Luke Akehurst from “Labour First” claims to have already “fixed” the Labour Annual Conference

Update: Some excellent socialist Contemporary Motions [link] have been submitted to counter this strategy, and can now be found at the end of the article, along with advice on ensuring this “fix” does not work!

labour conference

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was never welcome amongst some in Labour

This will not come as a surprise to many people.  Ever since before Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party multiple groups of people have been attempting to devise the best way to make sure that he does not have a successful run as Labour leader.

If you don’t believe this, listen to this podcast starring Labour’s own John McTernan

 

These groups, which include the erroneously named “Saving Labour”, “Labour First” and “Progress” attempted to use the media initially to destroy Corbyn’s leadership.  They chose to do this at a critical time for the Labour opposition, and at the expense of actually opposing the Tory government.  Member of the shadow cabinet resigned to ensure that Corbyn did not have the team necessary to continue opposition.  They chose to sabotage the Parliamentary Labour Party’s ability to oppose the Tories when we could have defeated them

Now, they are at it again.  Media smears have failed to topple Corbyn, and many people within the right wing of Labour believe that he will defeat Owen Smith in the Labour leadership challenge.  They are not willing to accept Corbyn’s unhindered leadership of the Labour Party, even if he wins.

The new plan

The group Labour First recently sent out a mail to all of its members.  I have reproduced it below, editted for brevity.  The full mail can be forwarded to interested parties upon request.

Dear John,

This is an update from Labour First. We hope this is a useful information service for Labour moderates. If you have news for us to circulate or additional contacts who should be added to our email list please let us know. People can also join our mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/Nzh75. Please feel free to forward this email.

[…]
Moderate Meet Ups – the Road to Conference tour
 
You can read my preview of party conference here: http://labourlist.org/2016/08/luke-akehurst-labour-rule-changes-mean-conference-is-the-first-big-battle-for-new-leader/
 
We are going into conference having secured a very strong position in the election of CLP delegates, and with an unprecedented level of organisation by moderates. This means we can secure good results at conference whatever the outcome of the leadership election.
 
[…]
 
Contemporary Motions
 
Contemporary policy motions can be submitted by CLPs – which are allowed to meet for this purpose with clearance from their regional office, despite the current moratorium on local meetings – and affiliates – up until 15 September.
 
If your CLP is meeting to consider conference business – this can be at an Executive Committee, General Committee or All Member Meeting –  please argue for submitting one of the suggested model motions we have drafted or had sent to us, which are in this document: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/<TrackingLinkRemoved>/files/contemporary_motions.docx
 
We will circulate further model motions next week. Of course, if you have a great policy motion written locally please do submit it and let us know what you have sent in.
 
A motion will be deemed to be contemporary if:
a. It is no more than 250 words, addresses one issue and does not propose a rule change.
b. It deals with a topic which arose after the publication of the reports and Policy Papers of the National Policy Forum (NPF), Policy Commissions or National Executive Committee on the 5 August 2016 or has not been substantively addressed in those reports.
c. The issue could not otherwise have been raised through the Agenda 2020 process.
d. It does not seek to by-pass either the National Policy Forum policy-making or National Executive Committee decision-making processes or to overturn or revisit the Party Policy Programme, including issues defeated at the NPF which failed to achieve the status of an alternative position.

The National Policy Forum’s Annual Report is available on Membersnet at:
http://members.labour.org.uk/agenda-2020
 
[…]
Best wishes,
 
 
 
Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
[…]

As you can see, Labour First are asking CLPs who have nominated Owen Smith to have official meetings, and suggest Contemporary Motions for submission to the Labour Party prior to the conference.

The choice of using Committee meetings was the same tactic used to lock party members out of CLP nomination meetings by some local parties that chose to nominate Smith.  I can provide another message from Labour First’s Luke Akehurst instructing CLPs to consider this tactic, if requested.

I was interested what was contained in those proposed Contemporary Motions, so I downloaded the document.  There were four motions contained inside.  Due to my deletion of the tracking link, I reproduce them here for you verbatim:

Motion 1: Ensuring Working People Don’t Pay the Price of Brexit

Conference notes the publication on 16th August of inflation data by the Office of National Statistics confirming that inflation rose by 0.6% in July, largely driven by the increasing cost of imports as a result of the collapse in sterling after the EU Referendum Vote on 23rd June. Conference further notes increasing uncertainty about future investment in the UK from companies such as Nissan, on 5th August, following the referendum result. Conference believes that it is wrong that British people and the businesses they work for should pay the price for Brexit. Conference also believes British workers are already suffering as a result of the impact of the public sector pay free freeze on wages in both the public and private sectors, which will be compounded if the cost of essential imported consumer goods rise. Conference calls upon the Parliamentary Labour Party to provide effective Parliamentary scrutiny of the Tory Government’s Brexit negotiations to ensure that any proposed deal is in the interests of British working people and has the support of the majority of the British electorate. Conference further calls on Labour to reject any deal that fails this test.

Motion 2: Building a Health and Social Care System for All

Conference notes the Patients Association’s “Waiting Times Report” 2016, published on 16th August, which showed that, based on 2015 data, waiting times for elective surgery got worse, not better, with a 79% increase in the number of people waiting over 18 weeks compared to 2014. Conference also notes that the report shows that NHS Trusts cancelled an average of 753 patient surgeries ‘on the day’ in 2015. Conference further notes the respected Nuffield Trust’s “Feeling the Crunch: NHS Finances to 2020” report, published on 5th August, which says that NHS Trusts will struggle to reach the Tory Government’s target of a further £22 billion in cost savings by 2020 and suggests that there will be a shortfall of £6 billion in NHS funding by 2020-21. Conferences believes that the Tories are not truly committed to a high-quality national health and social care system free at the point of use. Conference calls upon Labour to commit bring NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government. Conference also calls for Labour to commit increase spending on health by at least 4% in real terms in every year of the next Parliament, as experts have called for.

Motion 3: Tackling the UK’s Housing Crisis

Conference notes that the Office for National Statistics House Price Index, published on 16th August, confirmed that UK House prices rose by 8.7% between June 2015 and June 2016, to an average of £214,000, and that in London the average house price rose to £472, 204. Conference further notes the Resolution Foundation research, published on 2nd August, which showed that: a) home ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level for 30 years and; b) 19% of households were in private rental accommodation in 2015, compared to 11% in 2003. Conference recognises that growth in the housing benefit bill has gone hand in hand with the growth of people living in private rented accommodation and the move from “social” to “affordable” rents in council and housing associations. Conference believes that the way to tackle the rising housing benefits bill is not to cut benefits, but instead to invest in more homes. Conference therefore calls for Labour to commit to free Councils to build houses, and to reverse Tory plans for the forced sale of council homes to fund an extension of the “right to buy” to housing associations. Conference also calls Labour to campaign for 300,000 houses to be built each year, with half of these genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy, including homes for social rent. 

Motion 4: NATO

Conferences notes Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to commit to upholding Article 5 of the NATO treaty – collective security – “An attack against one Ally is considered an attack against all Allies” – at the Labour Party leadership hustings on 18th August

Conference further notes the importance of NATO as a global alliance and Britain’s role in ensuring peace and the rule of law across the international sphere. 

Conference notes that NATO is essential to guaranteeing the security of the new democracies in Eastern Europe, many of them small countries that feel threatened by Russia.

Conference notes that Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government played a key role in founding NATO.

Conference reaffirms the Labour Party’s belief that:

  • That the UK has a unique influence in the world
  • The UK’s Membership to NATO plays a vital role in confronting the biggest security challenges in our generation.
  • That the UK’s membership to NATO is committed to collective defence founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law.
  • That international cooperation with our allies in NATO ensures that the world is a better and safer place to live.
  • That NATO has helped to keep the peace in Europe since World War Two.
  • That we should stand with our world allies by continuing our support and membership in NATO.

If those motions seem familiar to you then rest assured, you are not going mad.  They are precisely the arguments that Owen Smith is putting forwards in the Labour Leadership debates.

You could reasonably surmise then, that the purpose of organising all of the Smith-supporting CLPs to pass motions containing Smith’s policy to the Labour Annual Conference is to ensure that whoever wins, Smith’s ideas are enacted by the party in the future.

This could be seen as innocuous, as they are not terrible policies.  I personally would argue that the NHS has been slashed heavily by the Tories and that 4% year-on-year increase in funding will not make up for the 60% of planned and executed cuts that have occurred after the 2015-2016 financial year.  Luckily the motion does not specify a maximum.

I would not be happy with the winner of the leadership challenge being constrained to build the arbitrary figure of 300,000 houses, or the specification that 50% of them do not need to be “genuinely affordable”.  I would prefer that the houses built belonged to local councils and kept in public possession.  I think the incumbent does too.

The rotten core of the fruit

Contained within the mail was this line:

You can read my preview of party conference here: http://labourlist.org/2016/08/luke-akehurst-labour-rule-changes-mean-conference-is-the-first-big-battle-for-new-leader/

I looked at that article, which was also written by Luke Akehurst, and found it troubling.

Here is another excerpt.  You can read the full text by following the link above

It’s the middle of a leadership election but Labour’s rival wings are already focussed on what happens when annual conference starts, literally the day after the result of the leadership race is announced.

Annual conference will have a big say over Labour’s internal rulebook – which we know from recent NEC meetings about the leadership ballot is of critical importance to the balance of power within the party. As the National Policy Forum has not been convened since Jeremy Corbyn became leader it will also provide a first opportunity for grassroots input into the party’s policy direction. It isn’t just the votes for and against policies that are critical, even the priority ballot to decide what gets debated is highly political, as was seen last year when delegates voted to avoid a divisive conference debate on Trident renewal  – something Corbyn supporters may be keen to do this year as three of the biggest unions (GMB, Unite and USDAW) are committed to oppose Corbyn’s call for unilateral disarmament.

CLP delegates at the conference also elect a member of the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) – a battle between former MP and Corbyn supporter Chris Williamson and incumbent Maggie Cosin. The NCC deals with the most complex and contentious disciplinary issues and expulsions.

The above set piece votes are quite apart from the informal business of the conference fringe events which give the media a window into Labour’s internal debates; and set piece speeches by the leader and shadow cabinet which are a showcase to the outside world.

All of this happens whichever of Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith wins and could either give them a launch pad for a honeymoon period or if it calls wrong, damage their term of leadership in its first week.

Damage their term of leadership in the first week?  Is that really the plan?

[…]

Rule changes can be put before conference and recommended by the NEC at any point in the run up to conference, and the NEC meets in the week before conference, the day before, and each morning as necessary. It’s the outgoing NEC that holds office until the final day of conference, not the new, slightly more pro-Corbyn representatives elected this summer. It will therefore be as difficult to predict whether the finely-balanced NEC will advance pro-Corbynite or anti-Corbynite rule changes as it was to predict how the votes would go in the crucial pre-leadership ballot vote.

[…]

With so much that could happen at conference, the leadership election results, whilst they will set the tone for week, may very quickly be overtaken in news value and political significance by the outcome of one of these other tussles in the struggle to determine the direction Labour goes in

This troubles me greatly.  I respect democracy, and want to see the Parliamentary direction of our party chosen by it’s leader as much as possible.  I totally oppose  any action which is expressly taken to damage the incumbent or the candidates term of leadership

What should we do about this?

Beats me.  I think that everyone should get intouch with their CLP to find out if there is a meeting being held to discuss conference business, and whether or not they are allowed to be a part of that democratic process.

I would like to see other motions proposed to shape the future of our party, such as:

  • Ensuring sustainable funding of our Fire Service
  • Ensuring sustainable funding of our Police Force
  • Scrutinising active PFI deals and reversing those which are mismanaging funds
  • Protecting our ability to retain junior doctors in the UK who are leaving to work in New Zealand and Australia

Please see the following section for some excellent motions to suggest to your CLP, which have been submitted in response to this post!

I am no expert on party matters.  When people who understand more about these issues pass on more information to me, I will either post it here or make a link to a more useful information source.  Stay tuned.

In solidarity,

J Simpkin

Information update:

Some excellent motions have been compiled by various CLPs and are published here:

Some model contemporary motions for the 2016 Annual Labour Conference

Sources:

  1. https://socialistcampaignforalabourvictory.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/modelresolutions/
  2. https://stopthelabourpurge.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/2016resolution/

I recommend that every Labour member takes a look at these motions, and contacts their CLP. Try to find out:

  • if you are meeting to discuss conference business
  • when it is taking place
  • whether it is an all-members meeting or a committee meeting

If you are told that no such meeting is taking place, you should request that your CLP secretary puts forward an agenda item for such business.

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