the ballot process.

Vote For

Our reason: At the moment, women’s conference is used mainly as a platform for the likes of Harriet Harman. It has no rights. Of course, a conference of women members should have the right to submit motions to main conference (just like Young Labour should).

  1. Birmingham Hall Green, Cardiff North, Crewe & Nantwich, Devizes South, West Devon, referencing: Chapter 4, Clause II, Section 2b (i) – Election of Leader – nominations required – Page 14

Replace “15 per cent” with “5 per cent”

Vote For

Our reason: This is the so-called ‘McDonnell amendment’, which would make it easier for left-wingers to stand for the position of leader. (Up until 1988, only 5 per cent of MPs were needed to support a nomination.)

We urge delegates to vote in favour, though we actually think it should be zero per cent. Surely, ‘normal’ Labour Party members should have the right to decide who should be their leader. MPs and MEPs should not have the right to act as some kind of system of ‘checks and balances’ on the democratic will of the membership.

  1. Bath (and many more), referencing: Chapter 4 Clause II, Section 2B (ii) Election of Leader – incumbent on ballot paper Page 14

Replace existing 2B (ii) with the following:
Where there is no vacancy, nominations may be sought by potential challengers each year prior to the annual session of Party conference. In this case any nomination must be supported by 20 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void. In the event that a potential challenger attains the threshold and that an election will take place, the incumbent (Leader or Deputy Leader) will be automatically included on the ballot paper if they inform the General Secretary in writing they wish to be a candidate in the election.

A version of this is already in the 2017 rule book

After the successful court challenge, this following sentence was added to the 2017 rule book:
“The sitting Leader or Deputy Leader shall not be required to seek nominations in the event of a challenge under this rule.”

  1. Daventry, referencing Chapter 4 Clause III Elections to National Committees – voting system, Page 16

Amend introductory paragraph as follows: Delete “the conduct of” (after “other matters relating to”) and Insert: “which shall be conducted using the Single Transferable Vote system with, where appropriate, constraints to ensure gender balance” at the end of the paragraph. ,

Vote against

Our reason: In general, single transferable vote can indeed be more democratic, as they allow minorities to get elected. However, in this politically fluid situation, the current first-past-the-post system allows the left to campaign to get a whole slate of candidates elected, whereas under STV the left would be more likely to take only a majority. Also, who decides what the “constraints” in terms of gender balance are, for example?

  1. Caerphilly, referencing Chapter 4 Clause II, Section 2C (vi), Election to national committees and officers – entitlement to vote, Page 14

Delete the words “affiliated supporters and registered supporters” and insert the words “Voting shall be cast in a single section of fully paid Labour members”

Vote against

Our reason: See motion 1 and 18: In general, we’re against the Americanisation of politics and would argue for Labour Party members only to have a vote. But clearly, this is an anti-Corbyn attempt by the right to reverse the changes made in the aftermath of the ‘Collins review’ – which was of course designed to curb the powers of the unions. See also motions 1 and 18.

  1. Huddersfield, As above

Replace existing sub-clause with: Only paid up members of the Labour Party are entitled to vote in elections for the Leader and Deputy Leader of the party.

Vote against

Our reason: See motion 1 and 17

  1. Ashfield , referencing: Chapter 7 Clause III, 1A and Clause 1V,1A Rules for CLPs – Affiliated Organisations Page 28

Amend as follows: In sub-clause A, after “subsections of branches” insert “including retired member sections/associations”

Amended 1A would read:
1. Organisations may affiliate to the Party at constituency level if they fall within the following categories:
A. trade unions or branches thereof affiliated to the Trades Union Congress or considered by the NEC to be bona fide trade unions affiliated to the Party nationally. Where provided by the structure of an affiliated organisation, subsections of branches retired member sections/associations may affiliate separately at the discretion of the RD(GS) of the Party in agreement with the appropriate authority of the affiliated trade union Consequential rule change to support the rule amendment – payment of affiliation fees.

Amend Clause IV, 1A as follows: after “branches of trade unions” insert “retired member sections/associations of trade unions”

Vote For

Our reason: Of course, this could be open to abuse by an unelected union bureaucrat ‘representing’ their retired members section.(Remember the Socialist Labour Party’s inaugural conference, when the 3,000 card votes of a phantom organisation of retired miners trumped the couple of hundred of individual members present, making sure Arthur Scargill got his way?[4])

But the left should try to make these organisations real – just because somebody retires from work does not mean they are not interested in the affairs of their union anymore.

  1. Blackpool North & Cleveleys, referencing: Chapter 11, Clause V Young Labour Rules, Page 39

Add at the end after Sub-clause 3, a new 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: We agree with much of the motivation by the movers: “The rule would clarify how Young Labour works, increase its autonomy and stop the organisation being beholden to Labour Party staff’s interpretation of the rulebook.
 Much of the current rules simply say that the NEC will determine how Young Labour works as it sees fit, with no concrete rules to govern the organisation

  1. Enfield North, Leyton & Wansted, referencing Chapter 12 Clause IV, Local Campaign Forums, Page 44

Delete all and insert new sub-clauses as follows:

  1. The membership of the LGC 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.

Consequential amendments – elsewhere replace LCF by LGC.

Vote For

Our reason: The Local Campaign Forum itself was an anti-democratic effort to abolish the much more democratic Local Government Committees (and District Labour Parties), which used to write the local Labour Party’s manifesto and exercised some democratic control over Labour Party councillors (who these days write their own manifesto).

Currently, LCF’s are chiefly run by Labour Party councillors, with the local CLP executives making up the rest. There is almost no input from normal members, let alone much transparency.

  1. Leicester South, referencing Chapter13, Clauses XIV and XVII Reporting to and consulting with the Party, Page 51

Replace existing Clause XIV, Section 1 with the following:
1. Members of the Labour group are entitled and encouraged to attend meetings of their constituency party and appropriate local party units. The group standing orders shall specify how the group and council leadership including the City Mayor and Deputy City mayor shall report to and consult with the appropriate local party on a regular basis; the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Group, or other Group officer as determined by the Group shall be members of the LCF and its Executive Committee. The party expects the group leadership including the City Mayor and Deputy City mayor to give a minimum of reports and hold a number of policy consultations within the year, to keep the party informed of budgetary and service delivery issues, and other policy areas.

Replace existing Clause XVII, Section 1 and 2 with the following:
1. Labour groups on joint boards, committees, on regional bodies and on local government associations shall adopt appropriate rules and standing orders in consultation with the party’s Local Government Unit and with the prior approval of the NEC.

  1. The rules contained in Chapter 13 are minimum requirements for the operation of Labour groups and the conduct of Labour councillors including the City Mayor and Deputy City Mayor. Due account must be taken of the resources for member development and the guidance approved by the NEC and of such advice as may be issued from time to time by the NEC.

Vote For

Our reason: The only change here is the addition of “City Mayor and Deputy City Mayor” to the list of those required to “consult” with members. Of course, these should not be able to act as little Bonapartes, but be subject to democratic control by the party.

This so-called “consultation” is however incredibly vague and in reality just means a councillor or MP has to give a monthly report to members, who can question them but have no way to hold their representatives to account or sanction them.

This whole rule should be torn up and dramatically rewritten to make sure councillors, MPs and all other elected Labour Party representatives come under the democratic control of party members.

  1. Richmond (Yorks) referencing: Appendix 8 Clause III, 1A Membership subscriptions – portion allocated to CLPs, Page 83

Given that far too small a percentage of the membership fee is allocated to Constituency Labour Parties, we call on Labour Party NEC to increase the share of the subscription that is returned to CLPs to enable more and better campaigning by constituency parties and branches Thus the amendment would read as does the current statement but the figure of £1.50 per member would be increased to £2.50, (and the example given would be changed accordingly.)

Vote For

Our reason: An annual allocation of £2.50 per member to the CLP is still a joke. Even 10%, as in motion 7, is too little. But even a little more is better than the current status quo of £1.50 per member per year.

[1] http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/three-clause-fours/

[2] http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/alternative-clause-4-proposed-by-labour-party-marxists/

[3] http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/anti-zionism-does-not-equal-anti-semitism/

[4] http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/535/arthur-scargill-and-the-end-of-a-fantasy/