Over the weekend, for the first time ever, I attended the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, their 43rd it would seem. Much of the right wing media locate the intellectual and organisational engine room of Corbyn’s victory in this body. It’s been around for a while, over 43 years it would seem, but I think it underestimates the changes in society occurring over the last 10 years and the changes available to and needed by the Party, and they’re not alone. The meeting was as those of with experience of the movement know, a mix of set piece speeches from in several cases very worthy individuals, the receipt and acceptance of reports, and debate around motions. At the end of the day, I left disappointed.
There was no self-criticism at this meeting; it is it would seem to be led by a bunch of people who think their time has come, and that the future belongs to them. I can assure them, that for a larger proportion than they might think, it was their first meeting, as it was mine, to CLPD and the sense of entitlement expressed by some is exactly what led Burnham, Cooper and Kendall to lose the leadership election and makes their continued protagonists so unacceptable to the majority that voted for a left led change to Labour; it is equally unattractive when expressed by people with left wing badges. It also gives the non-aligned and the Left’s opponents something to aim at. This failure to understand and talk to the newly energised is underlined by the membership report. CLPD has not grown at the same rate as the Party.
Three small highlights, Pete Willsman, the CLPD Secretary, stated given a choice between moving a policy motion or rule change at Conference, CLPs should choose the rule change, “rules last for ever”.
Secondly, one thing that’ll make some smile is that the National Committee were re-elected unopposed as a slate.
Thirdly, it was reported that the farce of an election for the NEC Youth Rep is compounded by the use of software to run the count, and a refusal despite the closeness to rerun the program, or revert to a manual count. I offered my insights which aren’t popular at the moment since the Unions are desperate to legitimise e-voting for strike ballots. (My blog articles, tagged e-voting.) Furthermore Ann Black (Labour NEC) stated that no-one has ever been disciplined for breaking Labour’s internal code’s of conduct, and sees little expectation of that changing as a result of the investigation into the NEC Youth Rep elections, where one side is accused of anti-semitism and the other of smearing their opponents (by lying and encouraging others to do so too; about anti-semitism).
Of the guest speakers two worth mentioning were Claudia Webb, an Islington Councillor and a candidate for the NEC on the Grass Roots Left Alliance slate & Matt Wrac, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, newly re-affiliated to the Labour Party. Matt reminded those of us who needed it that the FBU disaffiliated because the Labour Government’s excessively abusive behaviour during a pay dispute.
There were no motion on expulsions, although one on abolishing the rule on exclusions for belonging to an organised political group was remitted to National Committee.
However, it’s clear from attending that the Left aren’t united even on organisational issues, some are arguing to legalise entryism, others are arguing that membership of, presumably only some non-party, political organisations is “self exclusion”, and alleged offenders can be expelled without their accusers proving a case to answer and a neutral hearing.
Speakers from Rushcliffe where up to 10 people have sought to re-join the Labour Party and have been rejected by the NEC without hearing, felt they deserved a better hearing at CLPD rather than a lecture about how hard it had been for those of us who stayed in the Labour Party and the requirment for constancy in the struggle. I’d agree, their welcome was not fulsome, and while we might want to respect the work of decades of some comrades, some of what they have done was before the birth of many of Labour’s new members. Gratitude and even recognition is going to be in short supply.
CLPD’s big push is to ensure that in the case of a PLP petitioned Leadership contest, that the incumbent is automatically included; but this’ll be too late for this year, but there’s nothing on the need to reform the National Policy Forum nor on Mayors nor Mayoral term limits, nor on second salaries for public officials, such as the current Mayor of London.
I’d say the leadership are lost. As many say, winning the leadership was an accident, it looks like some of them aren’t sure what to do next.
Luke Akehurst and Labour First are organised and have a clear political goal. If we’re relying on the LRC & CLPD to sustain the Left leadership there’s a way to go.
Stan Keable writes a more upbeat report, with more comprehensive notes at the Labour Party Marxists’ blog, in an article called “CLPD – Advancing but taking heavy casualties”.
The CLPD’s own report is here, hosted at a site that still uses frames. 😳