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 Both decisions had to be rescinded following an outcry from the membership.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.

Motion on the anti-Semitism witch-hunt and Jackie Walker

The following motion was passed by 16 votes to 0, with 14 abstentions at the meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee on Saturday 19th November.

“Motion on the anti-Semitism witch-hunt and Jackie Walker for London Momentum

London Momentum condemns the anti-Semitism witch-hunt against the Labour Party left.

London Momentum opposes all forms of racism including anti-semitism. We believe that combating oppressive and discriminatory behaviour in society and in the labour movement is integral to socialist activity. However, the report of the Chakrabarti inquiry found the allegations of widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party to be unfounded and criticised the way in which the investigations and suspensions by the Labour Party disputes panel violated the principles of natural justice. Nevertheless, both the witch-hunt and the suspensions of Labour Party members have continued.

Unjustified attempts are now being made to undermine the credibility of the Chakrabarti report.

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left by a united front of the mainstream media, the Conservatives, and the Labour right demonstrate the high stakes involved. The anti-Semitism witch-hunt is part of a wider assault and purge designed to discredit, isolate and destabilise the Labour leadership, as well as closing down the space for debate about the politics of the Middle East by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

London Momentum calls for:

* all suspensions by the Labour Party disputes panel (or any other unaccountable body) to be lifted immediately and all expulsions to be speedily reviewed with the intention of reinstating those subjected to the politically-motivated purge;

* the establishment of an open and democratic Labour Party disciplinary process that should be under the control of the elected bodies of the Labour Party;

* Momentum nationally to fight back against the witch-hunt and campaign for the rights of Palestinians.

[Motion to be forwarded to the Momentum national committee.]

Submitted by Haringey Momentum”

Motions from North West Momentum for 3 December National Committee

Motion from North West Momentum for the Momentum National Committee on 3 December

We believe that

  • Momentum is a campaigning political movement which represents a spectrum of views among people who want to see progressive change in the Labour Party. It should be inclusive and respectful of differences. It must not seek to become a quasi political party with a fully worked out political programme.
  • However Momentum needs to be able to act quickly and effectively on issues as they come up, with a strong, clear national voice. This requires an element of central leadership and direction.
  • An effective national leadership can also promote activism though initiating campaigns, making resources quickly available, and sharing examples of successful local campaigns.
  • As an organisation whose goals include democratising the Labour Party, Momentum has to be member led, has to allow local groups a high degree of autonomy, and has to be genuinely responsive to members’ views.

It is therefore resolved that

  • There shall be an annual delegate conference which shall be the sovereign body of Momentum, which will decide to put key issues to a vote of all members.
  • Momentum will retain a regional structure. Each recognised region will be free to organise and structure itself as it sees fit, subject to conference decisions.
  • Conference will elect a National Committee (NC) with a minimum of 50 members, with gender balance and representation from each region.
  • Conference will also elect national officers as required, including Secretary, Chair and Treasurer. All elected officers will be on the NC.
  • The NC will determine how conference should operate, subject to any prior conference decisions. In particular the NC will consider whether further rules are needed to ensure that all internal elections achieve outcomes that are both inclusive and gender balanced. Conference will hear resolutions received from local groups which have at least 20 registered members.
  • Examples of appropriate subjects for resolutions may include the aims and constitution of Momentum, the way in which Momentum is organised, campaigning methods and priorities, and questions of strategy and tactics relating to our involvement in the Labour Party.
  • The NC will meet at least quarterly, and will confer regularly in between meetings through secure electronic channels.
  • The NC’s functions will include email communications with members and supporters; national website and social media; any official Momentum publications; oversight of any official online forums or chatrooms that it’s agreed to establish; producing resources eg posters, leaflets, newsletters, t-shirts, badges and stickers. The NC may delegate any of these functions to volunteers from within Momentum or to paid staff.
  • Other functions which may not be possible to delegate will include establishing a political line on the events of the day, press and publicity, membership and finance, responding to issues raised by local groups, disciplinary matters.
  • The NC should aspire to be a springboard for activism : a group that generates ideas, initiates campaigns, and ensures that these are properly followed through. It should actively seek ways of enabling the sharing of ideas and positive campaigning experiences across the different Regions.

    —//—

Motion to Momentum National Committee from the Momentum North West regional meeting

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:

  • 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;
  • Investigate which other CLPs and Party Branches are suspended and why, trying to make contact with activists and offer help and support;
  • 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.
  • 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.

—//—

Motion to Momentum National Committee from the Momentum North West regional meeting

Momentum needs clearer channels of communication at all levels so that we can be informed in proper time in order to be able to send delegations and motions.

 

Motion for 3 December National Committee from London Momentum Regional Committee

The following motion was passed by 27 votes to 1, with 2 abstentions at the meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee on Saturday 19th November.

“The London Momentum Regional Committee agrees to send the following motion to the National Committee:

The National Committee agrees that:

  1. Local groups are the basic unit of Momentum. All members of Momentum should be encouraged to join and get involved in their local group. For those members where groups don’t presently exist the Momentum office and the regional committees/networks should encourage and support the establishment of new local groups. We should use FaceBook and e.groups as tools to bring members together to establish new groups. All unnecessary impediments to setting up local groups should be removed.
  2. In between National Annual Conferences, the National Committee (NC) is the highest elected body. The Steering Committee is a sub-committee of the NC elected from the NC.
  3. This meeting of the National Committee (3 December 2016) agrees to elect a new Steering Committee to hold office until the national conference, unless removed by the National Committee beforehand. The new SC will comprise of a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer elected directly by the NC by exhaustive ballot for each post, along with 8 other members to be elected by the NC by Single Transferable Vote, plus one representative from each affiliated Trade Union.
  4. In the interests of good communications and transparency, there will be a page on the national website that sets out and explains what the structures are in Momentum and who serves on the various committees (giving, with permission, contact details for our elected representatives). Minutes and decisions from all SC and NC meetings will be posted on the national website.
  5. This NC agrees to elect a sub-committee of three members from the NC to conduct a review of the current Momentum companies’ structure, with administrative support from a staff member. This sub-committee will make proposals to the next NC.
  6. This NC believes that Momentum needs a simple Rule book. This NC agrees to set up a working group made up of 5 members from the NC, with support from a staff member, to produce an initial draft for consideration at the next NC with a view to it being presented for adoption by the national conference.”