Ed Whitby, North East and Cumbria region delegate

This weekends Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) context:

  • long overdue due to meetings being cancelled in July, then again in October and November. Our region put forward a motion of censure for this but those motions were tabled at the end of the motions document so were not taken.
  • as a consequence of no meeting for 7 months (rather than at least every 3 months in the rules agreed at Feb meeting) meant a packed agenda, not enough time
  • there was much anger about cancellations and also how decisions had been rushed through using online voting in the week before the NC which was perceived by many as an attempt to change the make up and balance of forces of the NC. NC members were not consulted on this.
  • at least 5 regions had (I believe) either vote to censor or opposed the cancelling of the NC (London, North East & Cumbria, Eastern, South Eastern, Yorkshire and Humberside)
  • there was concern that 3 of the 8 steering committees had been voted off the NC (despite some trying more than one election route)
  • there was concern about the online election process for new equalities and extra regional seats for those not in groups being clear (see elsewhere for my thoughts on this HERE)
  • there was an unresolved issue of delegates from various organisations that was agreed for the first February meeting for its launch including (2 from CLPD, 2 from Compass, 1 from Open labour, 2 from LRC, 1 from Left futures blog, 1 from Labour CND, 1 from Labour against austerity,  1 from Labour Briefing Coop, 1 from Red Labour) – some of these organisations have supported Lib Dem candidates in elections and not supported Jeremy Corbyn leadership.

The consequence was a very divided room mainly on the issue re-electing the a new Steering committee where the majority of regional delegates voted for a re-election with the majority from left organisations voting against this. Equality evenly representatives seemed more evenly split between both positions.

In summary:

We won our North East and Cumbria region position including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningfully decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But by one we lost the call by a number of regions including ours of holding a new election for the Steering Committee,(it was elected ten months ago for a six month term – and the May NC agreed the SC would be subject to new elections in July)

All votes and decisions (a summary below and all wording agreed is listed at the end of this article)

  • We voted to change the agenda order to bring up the proposal to re-elect the Steering committee (motion 10 parts 2 and 3) – arguments being that to discuss this at roughly 4pm on the agenda would have been meaningless as we wouldn’t have time to organise the re-election. this was varied 27 votes to 26.
  • And then we voted to take item 6 (conference proposals) and item 7 (motions from regional networks) as the next items on the agenda (as we all new that if we didn’t these risked falling off the agenda- we voted 28 to 24
    (as it turns out for those who opposed both these votes it would be interesting to see how they justify this as we didn’t even finish the discussions and votes on these two items! We managed to make decisions on the conference and discuss 4 out of the 16 motions. So if we hadn’t moved this up the agenda then we wouldnt have completed the discussion on the conference!

Item 6 – Democratic processes and February conference:

  • section 1: The NC voted for our region policy on annual conference as sovereign policy making body representing members via local groups, with most time for decision making including motions and to establish a constitution, decide campaigning priorities etc (I voted for this)
  • section 2: Timing of the conference.
    West Midlands withdrew there April proposal so there was one proposal of Saturday 25 February from the SC. The Scotland region pointed out this clashed with Scottish Labour conference – so we agreed for SC to consult on other clashes and agree for it to be either 18 Feb, 25 Feb or 4 March.
  • Section 3: How proposals get to conference:
    NC voted for Option B (based on London, NE & Cumbria and West Midlands region) this allowed local groups (and liberation groups and student and youth) as well as affiliated unions, the NC and Regional Network to submit one motion. And the NC and Regional Network to sumbit constitutional amendments. For them to be submitted 3 weeks before conference for them to be submitted online to e-forum and for an online priority ballot (See wording below) this vote was 32 votes to 27 (i voted for this)
    The NC voted against our North East and Cumbria amendment to propose 2 motions or constitutional amendments this received approx 5 votes and 30 against
    The NC voted against our North East and Cumbria amendment to allow regional networks to hold a priority ballot (again roughly 5 to 30 votes)
    Myself and Jo voted for these. As they were our regional position, though we could do this while also supporting the majority position. The main concern was that if 150 local groups submit a motion each that could be 300 motions.
  • Section 4 – composition of conference
    a) Delegate entitlement – the NC voted for 2 delegates per every 100 members (at least half women) or part there of. There were options of 100, 80, 50 or 40 from our region. To be honest the way this vote happened was very complicated and I thought we would get to vote for all options but the first vote for 100 had a majority (and I was a teller so standing up counting) I regret not challenging how this happened as I thought we were able to vote for all options
    b) Representation of those not covered by groups – the NC voted for members not represented by local groups to get delegates by online ballot by regions in same proportions as those in groups.  And we voted for the North East and Cumbria motion of members not in groups being able to submit motions (but this was increased from 10 people to submit to 30 people)
    c) equality and student and youth strand representation – the NC voted that they can send delegates numbers agreed by the NC in consultation with those groups (i voted for this proposal)
  • Section 5 – who organises the conference
    The NC voted for our North East and Cumbria proposal for a Conference arrangements committee of 7 members
  • Section 6 – how voting is done
    The NC voted for a delegate based conferenc with decision making by delegates at conference (from local groups as representatives and online elected delegates for those not covered by groups as already agreed) – I voted for this and this was agreed 31 to 28 votes.
  • Section 7 – how local groups elect delegates
    The NC voted for local groups to elect delegates in local meetings
  • We elected a Conference Arrangements committee of 7 people
  • We then moved onto the motions discussion. The chair introduced this and explained he was ruling out Motion 6 which was in the form of a letter from Momentum members in the Northern Ireland region (asking to be allowed to be a recognised region as Momentum and Labour Party members). I challenged this but he refused to take a vote on this. And we moved onto the motions. I consulted with National Organiser (who was chairs aid) and she agreed with me that it was proposed on the agenda to be included as a motion, and she would raise this with the chair when we reached that motion. Unfortunately we only had time for 3 of the 16 motions.
    We passed motions on:
  • Eco housebuilding
  • Defending migrant rights and freedom of movement
  • Suspensions and Annulments

In the closing remarks Matt Wrack (Steering committee member representing the Fire Brigades Union) discussed some items not covered on the agenda including:
the need for a mapping group with one delegate from each regional to be part of this. Also that a SC member will take political responsibility for this!
the finances and staffing structure – at this point i raised the importance of including regional networks in discussions about this issue as I was concerned the SC might just appoint 2 full time organisers to cover north / south. Rather than consider options such as part-time workers in different regions. It was by Matt (who sits on the working group on Staffing) that the SC will meaningfully consult with regional networks on staffing structures, including specifically a discussion about regional organiser posts, before making any decisions on this.

Unfortunately key votes were not reached on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

Momentum is a major step forward for the Labour and labour movement left, and we must continue to work hard and struggle to maximise the outcome from this potential. It is good that the Momentum NC has once again shown itself to be a democratic body with real life. But there are serious problem that we cannot ignore.

There are differences of opinion and the National Committee members and other activists in Momentum need to find more time to discuss and debate these. This means more regular national meeting of the national committee but also of others, and regional meetings and conferences to discuss these ideas. A meeting where most delegates don’t know each other, where there is serious mistrust and not enough time does not help us move forward.

While I blame the Steering Committee majority for us not meeting at least 2 more times which would have meant better discussions and us realising that the committee is more varied and perhaps people won’t always vote in the same way. Nevertheless this has now happened and we need to find a way to discuss more across the divide of the two big debates at this National Committee. I am reaching out to other NC members who voted differently to our North East and Cumbria delegates (which was in line with our mandate) I would like to work out how we can make the meetings less factional and more productive. Any suggestions very welcome!

Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions: edunison@gmail.com

What was carried at conference

1. The first annual conference to consider structure, policy and strategy
Incorporating proposals from Jill Mountford and Matt Wrack + North East and Cumbria Region + North West Region + London Region
Purpose: The national annual conference is the sovereign, democratic body, representing members via local groups, with most time given over to formal decision making including motions, but also allowing political education, discussion and networking.
Powers: To establish and amend the constitution, and discuss and decide the broad political and campaigning priorities for the organisation over the coming period a nd questions of strategy and tactics relating to our involvement in the Labour Party.

2. Timing of conference – Submitted by the Steering Committee
Saturday 25 February 2017 (amended to include this or 18 February or 4 March)

3. How proposals get to conference
Based on proposals by London, North East and Cumbria and West Midlands Regions
1. Motions entitlement is as follows:
.    a.   Each local group may send 1 motion.
.    b.   Momentum Youth & Students and liberation groups may send 1 motion each.
.    c.   Each affiliated unions may send 1 motion.
.    d.   The National Committee may send 1 motion or constitutional amendment.
.    e.   Each Regional Committee may send 1 motion or constitutional amendment.
2. Motions to be submitted 3 weeks before conference (i.e. from 5 Dec to Jan/Feb) either on just aims, structures and ethics (if option A in #1 above is agreed), or on policy and campaigning in addition (if option B in #1 above is agreed).
3. All motions to be published online on a date to be agreed by the Conference arrangements committee and groups encouraged to composite motions (motions composited by more groups will move higher up the agenda as incentive to composite). Amendments to be circulated before the conference.
4. An open e-forum for all members should be set up, where motions can be discussed, amendments can be mooted and compositing processes can be arranged.
5. There should be an online priorities ballot.

4. Composition of conference
a: the basic formula for delegate entitlements
Delegates from verified local groups elected by STV elections in which only members may
vote, on the basis of number of members in that area.
● 2 delegates (including at least one woman) for the first and subsequent 100 members or part thereof.
●  Delegations must be at least half women and with at least 1 youth for delegations of 4 and above and 2 for delegations of 8 and above.
b: the representation of members not covered by local groups
Members in areas without local groups to be represented at the same rate as members in groups, elected by OMOV ballot in regions. (Steering Committee and Yorkshire and Humberside region)
North East and Cumbria Region (as amended)
Motions from any 30 (amended from 10) members in areas where there is no branch
c: the representation of equalities strands
London Region
Momentum Youth & Students and liberation groups may send a number of delegates to be agreed by the National Committee in consultation with these groups, subject to the verification of structures and election processes by the National Committee.

5. Who organises conference?
Submitted by North East and Cumbria Region and Steering Committee
The NC should elect by STV a conference arrangements committee of 7 members to make further decisions regarding the agenda, subject to the approval of the conference where possible, and to the decisions of the NC and SC to date.

6. How voting is done at conference?
London Region
Momentum’s national conference in February 2017 should be a delegate-based conference with decision-making by delegates voting at the conference.

7. How local groups elect delegates
Face to face in meetings open to all members in a local group

MOTIONS

Motion 1: National housebuilding programme
Submitted by South East Region
1. Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing where all properties have solar panels and other green technologies
2. Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing. Eco council houses should have solar panels and other green technologies.
3. Labour should also commit to providing eco refurbishment for all forms of existing social housing and privately owned properties, at no cost for the associations and/or householder(s).
4. The aim of Eco housing would be to provide homes, skilled and well paid jobs, tackle fuel poverty and enable all to enjoy clean, renewable energy at little or no cost.
Eco Housing would play a central role in tackling climate change and pollution and enable sustainable economic growth, stimulating a green industrial revolution.
5. All Momentum groups to promote the policy in their momentum and labour party branches

Motion 2: Defend migrants, defend free movement Momentum Youth and Students National Committee and Lewisham
Momentum NC believes:
1. Migrants rights and freedom of movement are now at the top of the political agenda, including in the Labour Party. It is right that Momentum’s national committee, as the elected representatives of the Labour left’s grassroots, takes a position in that debate.
Momentum NC further believes
People have migrated throughout human history. Without freedom of movement, the right to move safely and freely is enjoyed only by the rich.
2. The social problems we face are not caused by migrants but by cuts, a lack of social housing and regulation of the private rented sector, and an economic model that has failed working class people.
3. Pandering to the idea that immigration is the cause of social problems is tactically naïve, and cannot lead to electoral victory for Labour. We need to change the narrative and win a battle of ideas.
4. Momentum, Labour and the whole labour movement must resist the scapegoating of migrants and campaign for unity of all workers to win more resources and better jobs, homes, services and rights for everyone, regardless of origin.
5. Momentum must fight for Labour to resist the growing pressure to cave in on freedom of movement and migrants’ rights. The social problems we face are not caused by migrants but by austerity and capitalist attacks on the working class.
Momentum NC resolves
1. To campaign for Labour to resist the growing pressure to cave in on freedom of movement and migrants’ rights.
2. To campaign to defend and extend freedom of movement in the context of the Brexit negotiations, including the establishment of a Labour movement-based campaign for free movement and working with existing campaigns.
3. To write privately to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to express the view of Momentum’s national committee.

Motion 4: Suspensions and annulments
Submitted by North West Region
This Momentum National Committee expresses its solidarity with:
●  Party members in suspended Labour Parties including Wallasey;
●  Party members where their democratic operation is under attack, such as Liverpool Riverside whose AGM is being delayed;
●  Brighton and Hove DLP whose elections have been annulled, and
●  Members who have been unjustly suspended and expelled across the country.
The National Committee agrees to:
1.    Support activists in Wallasey CLP, Liverpool Riverside CLP and Brighton and Hove DLP in quickly re-establishing their Parties under the democratic control of their members;
2.    Investigate which other CLPs and Party Branches are suspended and why, trying to make contact with activists and offer help and support;
3.    Issue a national email to the Momentum database with a model motion urging supporters to put it to Party Branches, CLPs and affiliated Unions, to raise this issue across the country.
4.    Work with Labour Party units and Trade Unions to convene a meeting of activists to consider what further practical steps can be taken at all levels in the Party and the unions to get suspended CLPs functioning again, establish fair and proper procedures for considering complaints, and ensure that individual members are fairly treated. The meeting should be a working event, involving Momentum Steering Committee members, left wing NEC members, activists from suspended Parties, and people from the various groups which are campaigning on these issues. It should aim to draw up an agreed plan of action to assist suspended Parties and unjustly expelled or suspended members.

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