It's that time of the month when invitations to forthcoming local Labour Party collective gatherings for political debate and organisational matters (aka agendas) need to be crafted and despatched. Technically, I'm in breach of Standing Orders as they should have been despatched two days ago. But hey ho, we are where we are. Neither the chair nor myself as secretary will actually be at the meeting next week. He's found a volunteer to chair, and I'm still hoping to find one to do the minutes.
Hanging over the proceedings like a large black cloud in my mind is Refounding Labour. The new Labour Party 2011 Rule Book requires our branch and constituency annual general meetings to be postposed until after the May 2012 elections. As the official guidance was inconveniently received well after the November monthly branch meetings, the membership as a whole has yet to be notified. Most branches if they meet at all do not hold business meetings in December. The first branch meetings in 2012 would normally be AGMs, with the CLP AGM at the end of February.
There is an impeccable logic to that cycle. Nominations made at January branch meetings can be circulated as widely as possible to members for February meetings, prior to elections at the end of February. In addition, financial years like the national party run January to December. Given the nature of branch and CLP finances in Cities of London and Westminster, it is straightforward closing the books in time for AGMs. So why change? Ah, now the Rules say so.
It is that sort of level of detail that passed Peter Hain, the architect of Refounding Labour, by.
Following our July branch meeting, I wrote to him with a copy of an emergency resolution calling for a Special Conference to give members time to consider the proposals, rather than have them bounced through the 2011 Annual Conference.
He wrote back:
Sorry we simply don't agree because I thought you like me want reforms to empower grass roots members and turn Labour from an obsolete Party like our rivals into a popular movement relevant to today's politics. That's what RF aims to do and you can help make it happen.
Well, I'm sorry Peter, we live on difference planets. If we can't have an AGM at a time convenient to local members - that's disempowerment.
As a branch and CLP secretary it is my duty to encourage and promote adherence to the Rule Book. As a senient being, I view the whole Refounding Labour process as ultra vires - an abuse of power by the leadership and the National Executive Committee, especially the trade union section. But I'm disinclined to encourage open defiance. It would just be a drain on what little emotional energy I have left for the Labour Party.
A simple remedy occurs to me which would be for all branch and CLP officers and delegates to tender their resignations in time for elections to be notified to January branch meetings, with a parallel call for nominations. Mine's in the post to myself. In the meantime, I'm also struggling with what the City of London Labour Party response ought to be the threatened eviction of OccuplyLSX. That will have to wait til the constituency papers are done.