Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Open Labour’s welcome proposals for “Member-led democracy”.

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Welcome Ideas.

Many people in the Labour Party are tired of constant attacks on Keir Starmer

The below comes from a site which claims a close link with one of Labour’s main backers, UNITE the union,

The constant attempt to undermine Labour’s new Leader extends to this:

Some left wing activists, inside and outside Labour,  refer, constantly, to Jeremy Corbyn, his socialism, and his achievements, which they contrast with today’s Shadow Cabinet’s policies and actions.

There is still a great deal of disappointment swirling around, and a search for targets to blame.

Many critics are activists who worked to get Corbyn elected and have long supported Labour.

But some influential voices who join in,and amplify, criticisms of Labour and who wish  to “defend our legacy” are from those who only supported Labour after Corbyn was voted leader.

Counterfire which runs the better known People’s Assembly, and has great influence on the Stop the War Coalition, is one. This was their call at the end of July “Starmer’s stampede to the right means that socialists will need to reach beyond the Labour Party to build a fighting left, argues Chris Nineham.” This message can be found debated amongst those who say they will “stay and fight” and those off for some new vehicle outside of Labour.

Counterfire’s leadership were key figures in George Galloway’s Respect Party.

What kind of politics did they have? In 2004 Counterfire leader John Rees declared in 2003, “”Socialists should unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.”(Guardian).

Rees stood on a Respect slate in the European elections and in 2006 in a local election in East London (coming second against Labour). Do they defend that legacy?

Instead of looking to the past – and this Blog could continue for a long time in this vein…..- we should perhaps take a different approach.

Yesterday Open Labour published these proposals,

Open Labour’s 11 party reform proposals for the Forde Inquiry

Our party has never been more inward-looking in this century. But this gives us an opportunity for serious self-reflection, so that we can get our own house in order, rather than continue to allow internal crises to threaten to implode our party and rupture the labour movement.

For several years, Open Labour has been pushing for internal culture change and a healthier democracy within the Labour Party. We have repeatedly expressed solidarity and support for Jewish members and sought to put pressure on the party to root out antisemitism. During the initial coronavirus lockdown, we hosted an online workshop for Young Labour members where we discussed the need for the party to become a more welcoming environment where no one is left behind

In summary these are

  1.  Co-operate with the EHRC investigation and implement its findings in full.
  2. The Labour Party should make a statement clarifying that it considers the matters of antisemitism, all other forms of prejudice, and sexual harassment to be squarely above sectarian politics; that they must be taken seriously regardless of the factional allegiances of the alleged offenders.
  3. The Labour Party must make clear at all levels that members must not dismiss the antisemitism issue as an anti-Corbyn or anti-left conspiracy.
  4. The Labour Party should implement an independent complaints procedure to depoliticise these processes .
  5. Welcome Keir Starmer’s promise to deliver antisemitism training to staff. We would also like to see equalities training delivered to party staff covering multiple forms of racism and other prejudices.
  6. The Labour Party should carry out regular staffing audits and push to diversify party staff at all levels, to identify and solve particular areas of underrepresentation.
  7. The Labour Party must work with its own affiliates, such as the Jewish Labour Movement, and other BAME Labour groups, when reforming internal processes.
  8. The NEC must draft and publish a clearer code of conduct for staff and ban explicitly sectarian behaviours of the type we have outlined, for as long as people are on the party payroll.
  9. Labour Party staff at all levels should act as neutral civil servants in carrying out the party’s democratically agreed aims, and promote a professional rather than sectarian culture.
  10. The Labour Party should formally distance itself from social media campaign accounts that propagate antisemitism or any other prejudice, and/or undermine the party’s ability to campaign against racism, whilst purporting to speak in the name of the Labour Party or parts of the Labour Party.
  11. The Labour Party should extend the use of the single transferable vote (STV) in internal elections that party members participate in.

The authors note,

This summer, we won a landmark campaign for a fairer, less sectarian, more democratic voting system for members to elect their Constituency Labour Party (CLP) representatives to Labour’s governing body, the national executive committee (NEC). Our organisation democratically selects preferred candidates for internal elections, and our members have overwhelmingly endorsed Ann Black and Jermain Jackman for CLP Reps on the NEC, along with George Lindars-Hammond as the new disability rep and Alice Perry for the local government section. For us, democracy must be at the heart of our approach to politics. It’s good to see other groups starting to catch up to us.


This is their conclusion.

We must make our party a welcoming environment for all, enforce zero tolerance for bigotry and bullying, and bring our member-led democracy into the 21st century.

We need to look outwards, beyond our own ranks and we need to have a bold, radical offer to the people of these islands. If we can’t do that, then why are we here? We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t pretend that we do, but we know that these 11 proposals are key to a more tolerant and democratic party that can live up the ambitions of our supporters.

Open Labour will continue to play our part in making the Labour Party.

These are welcome ideas above all the call to “look outwards”.

See also Open Labour Site.

We hope that within the Party all sides will be interested and that, specifically, the influential group Momentum will take note of the proposals.

Here is a report from their representatives on Labour’s National Executive Committee – it has not been widely circulated, beyond inner Momentum circles, and certainly has not been seen by ordinary party members who voted in the NEC elections.

It’s from the end of July 2020.

This is a collective report on behalf of NEC CLP reps: Yasmine Dar, Huda Elmi, Rachel Garnham, Ann Henderson, Jon Lansman and Darren Williams from Labour Party National Executive Committee meetings taking place in June/July 2020.

30 June – Emergency NEC

CLP reps thanked Keir for the work Labour was doing to hold the government to account, which should be Labour’s priority. Keir was asked again about his strategy for unity, asking if he agreed with the quote from Harold Wilson that ‘the Labour Party needs two wings to fly’, and how he planned to engage the 44% of party members who didn’t give him their first preference.

The report contains this extraordinary passage: 

Keir was asked if he would take the opportunity to apologise to the black community in Britain and the rest of the world, for his interview on BBC Breakfast which reduced Black Lives Matter to a ‘moment’ and it was pointed out that this did nothing to alleviate the just concerns that the black community have about the police.

It was stated that Keir’s comments emboldened the Far Right such as Nigel Farage, dishonoured George Floyd’s memory and those organising to eradicate racism across the world.

The question was a request for a simple Yes or No answer to apologise in an attempt to rebuild trust.

Those who crafted, carefully, this “report” with this strident, hectoring, language, do not represent the opinions of many Labour members.

Instead of disagreeing with a remark about a “moment” – “an exact point in time, an “appropriate time for doing something, an opportunity, a “stage in the development of something or in a course of events” (Oxford Dictionary) – the  called for Keir Starmer to “apologise to the black community in Britain and the rest of the world.”

Momentum representatives on Labour’s NEC took a strong  stand against the SIngle Transferable Vote.

The fourth discussion was about whether Single Transferable Vote should be used for the CLP section for the NEC. A whole series of concerns were raised by left NEC members, including the most important of all that such a significant decision should be made by annual conference. Other concerns included the need for an equality analysis as the new system appeared likely to have a detrimental impact on representation, the lack of any detail about how the new system would work including the women’s quota, the potential impact on turnout given the new system could cause confusion, and a serious request for a proper argument in favour other than ‘in line with commitments made by the Leader and Deputy Leader during the recent leadership election’ it was pointed out that it was by no means a central plank of their campaigns, and most members would not even have seen any pledges made on this issue.

THis is how the report presents the change.

As one CLP rep put it, the proposal appeared to be ‘another nail in the coffin of Keir’s commitment to Party unity.’ Nevertheless the NEC voted to approve STV for the CLP elections.

It will be interesting to see if Momentum responds to Open Labour’s proposals.

Labour members will make up their own minds about whether the group’s candidates for the NEC merit their vote.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2020 at 11:24 am

7 Responses

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  1. Andrew Coates

    August 15, 2020 at 4:09 pm

  2. You cite Counterfire Andrew. They get a full billing in this quite extraordinary article in the current Weekly Worker, which is a kind of “Bolshevik Bingo” in the context of identifying the state of the sects. It seems Counterfire and a groupuscule called “Mutiny” (which up to now I’ve never, ever, head of ) are back in the old task of “reforming the revolutionary party”.by sectarian osmosis. Worth a look at, alongside another article reprinting Labour Against the Witch-hunts “official” submission to the Forde Inquiry, and which will have the lawyers scratching their wigs when they have to get round to studying it. https://www.weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1312/unity-and-organisational-principle/

    david walsh

    August 15, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    • It is an interesting piece David but, as we hard core spotters would say…..

      The article is about Socialist Resistance, not Counterfire!

      SR were one of the very few group left groups in Respect to attack Galloway and Rees support for clamping down on any criticism of Islamism,

      “Racial and Religious Hatred Bill – a serious threat to free speech
      Wednesday 9 November 2005, by Alan Thornett

      Save this article in PDF Version imprimable de cet article Version imprimable
      Britain’s Blairite Labour government is proposing to introduce what they call the Incitement to Religious and Racial Hatred Bill, allegedly to protect Muslims against Islamophobia. Alan Thornett, a leading member of the ISG and member of Respect’s leadership argues that it will do quite the opposite; in fact it will extend Britain’s already existing and archaic blasphemy laws and threaten free speech. George Galloway has already voted for this Bill during its current progress through Parliament and a majority on the Respect National Council appear to find no problem with it. Thornett argues that this is a big mistake.


      But the other point is open to discussion….

      As for poor old Labour Against the Witch-hunt, have they recovered

      “The anti-Israel activist Norman Finkelstein has told a meeting of the Labour Against The Witch-Hunt group: “I don’t know what a Holocaust denier is” – while backing what he said were “statistical, scholarly questions” around the question of whether six million Jews died in the Shoah.

      The American left-wing icon also heaped praise on the discredited Nazi apologist David Irving at the virtual event, describing him as a “very good historian” who “knew a thing, or two or three.”


      Andrew Coates

      August 15, 2020 at 7:00 pm

  3. Hahaha, if you’re welcoming anything from Open Labour you know nothing about socialism, for all your theorising. And OL’s list doesn’t have a fag-paper between it and the demands of Labour First and the BoD in most respects.


    August 15, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    • As a committed roll-up smoker perhaps you could explain, on the back of one my packets of fag-papers, what the Jewish Board of Deputies plans for the Labour Party are.

      Andrew Coates

      August 15, 2020 at 7:04 pm

  4. Skwawkbox and its owner, the small businessman Steve Walker provide a home for BTL antisemitism, and have nothing to offer the serious left.

    Jim Denham

    August 15, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    • Surely Jim, the Jewish Board of Deputies is the first body any serious Cde thinks of when discussing Labour Party politics?

      Andrew Coates

      August 15, 2020 at 7:40 pm

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