SPECIAL AMM 27th February 2020: VOTE TO KEEP THE ALL MEMBER MEETING

On Thursday 31 October, Reading and District Labour Party will hold a special AMM which may be the last you are ever able to attend as an ordinary member of the party.

** VENUE CHANGE **

Special AMM
8pm, 27th February 2020
PENTAHOTEL, OXFORD ROAD

A small handful of members in Norcot branch have passed a motion to change RDLPs organising structure from All Members Meetings to a General Council. This uses a mechanism introduced by the democracy review which states that if any branch passes such a motion, a special AMM is called where all members are given a vote on this important matter.

Under an All Members Meeting structure, people can join the party and get involved as soon as they pass the 8 week review period. They can be involved at branch and at CLP level and can vote on everything.

Across the national Party this mechanism is being used to move CLPs out of the General Council structure into the vastly more democratic All Member Meetings structure. Reading and District Labour Party is the first and perhaps only CLP to attempt to move in the opposite direction.

At our recent members meeting we welcomed Axel Landin, Secretary of Streatham Labour, who spoke to us about their experience of the GC System and why they became the first CLP in the country to use this new mechanism to introduce all members meetings, prompting Chukka Umunna to leave the party.

Streatham Labour is very similar to Reading in terms of the number of branches and the number of members, however the number of active members is higher, with almost 400 people turning up to vote to claim their all members meeting.

Under the GC system only 160 people were eligible to vote on motions, often not enough would turn up for the meetings to be quorate, blocking the functioning of party democracy. In RDLP, there would only be 60 delegates, far fewer than the 220 who voted at our AGM.

After moving to AMM, 400 people were able to attend to vote in a new left leaning Executive Committee at the AGM. Previously this would have been decided by the 160 people eligible to vote, who would select based on their own individual preferences.

Every individual member gets the chance to participate directly in key policy decisions taken by our local Party – one member or affiliate, one vote

We heard that attendance at AMMs is now consistently above the 100 or so who would regularly turn up out of the 160 delegates, and that contrary to suggestions during the discussion that branch meetings would become unnecessary, branch attendance has remained healthy. If our Branch attendance in Reading is low, we should be asking why they are not more welcoming and constructive places for all members to participate in and working to improve them, rather than alienating them further by preventing participation through our AMM.

A point of note regarding the branch delegates to the Streatham General Council, was that they themselves rarely attended branch meetings under the GC, they would be voted in at AGM and then have no need to attend the branch; severing the link between branches and the CLP.

In fact, in Streatham it was not uncommon for motions to pass at branch level but never make it onto the agenda at the General Council, evidently a General Council Structure would have had the potential to nullify the motion on outsourcing which passed through RDLP through an emergency motion to the AMM.

Unions are able to send voting delegates to the Executive Committee of RDLP as well as actively participate in our All Member Meeting

It is sometimes argued that the AMM system can disempower unions, but since the LP democracy review, Unions are able to send voting delegates to the Executive Committee of RDLP (which three currently attend) as well as actively participate in our All Member Meeting. Of course every individual Union Labour member can also fully participate in the AMM; 3 routes to Union participation! Our members will recall that the motion against outsourcing by Reading Borough Council was submitted to our AMM by an affiliated union, and that all members of that union belonging to RDLP were eligible to vote, rather than just a small number of delegates.

Under a GC individual union branches would have the ability to send delegates to the CLP Meetings, sometimes more delegates than the smaller branches, however in Streatham this was often abused, with non-functioning union branches assigning delegates to the GC to ensure that the right of the party kept the balance of power.

The disenfranchisement of individual members under a GC system is worst felt by those who rent, students or others who may not stay within the boundaries of a branch for more than a year. Because delegates are elected once a year, anyone who moves into a branch after the AGM does not have the opportunity to be a delegate or to choose their delegates.

With the average attendance at RDLP Branch meetings being around 5%, it’s likely that the majority of currently active branch members at the time would become delegates, with anyone new or not part of the ‘in-group’ being excluded.

Because delegates are elected once a year, anyone who moves into a branch after the AGM does not have the opportunity to be a delegate or to choose their delegates.

Under an All Members Meeting structure, people can join the party and get involved as soon as they pass their 8 week probation, at branch or at CLP level and can vote on everything.

To recap – our current Reading All Member Meetings ensure:

  • Every individual member gets the chance to participate directly in key policy decisions taken by our local Party – one member or affiliate, one vote.
  • Union representation is maintained; affiliates to our CLP have direct representation on our Executive Committee AND can fully participate in our All Member Meetings just as they did in presenting the motion opposing outsourcing by RBC last year.
  • Branches can develop and submit motions for consideration by our AMM – just as they have with this one proposing its abolition! All branches are consulted on all motions so they can express their local views.
  • All Member meetings provide a forum for democratic, participatory and often lively debate where ALL members get a chance to express their views and hear those from others across the whole party. 
  • Under the AMM system of Direct Democracy, new members, and especially younger people such as students, can participate fully in Constituency business, debate and decision on important policy matters immediately, rather than become disillusioned by being  ‘locked out’ for up to a year under the old, hierarchical delegate system.

Under the old hierarchical GC system, there is nothing in the Party rules to provide for branch members to mandate their delegates or proper mechanisms to hold them to account; the voice of the membership is diluted.

We believe that under such a system the membership would not be able to hold decision-makers to account. In fact, it is clearly the membership’s efforts through our AMM to demand the Council leadership stop contravening national LP policy on privatisation that has prompted this attempt to move to a GC model; they know it will be easier to evade accountability.

Under the old hierarchical GC system, there is nothing in the Party rules to provide for branch members to mandate their delegates or proper mechanisms to hold them to account; the voice of the membership is diluted.

The members’ wishes were obstructed by the Party leadership until replaced in direct democratic elections by our All Member Meeting in July. Under a GC structure members do not get a direct say in who runs the Party; GC delegates decide who to put on the Executive. It’s unlikely that Reading members would have successfully been able to elect the CHANGE THROUGH SOLIDARITY candidates to bring more democracy, participation and accountability to our local Party under the GC system, which can be so easily manipulated.

We strongly recommend that members attend this special AMM and vote to KEEP THE ALL MEMBERS MEETING

** VENUE CHANGE **

Special AMM
8pm, 27th February 2020
PENTAHOTEL, OXFORD ROAD

THIS COULD BE THE LAST CONSTITUENCY PARTY VOTE YOU EVER GET TO TAKE

MAKE IT COUNT

KEEP THE AMM