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Some Advice for Left-Wing Delegates to the Labour Party Conference

23 Sep

The motion to create two new members of the NEC, to be ‘directly’ appointed by the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh parties, apparently needs to be approved by Conference in order to stand.

If you are a left-wing / Corbynite / etc conference delegate you therefore need to make sure you identify that motion and vote against it. Simple as that.

Or not.

First obstacle.  Here’s a link to the way that one supporter of the change has tried to sell it, and it’s how the right as a whole will try to sell it.  The aim will be to make it look like ‘devolution’ of powers, and to make anybody arguing against it look like they reject devolution.  After all, nobody wants to argue with something that looks like devolution, right?

It’s not, as is made clear by the fact that no new representation was agreed for local Labour Parties or councils, and by the fact that the new NEC voting members are automatically to be ‘frontbench members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly’.  More invidiously, the same motion has the Scottish and Welsh party leaders automatically to attend ‘Clause Five’ meetings.  Clause Five is that governing Labour Party policy formation.  Interestingly, the first part of clause five specifies that:

“At all levels the Party will ensure that members, elected representatives, affiliated organisations and, where practicable, the wider community are able to participate in the process of policy consideration and formulation.”

By automatically making the attendee at Clause Five meetings the Scottish or Welsh leader, I think that the NEC is breaching the first part of Clause Five.  Note that it states it ‘will ensure’ that members can participate – whether it’s practical or not.


Second Obstacle The way that the Right has normally dominated conferences is by making it difficult, tedious or impossible for ordinary members even to work out where they’re supposed to be.  Failing that, officials and staff will be ‘helpful’ in explaining how motions work and what is being voted on.  They will often be misleading or flagrantly lying.    As for the motions themselves, there’ll be lots of nice-sounding things bundled up with the nasty stuff.  Certainly the safest thing in the vote on the expansion of the NEC (probably advertised as a change in status from ‘advisory’ to ‘voting’ members of the NEC) is simply to reject it wholesale, no matter what subtleties start to appear.

And, not least, there will be a vast number of ‘fringe’ events that directly conflict with the times of the key debates, and there will be votes called at moments when many delegates have left the room, debates appear to be over etc.

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy say that they’ll be handing out a ‘yellow pages’ outside conference each morning.  I expect Momentum will also be out in force, and should be able to give some similar guidance – although they are running a large fringe event themselves, which may have the unfortunate effect of distracting left-wing delegates who should be in the main conference hall.

Stamina and just being present, not conviction or articulacy or ideas, are the prime ways to win in Labour Party policymaking.

If you can get to speak against it, or are aiming to persuade other delegates, here are some other points you may wish to put:


1. The Labour Party in Scotland has only one MP, and it has performed beyond disastrously in recent years.


It is, at least with its current leadership, unelectable.  (On a strictly definitional basis, btw, it doesn’t have anyone on a ‘front bench’, as it is the third placed party in Scotland).


  1.  The NEC’s motion, by failing to offer the party in Northern Ireland equal status to those in Scotland and Wales, is directly discriminatory against the Irish.  That’s not good.


Neither does the NEC’s motion give a voice on the NEC to either England or its regions.  Given that (after Scotland) the area where Labour is under greatest threat is in England, that’s a bit silly too.


  1.  The obvious one.  The current NEC has presided over wholesale, and unjustified, expulsions without right of appeal.  They are not in a position to advise anyone on how to ‘devolve’ decision-making. And an NEC that includes Kezia Dugdale and Carwyn Jones on the policy committee will be actively hostile to any real devolution or membership input in the future.


Hope this helps. Good luck.


If you’d like to expand on or correct any of my points, leave a comment. If it’s useful, accurate and clearly phrased, I’ll display it. If it’s the first two, but not the last, I’ll edit it and send it back for your approval. If you’re a right-winger seeking a shout at someone, you’ll be wasting your type and time. Oh, and I’m not a Labour member, so don’t bother trying to get me expelled.




A Series of Strategic Responses to the Tory Majority, no.6

10 May

Even if you’re not a member of a political party, even if you’re an anarchist, there’s a number of things worth considering for action that can come from the nature of your representatives.  I don’t mean this in terms of some abstract, purely theoretical nature, nor am I necessarily demanding serious research. I’ll use where I live as an example of what I mean.  My constituency MP is one of the tiny band of LibDem MPs left.  His name’s Mark Williams.  I remember virtually nothing about him, except he wasn’t altogether comfortable with the bedroom tax. Boom! That’s a conversation worth having.  What action / perspective is he now going to take on the bedroom tax in opposition?  If he chooses to champion abandonment, will the LibDem parliamentary campaign threaten to derail popular oppositional movements?  Particularly, how will that play out in Ceredigion? I’d suggest, on the basis of the tiny amount I know without undue stretching, that left, national and bedroom tax activists working together could create a fever around the issue in Ceredigion if they organised hard to present their case publicly in the next few days.  And Mark Williams and the LibDems in Ceredigion would be following behind, if it was done fast. This is something I would love to see happen.  If you’ve contacts and links you think would be useful in fleshing out that idea, let me know. Whoever and whatever your local representatives at whatever level are, how can you use their present and past allegiances, habits etc, in order to manoeuvre them into being a thorn in the governments’ flesh.  Not only in parliamentary terms, but in terms of being drawn to sympathise – even if only over a single issue – a popular and self-confident network of oppositional groups. In the North there seems a real need for questioning over whether particular Labour MPs should now be content with an also-ran economic and political status for that area, even within England.

If you live there, please, check out things like the Campaign for the North and the Free North Campaign – and get involved. Are there also single issue things that clearly intersect with the need for a higher status for the region? Suggest a common cause to the relevant organisations in those areas.  Be pushy and let them know this is going to be a vibrant and positive thing – a deepening of democracy.

Do you want a regional parliament?  If you do, start doing the in-depth research and publishing your results.

If you’re an architect or critic or historian, then ask what the right location would be.  Write about your proposed location(s), in whatever form you like.  Publish as fast as possible.

Incidentally, are you a teacher or lecturer planning a politics, geography or sociology lesson?  Consider a class discussion on the right site / design(s) for a Parliament of the North.  Get your students talking about the transport links through the area, the networks of power, the questions of identity, urban planning and its role in everyday life.  Explain to them that in Scotland, the referendum vote was for those aged 16 and over. Even twelve year-olds now may be eligible to vote come the next election, if this aspect of Scottish politics comes into play again within the next five years.

On which note – somebody, somewhere, preferably a teenager who is sick of working without the protection of the minimum wage – needs to kick off campaigns on voting and wages for that age group.  If you are that person, history is probably on your side right now. More tomorrow.  Good night.