I found my first open letter to you a difficult but necessary one to write. It effectively challenged the way you are running our CLP. Well, things have moved on haven’t they?
As you know I am currently suspended from the Labour Party for ‘naughty tweets’: my best judgement is that my offence was to employ the term ‘Blairite’ in a non-praiseworthy fashion. I am sure you had nothing to do with my suspension, as doubtless my request to the Labour NEC for any data held on me under the Freedom of Information Act will confirm.
My partner is yet to be exiled. She attended the latest branch meeting of our CLP on 1st November, having emailed in advance an item for discussion under AOB. In the event she was met – I have to say predictably – with the kind of intemperate or ‘bullying’ reaction the MSM typically and calculatingly attribute to ‘Corbynistas’. I have over time settled on the opinion that you and the chair (who in fact never chairs anything) are anti-Corbyn, which was confirmed by your performance. Fortunately I am privy to third-party accounts that confirm what I have to say here about the 1st November meeting.
What my partner requested was: (a) clarification of what constitutes a quorum for CLP and branch decision-making, and (b) an open discussion of the NEC’s ‘purges’ that preceded and enveloped the second leadership election, plus the continuing disloyalty of a number of Labour MPs subsequently (witness the extraordinary failure to respond positively to a three-line whip to query the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia to deploy against Yemenis). She also distributed a series of questions about how the CLP and branches are currently run.
In the event she did not get beyond (a), nor was that dealt with expeditiously. To be honest it had not occurred to either her or me to consult Labour’s Rule Book until it becamce apparent that you cited it when it suited you but otherwise ignored it. I immediately alighted on a clause you have ignored, namely that two or more of CLP officers should be women (we have only one of four). Returning to quorate issues, you informed my partner that we have 232 branch members on our books and, ridiculously, that six were required to do business. The Rule Book, however, specifies 25% of the local membership to do business (unless an alternative percentage/number has been approved at regional level). It was pointed out against the background of growing turmoil that the recent elections of CLP officials and to its management committee were invalid, with fewer than 20 members voting in each case.
At this point the meeting became revealing. The chair, who not only never chairs meetings but is uncontactable by members (you have personaly denied me contact details), began shouting at my partner. Arms flailing, he railed against ‘Corbynista entryism’, asserting that this was causing problems everywhere. I assume his objection, coupled with yours, pertains to members who actively support the twice-elected leader of the party you serve. The chair went on to decry the branch members who do not attend meetings as ‘paper members’, implying they had forfeited any right to participate in decision-making or to vote. With issue (a) unresolved, you turned to the chair and barked out a ‘motion’ to abandon the meeting. Predictably, he accepted this without demur. There was no vote on your motion. Reflecting the tensions in the national party, some members accompanied you to one pub while others adjourned to another (where I was working on my laptop).
I was aware that you are no democrat. The resurgence in the Labour membership in our Tory stronghold has not in any way been reflected in CPL or branch attendance rates. It’s not just that our meetings are tedious vehicles for your personal agenda. I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that, mirroring the strategy of the NEC, you see new or returning members as pro-Corbyn liabilities and have deliberately eschewed opportunities to involve them. There have been no socials, no welcoming emails, and indeed no information or introductions for people who do turn up to meetings. You also refused my requests to hold a nomination ballot for the second leadership contest (although our neighbouring CLP held one), and to contact members to see if any would be willing to share their email addresses with a view to meeting socially and discussing local issues informally. I have no way of contacting the chair, members of the CLP management committee or ordinary members. Nor, it seems, do you provide minutes other than late and sporadically, and then, I suspect, only to attendees at meetings. There has been no feedback from management committee meetings since it was unconstitutionally established earlier this year.
I must repeat that you run the local CLP as a personal fiefdom, retaining all significant decision-making for yourself and denying members, attendees or otherwise, significant information or feedback. The chair, sad to say, acts as your stooge.
My partner requested that new constitutionally acceptable elections be held for officers of the CLP and branch and for members of the management committee. This would – obviously – involve a real attempt to involve ALL our members via circulated candidate profiles/statements and well-advertised ‘friendly’ meetings at which they could be questioned. I realise all this is anathema to you. You will protest that ‘paper members’ are not interested. But the riposte is self-evident: you have pursued a policy of discouraging member engagement by starving them of information and any hint of a welcome. What an enthusiastic, lively and active local membership we might have had by now! It has happened in other CLPs. But you don’t want that do you?
If you should stand for re-election as secretary you would certainly not get my vote. But if a majority of the 25% required for a valid result voted for you, then I would of course accept that (just as I would have accepted a leadership nomination ballot that came out in favour of Owen Smith).
Let’s have some genuine elections, so that CLP and branch officers and members of the CLP management committee can be said to represent local Labour Party members with unquestioned legitimacy.