The secret world of “special measures” – the Labour Party responds

February 8, 2013 2:36 pm

Yesterday I wrote about the secretive world of “special measures” in the Labour Party, in light of Councillor Bob Piper and his understandable frustration at having no idea why (or for how long) his party is in special measures.

I also contacted the party to ask why Warley CLP (where Bob is a councillor) is in “Special Measures” – and to try and find out how many other CLPs are in the same position, and why. (Because the system seems anything but transparent and open).

Here’s the response I received from a Labour spokesperson today (emphasis mine):

“Constituency Labour Parties are never placed in special measures lightly and never kept there longer than necessary to protect the integrity of the membership. There are a very small number of parties in special measures.

“An individual living in a constituency where the party is in special measures can apply for party membership in the normal way. When their application is received they are sent a letter asking them to provide two additional pieces of ID proving that they reside at the address given in their application e.g. utility bills and the letter may also tell them that they need to be registered as an elector at the address given for membership, if they are not already, and that they need to complete a direct debit mandate if they haven’t. This process ensures that new members are genuine, valid applicants in areas where there have previously been problems regarding recruitment of individuals who are not eligible.

“In the case of Warley CLP, in Sandwell Borough, the party was placed in special measures (with the support of the CLP Chair and Council Leader) as a consequence of problems with improper recruitment several years ago. These measures have helped to prevent problems recurring. The situation will hopefully continue to improve and the regional party will make a judgement as to when the CLP is in a position for special measures to be lifted.”

So Warley CLP has been in special measures for “several years” (which is a little vague) – but at least we now have some sort of explanation for why this happened. Although “several years” seems a long time to sort out issues around membership.

However, the only clue we have as to how many CLPs are under special measures is that it is a “small number” which is very subjective? Frankly – that could be 2 CLPs or 20. I understand that the party don’t reveal publicly the number or names of CLPs who are restricted through special measures. Surely the modern, more transparent, outward looking Labour Party that we are told is being built should at least be clear and open about something as serious as this?

Putting a CLP into special measures may well have it’s place in a few extreme situations. But it should be a short term measure – not one that lasts for years – and CLPs should be told how and when they can expect to return to normality. Anything else is damaging to local parties, which is farcical – as that’s what special measures is meant to stop in the first place…

  • Steve Buckingham

    There are some places where it has to last years. Unfortunately, there are places with a long history of membership abuse and the evidence is that many Labour Party members would be disadvantaged if it were not in place. I’m sure LabourList would be the first to complain if a large number of selections were distorted by people who had joined by cash, on the minimum rate, with little evidence of residency.

    I have no idea about the circumstances in Warley but personally I see special measures as an unfortunate but necessary option.

    • http://www.labourlist.org/mark_ferguson Mark Ferguson

      I guess the question is Steve, how many legitimate members are put off by a hunt to stop a small number of would be dubious characters?

      And whilst special measures may have a place, putting CLPs on special measures indefinitely without any proper explanation seems perverse to me – and contrary to the idea of an open party…

  • Chris L

    There are dozens of party units in special measures. I think it’s something like 12 branches in Birmingham alone, most of which have been in this state for years.

    Tower
    Hamlets has been in special measures since the 1990s – so all the
    accusations of questionable practices around their Mayoral selection
    happened whilst regional officials had supposedly been in charge of the
    membership for many many years.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    What I don’t get is that if
    “In the case of Warley CLP, in Sandwell Borough, the party was placed in special measures (with the support of the CLP Chair and Council Leader)…”
    Then why did the CLP know nothing about it if the CLP chair had supported it and the likewise the Council Leader.

  • Bob Piper

    Intriguing Mark, but I’m pleased you have at least managed to get an answer from someone, even if it does appear to be from one of Jon Cruddas’ vanishing ‘remote authorities’. Intriguing because the Leader of he Council tells me he has been pleading with Regional Office to get this sorted out, and the Regional Secretary seems to think it is nothing to do with him. Nor am I entirely convinced by the description of the procedure they follow. One applicant in my Ward ended up with his bank account being frozen following representation from the Membership connection accusing him of fraud!

    The fact is that there has never been one single complaint anywhere from anyone about membership issues in my Ward, and yet, because of some irregularity somewhere else, several years ago apparently, every Ward finds itself effectively in limbo. This despite everyone, Leader of the Council, MP, CLP officers, saying they are trying desperately to get these ridiculous measures removed.

    A typical centralist ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach used by faceless bureaucrats everywhere.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    As I am not a member of the Labour Party, I won’t comment on the internal mechanisms, as I do not know what they are and even if I did, it is not my place. But the phrasing is a bit (and unfortunately) “Orwellian”, and invites some mischief and joking.

    But, to be fair, I imagine that other parties have similar concerns and worries , and also solutions to such. Even my father-in-law’s local Lib Dem association (which he left a few years ago) was apparently concerned about over-influence of some local activists.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    So not only open and transparent, but really effective too:)

  • Daniel Speight

    Here’s the response I received from a Labour spokesperson today (emphasis mine):

    Why the anonymity? If we want a more open party surely we can get rid of briefings by spokespersons. Someone is responsible, maybe more than one person. They should answer for and justify their actions.

  • Monkey_Bach

    My father was a Freemason and told me that fraternity had ways to recognise each other by means of secret gestures, handshakes, signs and passwords. Is the Labour Party going to follow suit with an esoteric party, inside a mesoteric party, inside an exoteric party like a Russian Matryoshka doll? So much for openness and transparency, eh? Jubilah, Jubilo and Jubilum. I’ll see you on the square. Eeek.

  • Redshift1

    Surely, if a local party has been put into special measures, then there should be a clearly defined set of things the party (probably under jurisdiction of the regional office) should be urgently seeking to address.

    Special measures isn’t just ‘this local party is backwards’ or ‘this party has poor skills amongst its officers’ it is quite a serious crisis, involving the CLPs finances or some serious corruption of our democratic processes. It should be a swift process lasting no more than a few months.

  • David Pavett

    I recently rejoined the Labour Party after a long interval. It took ages to join and I eventually found out that this was because my CLP (Isleworth and Brentford) is in Special Measures and has been for some time. (Someone at central office told me that this was because of fictitious members being created by one particular ward branch.) A local councillor whom I asked about this was not aware that it was still the case. Anyway, if you want to know how many CLPs are in special measures you can add Brentford and Isleworth to the list.

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