The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy held its biggest AGM since the 1980s in February, a sign of the renewed interest in the need to adapt the Party’s structures to fit the new situation. Party membership has nearly trebled in the last two years, with much of the influx supporting the Corbyn leadership, yet the Party’s apparatus and methods seem curiously resistant to the new mood.
Keynote speaker Kelvin Hopkins called for the abolition of the National Policy Forum, which acts as a filter on what is allowed to be discussed at the Party’s annual conference and for full policymaking power to be restored to the conference. Salma Yaqoob talked about how the rise of Donald Trump highlighted the way people had been lied to for so long, about who was to blame for the economic crash. Now, she said, was a time for leadership and hope.
There was considerable criticism from the floor about the way the Party gets its messages across, with one supporter saying there was no reference to Jeremy Corby’s ten pledges on the Party’s websites.
In the afternoon, Claudia Webbe, newly elected to the NEC, spoke of her work there, addressing the issue of 11,000 applicants who had been refused Party membership. She suggested Peter Mandelson might be investigated for his self-confessed “daily” undermining of the Party leadership.
Your correspondent saluted the work of those on the NEC who had stood firm against the machinations of the rightwing apparatus during last year‘s leadership battle. But those who got elected as part of the left slate and voted with the right to disenfranchise tens of thousands of new members in that election and raise the levy for non-members from £3 to £25 - they should be put on notice that the left won't be supporting them again.
This contribution produced an irate outburst from the CLPD Secretary Pete Willsman - who had earlier been criticised for ignoring and belittling the work of Brighton and Hove members, who have been fighting the closure and reorganisation of their District Party. He leapt to the defence of fellow NEC member Ann Black, who let down a lot of supporters last year with her votes on the eligibility rules for the leadership contest.
CLPD has an ambitious agenda for 2017. Priorities include removing the one-year delay on rule changes, guaranteeing Young Labour its own constitution, restoring the accountability of local councillors and deleting the “contemporary” requirement on motions submitted by CLPs. Most important is a rule change to reduce from 15% to 5% the threshold of MPs needed to nominate a Party leader when the post is vacant - the so-called “McDonnell amendment”. This would effectively remove the veto Labour MPs have over who may run for the leadership - a vital step to expanding Party democracy.
All these proposals should be on the agenda of the 2017 Party conference. So it’s vital that CLPs elect delegates who are going to support them. Remember: the deadline for delegates is Friday 23rd June. CLPs are entitled to one delegate for the first 749 full members in the CLP on 31st December 2016, and a further delegate for every additional 250 individual members or part thereof. At least every second delegate from a CLP has to be a woman; where only one delegate is appointed this must be a woman at least in every other year. Where the individual women’s membership in a constituency is 100 or more, an additional woman delegate may be appointed. Where the individual Young Labour membership in a constituency is 30 or more an additional delegate under the age of 27 may be appointed.
Send as many as you can! Of course your CLP Treasurer will say the local Party can’t afford the costs, but this year’s conference - from 24th to 27th September - is in Brighton and local Party officers are offering accommodation in members’ houses for some delegates, which will keep costs down.