An email from Jon Lansman to the Momentum Steering Committee

From: Jon Lansman
Date: Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 7:39 PM
Subject: Proposal to Steering Group: A new constitution for Momentum

To: Marsha Jane Thompson, Christine Shawcroft, Sam Tarry, Jacqueline Walker, Martyn Cook, Michael Chessum, Matt Wrack, Sam Wheeler, Professor Cecile Wright, Jill Mountford, Maggie Simpson
Cc: Emma Rees, Adam Klug

Dear Colleagues

I am writing to explain why, in consultation with a number of others in Momentum, the Leader’s office and trade unions that have supported Jeremy Corbyn, I have decided to propose today that we immediately act to put Momentum on the proper footing that those dependant on the success of Jeremy’s leadership need it to be and our members want it to be.
Most of our members joined Momentum because they support Jeremy Corbyn and want to help him achieve what he is trying to do. We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures, and focus on our most urgent task – winning the general election that could come within months, by turning Labour into an effective force committed to that task, and to the transformative government that would follow.
I have also taken legal advice, based on a review of a substantial body of Momentum records, which is that in order to operate effectively as an organisation with members, Momentum needs written rules or a constitution with which all its members agree, and in our current circumstances, the only way of agreeing such a constitution which is binding on the relationship between the organisation and our members is to seek the individual consent of each of our members and affiliates.
The papers which are included in this mailing set out:

  1. The results of the survey initiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas message to Momentum members, which indicate members’ overwhelming support for the type of organisation we will continue to build, action-focused, rooted in our communities, wholly committed to the Labour Party, and involving our members directly in decision-making;
  2. A constitution which establishes a sustainable democratic framework for the sort of organisation we need – an outwards-looking, campaigning organisation to change and strengthen the Labour Party, not to mirror its structures. This constitution would apply from now but would be reviewed in due course and be subject to amendments;
  3. A paper on interim governance
  4. A paper on election process for the new National Coordinating Group to replace existing regional and national structures.

The Constitution may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but, whatever process we follow, it is common ground that we need one, and it is surely better to have it now and amend it later by a process that is indisputable. As well as setting out the essential elements of our aims and objectives as they have always appeared on our website and in our public statements, the constitution:

  1. Reinforces our wholehearted commitment to the Labour Party by restating our aim of working towards affiliation, and requiring all members to be party members;
  2. Provides for elections and key decisions including changes to the constitution to be made by our members themselves;
  3. Provides for a structure with minimum bureaucracy reflecting members desire to focus externally on organising and campaigning through our local groups, liberation networks and the Labour Party rather than internally on making policy for ourselves.

If this constitution is agreed, the effect would be to wind up the SC, the NC and CAC, with immediate effect, though the conference would go ahead but under the new rules, no motions would be considered.
If you are happy with all these proposals as they stand, please indicate by email. If there is a majority – I think we all recognise that we shall continue to disagree on this matter – I propose that we seek the approval of members immediately.
In solidarity

Jon Lansman
Chair
Momentum National Steering Group


LINKS TO FILES

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A positive outcome: Report of Momentum National Committee

The Saturday 3 December 2016 meeting of the Momentum National Committee (NC) made a series of important decisions which enable the whole Momentum membership to build for a successful first national conference in late February/early March 2017.

It will help your understanding of this report to have the compendious papers prepared for the meeting before you.

There have been quite a few reports of the meeting; some have been quite negative and, in my opinion, completely misrepresent what took place. Some will have caused consternation among Momentum’s impressively large 20,000 members, especially as some very negative and destructive comments have been widely reported in the mainstream press. While there was some poor behaviour on both sides there was nothing to justify the outlandish, toe-curling accounts given in some reports.

It is important to note that, despite the meeting being fractious at times, a lot was achieved. The NC agreed, albeit by small majorities, a set of procedures for taking motions and electing delegates for the important first Momentum national conference. No decisions have been made in respect of electing a new National Committee. I assume that will be a decision made by conference.

Although the procedures agreed will not be to everybody’s satisfaction – and clearly they upset some of the NC delegates who voted against them – they give us all  clear guidance for the size and composition of conference, how motions can be sent and how delegates will be elected. We can now focus on the debates we want to have, while building the local groups. In my opinion, Momentum must look outwards to recruit new members to Labour and to Momentum itself, and turn in towards the ward and constituency Labour Party to strengthen support for Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist left.

Failure to re-elect the Steering Committee

Disappointingly, the NC failed narrowly to assert control over the Steering Committee (SC), which has repeatedly ignored or by-passed the NC. The SC had cancelled a previous meeting of the NC and decided a method of organising conference. Both decisions had to be rescinded following an outcry from the membership. The SC had then proceeded to introduce the MxV website for inviting proposals to conference, without waiting for this NC to consider the matter. As it was, the MxV system was rejected by the NC.

Further, three of the SC members were no longer members of the NC. Two – Michael Chessum and Marshajane Thompson – had stood for re-election to the NC twice and lost both times. Sam Wheeler did not seek re-election. Nearly all of the delegates to the NC had been re-elected recently, yet the SC had not had its mandate renewed. By the decision of the NC the SC has been allowed to continue in office despite its lack of any meaningful mandate.

Despite this, the balance sheet for the NC is positive, even though getting through the full agenda was at times difficult. Even those whose proposals and arguments were defeated should accept that the decisions have been made and should now help to ensure that the conference is successful. It is important that conference decides on how Momentum is to be structured and what its aims and objectives are.

I have no desire to fall out with those who voted against the propositions I supported, or who supported propositions I opposed. Voting is how we resolve differences. We move on. We all, I hope, want to see Momentum continue to grow and deepen its influence inside the Labour Party.

Changing the order of business

I spoke at the beginning of the meeting after a video message from Jeremy Corbyn was played welcoming us all to the National Committee, and after introductory remarks from Matt Wrack (General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union) who chaired the first session. I moved an amendment to the agenda to take parts 2 and 3 of Motion 10 from London as the first item. This motion called for the NC to hold an election for the SC.

This proposed change to the agenda was so that, if the parts from Motion 10 passed, there would be enough time to hold elections for the Steering Committee, count the ballot and announce the results. I should stress that several of us had agreed to make this proposed change to the agenda as soon as we had seen it. It had nothing to do with people being absent due to lateness, as has been suggested by some. I had no idea at the time that not everyone was present.

I also moved that Item 6 (on conference arrangements) and Item 7 (motions from regions) were taken next. Members in many local groups, or at least regional committees/networks, had discussed the various options regarding the structure of conference at some length. It was important that we did not run out of time and fail to make the essential decisions on how conference was to be conducted. I argued that it would also mean we could discuss the less contentious issues as a last item and leave the meeting in a spirit of unity. As it turned out, we did run out of time and could not deal with everything on the agenda.

As part of my motivation I firstly noted that we all agreed on the significant achievements of Momentum – helping to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn, building across the country and recruiting 20,000 members. I argued that we should aim to play our part in building a million-strong Labour Party with socialist policies and aim to double and triple Momentum’s membership, as an essential step in transforming the Labour Party. That is why we need effective, democratic and accountable leading committees. Any disagreements between us at the NC had to be seen against our common venture. I also explained that any criticisms of the Steering Committee were not personal, but political, and were certainly not directed at the staff or volunteers, whose work is valued and appreciated by all.

I had written a series of observation and recommendations on how to vote, which I distributed to the NC delegates. I will admit that I heard much stronger arguments than mine from other delegates on many of the issues, for example on the importance of the conference being able to discuss policy, as set out in Option B [Purpose and powers of conference, see below]. And I was persuaded by the debate to change my mind on at least one occasion.

The decisions made

  • The NC voted 27-26 to take London’s motion 10, parts 2 & 3 at the beginning of the meeting. This was a a proposal to hold an election for a new Steering Committee.
    I moved the proposal and voted for it.
  • The NC voted 28-24 to then take Items 6 (conference procedure) and 7 (motions from regions) and move other items on the agenda to follow.
    I moved the proposal and voted for it.
  • The NC then voted 30-29 against holding an election for a new Steering Committee.
    I moved the Motion and voted for it.

    There were issues about the credentials of some of the delegates and whether they were all entitled to vote. I will deal with this in a separate article.

Item 6: Conference

  1. The Purpose and powers of conference:
    The NC voted 29-28 in support of Option B, moved by Matt Wrack, as opposed to Option A, moved by Jon Lansman. Option A limited the scope of motions to be submitted to conference. Option B made it clear that conference was the sovereign body of Momentum and allowed policy making motions to be submitted to conference.
  2. Timing of conference:
    Option B (to hold the conference in April) was withdrawn. Option A was agreed, with the conference to be held one week either side of 25 February 2017. The date was remitted to the newly elected Conference Arrangements Committee.

[We had a lunch break and then reconvened. Here something quite extraordinary occurred. The delegate from Left Futures called for a recount on the vote taken on The purpose and powers of conference despite the fact that we had moved on to the next item, voted on it and then taken a lunch break. Some forty or so minutes had passed and it appeared that some delegates had arrived late. Perhaps it was thought the original narrow vote could be overturned.

[Christine Shawcroft, in the chair, called for a vote on the motion to take a recount and her ruling was challenged. The motion to challenge the chair’s ruling was tied at 29-29, so was not carried. The motion to recount was then put and was defeated 32-29, with one abstention.]

  1. How proposals get to conference

Option A (Jon Lansman) received 27 votes. This was a complicated set of hurdles involving MxV.

Option B (London, North East, West Midlands) received 32 votes; with one abstention. This set out the basis of a delegate conference based on local groups and liberation groups and a clear time-table, alongside an e-forum for all members and an online priorities ballot.
Two amendments to Option B were overwhelmingly defeated.

I voted for Option B.

  1. Composition of conference:
    Consideration 1

    It was agreed by 33 votes – a majority, so the votes against were not counted – to agree that delegates to conference be on the basis of 2 per every 100 members or part thereof.I voted for this basis of representation, as I thought it would be easier to book a suitably sized venue.

    Consideration 2

    Option A was agreed by 35 votes. This proposed that there would be delegates elected by one-member-one-vote (OMOV) from areas without a local group on the same ration as for local groups.
    As this was a majority, Option B from London (delegates only, no top-up lists) fell.I had originally intended to vote for Option B but in fact was persuaded by the discussion to change my mind and I voted for Option A, the OMOV election.It was further agreed that motions could be sent to conference with the support of 30 members from areas where there is no local group.
    I had not intended to support this but changed my mind and voted for it.
    Consideration 3

    Option A was withdrawn.
    It was agreed by 30 votes (Option B) to 27 votes (Option C) to have further discussion between the NC and the various liberation strands and Youth & Students about the number of delegates they should have to conference. There will be at least one further NC before conference.I spoke in favour of Option B and voted for it.
  2. Who organises conference?

    It was overwhelmingly agreed that a Conference Arrangements Committee of 7 be elected at this NC. Later, following one-minute speeches from (I think) 13 candidates the following seven were elected: Delia Mattis, Jackie Walker, Alec Price, Josie Runswick, Huda Elmi, Lotte Boumelha and James Elliott.
  3. How voting is done?

    There were four mutually exclusive options so voting was done by exhaustive ballot:

Option A (Jon Lansman) which proposed conference delegates voting for six proposal is each of three categories, followed by an OMOV STV ballot. It received 28 votes.

Option B (Michael Chessum) which was a sort of hybrid of delegate debate and OMOV followed by a 7-stage process. It received 0 votes.

Option C (London) which proposed a delegate conference with decisions made at the conference. It received 28 votes.

Option D (Yorkshire & Humberside) which proposed a simpler hybrid system. It received [I am not sure that it was counted, as it obviously fell]

As Options B & D fell there was a second ballot between A & C.

Option A received 28 votes.
Option C received 31 votes – Carried.

I spoke in favour of Option C and voted for it.

  1. How local groups elect delegatesIt was agreed that local groups would elect delegates by face to face meetings open to all members; where there is no local group, election will be by OMOV.

Item 7: Motions from Regions etc

  1. National housebuilding (South East) – eco-homes: Carried on a show of hands.
  2. Defend Migrants, defend free movement (Youth& Students, Lewisham) – An amendment to remove ‘privately’ from the last sentence was carried. The motion was then carried on a show of hands, with two abstentions.
  3. Motions/Items 5 & 6 were remitted to the SC.
  4. Motion 4: Suspensions and annulments (North West) was moved formally and carried without debate on a show of hands.

There was no time to take the remaining motions, nor to discuss the mapping exercise. The Treasurer’s Report was ‘Noted’ and will be considered at the next NC meeting to be held in January.

Disappointment

Some comments on social media have expressed disappointment at the decisions to proceed with a delegate-based conference. I can understand this. Many see OMOV as a better, more inclusive way of making decisions. I don’t see it as such a blanket panacea. It has its place and, as you can see above, I voted in favour of it for certain aspects of the conference arrangements.

I have made some general observations about OMOV in an article, which I encourage you to read. But the debate at the NC was not about OMOV in the abstract. It was the particular OMOV proposals that were presented to this NC that had to be considered. In my opinion they were convoluted, overly complicated and would have caused confusion. They could have led to different conflicting decisions, some backed by conference but rejected by the membership, causing uncertainty and a lack of clarity at the very least. Please take the time to read the proposals in the NC papers. Conference can still make decisions to introduce OMOV for some or all of Momentum’s decision making. For the reasons in my article, I don’t think that would be sensible, but conference is sovereign.

I can’t accept the criticism that those of us who voted for a primarily delegate-based conference are somehow acting against the interests of Momentum or “care little for reforming and democratising the Labour Party and even less so about getting it elected into government”, let alone the more outrageous and scurrilous accusations made against me and others. Such criticism is nothing more than spiteful and exaggerated factionalising after losing a series of votes. It is a large bunch of sour grapes. We will always have differences; if it is not over OMOV it will be about something else. Differences are inevitable in politics. It’s how we deal with them that is important. We disagree. We vote. We shake hands or have a pint. As I said above, we move on.

Moving on

I hope we can now have some productive discussions in the run up to conference, debating what we want Momentum to stand for and to campaign for alongside some serious campaigning. I hope to see the local groups grow and proliferate.

If we are to transform the Labour Party from top to bottom, as is required to strengthen the new leadership, then we need to build our activist base, with a commitment to socialist policies. That, surely, has to be one of the main things to come out of conference.

London Momentum Regional Committee, 29 October 2016

Minutes NC meeting 29 October 2016 

Delia Mattis (Chair)

 Proposal to move the discussion on NC cancellation to the end of the agenda.

Motion from the Chair to discuss NC first. Passed overwhelmingly


[Session 1] Cancellation of the NC

Jill explained what happened at the emergency SC meeting on 28 October.

Beth read out a statement from the staff about their concerns over legtimacy of some local groups.

Mike proposed Jon Lansman be allowed to speak earlier on the list – Chair overruled.

Nick Wrack moved a Censure motion on the SC.

Motion 1

“This meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee censures the national SC for cancelling the meeting of the NC that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the NC to discuss it.

We call for these decisions of the National Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”

Lorraine proposed “We do not accept the legitimacy of the SC decision and reject it”.

Sacha proposed inserting that if the next meeting was in December then it would definitely happen.

Nick agreed to insert after first paragraph insert “We do not recognise the legitimacy of the SC to make these decisions.”

Proposal to take the motion in parts.

“This meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee censures the national SC for cancelling the meeting of the NC that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the NC to discuss it. We do not recognise the legitimacy of the SC to make these decisions.

We call for these decisions of the National Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”

To delete the first paragraph:

6 in favour.

Against 23

Abstentions 3

 

31 in favour of motion unamended.

Abstentions 2

 

Motion was passed.

 

[End of session 1]

 

Lunch

 

[Session 2]

 

Momentum Hackney statement

Meeting agreed to discussing Hackney’s statement separately from the process documents.

Charlie spoke on the Hackney statement

Discussion on the role of the London Regional Committee.

There was no proposal to vote on.

Structures debate

Michael introduced the first document

Mike introduced on Camden’s document

Stan introduced Hammersmith and Fulham’s document.

Sacha spoke on the composite Wrack/Mountford proposal

 

A Discussion from the Committee took place. No Structure paper was voted on. Chair advised more discussion with Local Groups.

 

National Committee delegates Election

Proposal from Nick Wrack  and Mike Tait for STV voting. Proposal from Chris Ford for more simple method.

The Committee voted overwhelmingly for STV.

Open Election

Candidates spoke

Rosie Woods on behalf of Jill Mountford in her absence.

Sara Callaway

Delia Mattis

Stan Keable

Nick Wrack

Charlie Clarke

Michael Chessum

 

National Committee Delegates Elected

 

Jill Mountford

Sara Callaway

Nick Wrack

Delia Mattis

 

 

London Region Steering Committee elections

Open elections

Simon proposed a position of vice-chair: accepted

The new Steering Committee for London Region is

 

Delia Mattis (Chair)

Mike Tate (vice chair)

Lee Griffiths (Secretary)

Jan and Linda (Secretary job share)

Rosie Woods (organiser)

Pasqual Mitchell (organiser)

Leigh Griffiths (organiser)

Simon Hannah (organiser)

Sara Callaway (organiser)

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Momentum censures national steering committee

The London Regional Committee of Momentum, having heard about the business and decisions taken by the national steering committee last night, discussed the issues extensively this morning. We heard that the Steering Committee (SC) meeting had been convened at just 19 hours’ notice and that items were added to the agenda in the course of the meeting that had not been notified in advance. Decisions were made by the Steering Committee which should have been taken by the National Committee.

The SC voted to cancel a planned meeting of the NC due to take place on 5 November. It also voted on a method of organising the conference that pre-empted the discussion that has only just begun in the local and regional Momentum groups and which should have been taken to the NC.

There was a wide-ranging discussion including contributions from Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum who are London members of the Steering Committee who had voted against the decisions, as well as from Jon Lansman, the chair of the national Steering Committee who defended the decision, and from FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, who is also a member of the SC and who had refused to attend the meeting because of its lack of legitimacy.

The motion dealt exclusively with the undemocratic process involved and did not comment on the merits or otherwise of the substantive decision to held a conference based on all members voting online.

The meeting passed the resolution below by 31 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions.

“This meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee censures the national Steering Committee for cancelling the meeting of the National Committee that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the National Committee to discuss it.

We do not recognise the legitimacy of the Steering Committee to make those decisions.

We call for these decisions of the national Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”

What’s going on with Momentum’s Steering Committee?

From reports of last night’s hastily called Momentum National Steering Committee (a sub-committee, it should be remembered, of the National Committee) it is clear that an anti-democratic stitch-up has taken place.

Momentum was due to hold a National Committee next Saturday 5 November, with new people elected from the Regions. The present NC was put together on the basis of an opaque and dubious democracy in February and was supposed to sit for six months only. We are now two months past its sell-by date.

Recently the SC has begun (very belatedly) to consult the local groups and members on what structures we should have for the national conference which is scheduled for February. Only yesterday two papers were circulated from HQ for consultation. One was from Jon Lansman and the other was co-authored by Matt Wrack and Jill Mountford.

At 9:45pm on Thursday a notice went out calling a meeting of the SC for the following night (i.e. last night, Friday) – that is, with less than 24 hours notice. Matt Wrack was unable to attend.

At that meeting of the SC it decided by 7 votes to 2, as far as I can gather, to cancel the NC meeting on 5 November!

It then proceeded, on a motion from Jon Lansman, to vote for his proposal for a streamed conference with voting by all members via an online connection. i.e. no delegates, no branch representation. Now, whatever the merits of this (and I don’t think it has many) this was simply steam-rolling through Lansman’s own preferred option, in the absence of Matt (the General Secretary of the FBU, a major left union) and without waiting for the consultation with the local groups. And without waiting for next week’s scheduled NC.

It should be stated again: the SC is a sub-committee of the NC. How on earth can the sub-committee remove the rights of the NC, which is the very body that gives the SC any legitimacy?

The members of the SC who took these decisions are there well past their period of office.

Please read Jill Mountford’s report;

as well as Michael Chessum’s Facebook post;

and my own two FB comments: [1] [2]

I will post further updates when I get time.

Nick Wrack