ASLEF’s motion to Labour conference on Progress

9th July, 2012 11:46 am

A few weeks ago at their conference, GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny stated that:

“I know that at this very moment a resolution is written and will be delivered to the Labour Party shortly. It is a rule amendment which will go before this year’s Conference for next year which, effectively, will outlaw Progress as part of the Labour Party.”

That led to a predictable debate/row – much of which took place on LabourList. Yet whilst many presumed that the motion would come from the GMB, Kenny didn’t say that – and it hasn’t, it has come instead from ASLEF. The motion reads:

ASLEF Constitutional Amendment
June 2012
Delete rule 5.B, insert:

B. Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party, but whom engage in internal activity, shall be required to:

i. Notify the national party of all legally reportable donations received.
ii. Transfer 50% of all donations received beyond the first £25,000 per annum to the national Labour Party.

C. Incorporated organisations that engage in internal activity shall be required to provide upon request all legal, constitutional, and financial documentation to the National Executive Committee to ensure that they meet acceptable standards of democracy, governance and transparency. These organisations are expected to abide by the authority of the NEC in such matters.

D. The NEC shall be responsible for the interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of these rules.

There are numerous potential outcomes from this motion. Firstly, it is unclear how many of Labour’s affiliated unions are backing this motion. The number of unions that back this will have a significant impact on whether or not this is likely to pass. The role of the CAC (Conference Arrangement’s Committee) in determining the validity of the motion could also be crucial – and the CAC has several prominent Progress members currently sitting on it.

If it does pass, there will no doubt be debates about how exactly the text can be interpreted, especially with what amounts to “Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party” – and to what extent the party can have a say over organisations that are not affiliated or associated.

Perhaps when i said last week that there would be “peace with honour”, I may have spoken too soon. This issue looks likely to rumble on through conference after all.

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  • Luke Akehurst


    it won’t get debated at this year’s conference. Rule changes not proposed by the NEC are merely printed on the order paper and noted in the year they are first proposed. This will get debated and voted on at the 2013 Annual Conference.


    • Daniel Speight

      Gives Progress a year to sort out their problems then.

    • aracataca

      Could Progress live with these stipulations or at least negotiate the details over the next year?

      • Alan Giles

        To use a favourite expression of Messrs Straw, Reid and Blunkett when those of us concerned about the eroosion of civil liberties dared to raise the question . If – in this instance – Progress – have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear. Do they?

        • aracataca

          You’re concerned about civil liberties? Is that why you keep banging on about banning people from commenting on LL including me for instance? Don’t make me laugh.

          • Alan Giles

            William, I havent called for you to be banned: what I questioned was why you had three screen names (aracataca, “William” and “BOConnor2”. 

            You are not alone: “Purple Booker” also posts as “Labour Right Toughie”.

            As both of you are not above making abusive statements to other posters, I just feel it would be more courageous to do so using your real names – it looks terribly cowardly to act as you pair often do and are too frightened to give your real name. If I were  too ashamed to use your my name,  I would not post at all.

          • aracataca

            I’ve told you a thousand times it was a mistake. If I had wanted to post under another name then I would have changed my profile etc. Besides you have called on me to stop posting on LL and you have hurled the vilest abuse not only at me but other contributors here. It got so bad that another poster asked if you wanted to replace Labour List with Alan’s List in which only those who agreed with you would be allowed to post. So much for your concerns for the civil liberties of others.

          • Alan Giles

            A “mistake”?   ONE mistake?  Surely 2, to explain THREE screen names? Alright, if you say so. As for: ”
             another poster asked if you wanted to replace Labour List with Alan’s List ”

            You are desperate if you evoke “Mr Dore” as an ally. About 3 weeks ago this gentleman discovered that my Christain name was the same as that of a fictional TV character. This wheeze delighted him so much, he has now repeated his little “joke” at least 2 dozen times. When he can’t think of an argument he reverts to describing what others write as “cr*p”. 

            Sadly he obviously has no sense of self-awareness.

            When somebody annoys me yes I show it, but I don’t hide behind a made-up screen name to do so. There is no style or class in that sort of playgound behaviour.

      • Luke Akehurst

        I’ve no idea, you would have to ask Progress. For my own organisation, Labour First, as we are neither incorporated nor have any income, it won’t affect us.

        • Which is why its not a problem for Labour First – the real reason people are concerned about Progress is because they have significant income and appear to work in a less than transparent way. Its not about what they believe which can be debated.

        • aracataca

          No, just hoping for some convenient fudge.

  • I wonder how this effects the unaffiliated RMT, with its Parliamentary group of MPs who receive large donations and subsidised accomodation in exchange for policy support.

    • treborc

      The RMT are not ASLEF  I was wondering how long it would take before you came back the mention of Progress and here they are.

      • I don’t think you understood treborc.  There was no reason to think from what I said that I thought RMT and ASLEF were the same thing.  My point being that ASLEF’s motion will not just affect Progress, it will affect other groups too – including the  RMT who use money to influence policy, without affiliating to Labour.

        • Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander etc. Do you have any objections to the motion Jonathan, or will you oppose it on the grounds it may damage the interests of RMT?

          • I’m quite relaxed, it’s probably all a good idea in the name of openness etc.  I suspect the motion’s consequences for groups like the RMT was unintended, but if we’re shining a light on progress we should do the same on others – which can only be a good thing.

  • Luke Akehurst

    I’m not clear why this amendment seeks to delete rule 5B rather than add a new clause.

    The current 5B reads:

    “B. The panel of the NEC responsible for assessing applications from socialist societies to affiliate to the Party shall have regard to procedural guidelines determined by the NEC, which are available from the Compliance Unit.”

    so deleting it removes the process for accepting new affiliates.

    Also note that there is a massive loophole – by specifying “incorporated organisations” it means all Progress would have to do to avoid making the payments specified would be to unincorporate itself and operate as an unicorporated association.

    • Simon Jones

      Maybe ASLEF would like to fix The Labour Party at a moment in time; so nothing new can join and organisations can only slowly be expelled.

    • jonlansman

      I suspect this is a party official misinterpreting @insert new clause and renumber accordingly’ as they have done with at least two other proposed rule changes.

    • rwendland

       Luke, if Progress Limited unincorporated itself it would likely have to have a democratic structure (eg general meetings with each member voting as is usual for clubs/unincorporated associations), which it seems to be resisting.

      Currently Progress Limited’s so-called members do not select the directors, and the new “democratising” proposal merely says the so-called members will have “a representative on any
      interview panel constituted to appoint a new director of Progress”, which is considerably less than electing directors themselves.

      I use the term “so-called members”, because it is not “members” as defined by the Companies
      Act 2006 (s.122), as is normal for membership organisations constituted
      as a private company limited by guarantee. It is something most organisations would call “supporters”.

      Hence I suspect Progress would not be keen on unincorporating itself.

  • jonlansman

    Mark: I’m not sure at the relevance of the fact that “the CAC has several prominent Progress members currently sitting on it”. Are you suggesting that Progress members would vote on the ”
     the validity of the motion” according to their political views rather than their interpretation of the party rules? Shocking!

  • Jonny Morris

    What is an “incorporated organisation”?

  • Howard Knight

    O dear. I rather suspect that the law of unintended consequences will come into play. I’m not a member of any of the organisations mentioned above nor, to the best of my knowledge, any other organisation that might be affected. I do have a long track record of opposing the malign forces – Militant, Socialist Organiser, SWP etc – which have sought to infiltrate and abuse the Party.

    However, I well remember back to the 80s when the NEC and LP conference ended up passing similarly ill-drafted constitutional changes and brought within scope all sorts of bodies and organisations.

    Somewhere in my files, I still have all the correspondence with the then GenSec about the Sheffield Labour Group Cricket Team which came within scope. Unsurprisingly, the discretion of the Captain to change bowlers failed the democratic test; questions were raised about the disciplinary requirements (“no spitting at the opposition”) and procedures……

    These new suggested rules look as though they would catch a similar group again….. and demand that 50% of the subs be handed over.

    And, all to catch a mischief which appears only in the minds of the mis-guided.

    Get a life, for goodness sake.

    • A thought – it would be really helpful for us all to listen to people like Howard, who were there at the time. There is a wealth of experience within party staff and ex-party staff from people who fought against Militant and *real* entryists, and we ignore their advice at our peril. I was too young to have personal experience, but to all with whom I have spoken, alarm bells are sounding about this.

      • Alan Giles

        All that is being asked is that “Progress” are totally transparent in their dealings and actions. Some of it’s supporters hide behind the “it’s just a magazine” defence, which is EXACTLY what Militant supporters did in the 80s (I was around then).

        The howls of outrage coming from the right-wing of the party seem orchestrated and hysterical. And overdone.

        • John Dore

          You love it don’t you? Your exactly the kind of nasty person at the heart of this witch hunt. At first it was a motion to outlaw a group your lot didn’t like, then the outcry came and it turned into ‘reasons’ that that progress should be reviewed.

          Progress has been around for ages, it has no record of any bad behaviour, it does though promote policies that YOU and your cronies don’t like.

          You may call the right hysterical, but it is your lot who are getting hysterical about a small group. Everyone knows its a part of the political cleansing program. Perhaps its about time it was pointed out that Union leaders drive their own agenda and are largely unaccountable to anyone.

          Still your speciality is to call your political enemies hysterical, childish or ignorant.

          It makes me laugh that the front bench agenda is far more Blair than it ever was Partridge.

      • I was there at the time, and also when the SDP breakaway occurred. The greatest danger is of the Progress faction manufacturing an SDP-like breakaway in the run up to the 2015 general election – if Labour doesn’t adopt Progress policies.

        Progress already has the party framework and membership, some of whom have previously refused to vote Labour on the grounds of ‘putting country before party’. Who’s to say it won’t happen again…

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    This motion appears to me to be very poorly drafted, leaving all sorts of disclarity and openings for the unintended consequences.  Even before I read through to the end of Mark’s article, I was in full agreement with the point he makes in the penultimate paragraph- what on earth can Labour do if Progress (who are currently not at all officially connected) turn around if this motion is passed and becomes policy and tell the Labour Party to “get knotted”?

    This raises a point Mark does not make, but is logically extensible from his argument.  If Progress are nothing officially to do with Labour, then the only sanction the Party has got is to ban the members of Progress from the Labour Party, and that would be a significant comment on free association of like-minded individuals and of how the Labour Party view freedom of speech.

    I would go even further and to state that because this motion is so poorly drafted, it is more likely to fail.

    You would expect more from a professional organisation.  Perhaps ASLEF should have asked – for his professional fee – Brumanuensis to draft the motion.  He is a lawyer I believe, and seems very good at expressing complex legal ideas in plain speech.

    • Since when does anything in the resolution talk about ejecting anyone?

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Because as Progress is unaffiliated, the Labour Party have no other sanction apart from on individual Labour Party members who are also part of Progress.

        I can imagine the scene in the Progress office when they open the letter containing a bill from the Labour Party for 50% of their income.  A lot of laughter, then to tear it up and throw away the pieces of paper.  And what is the Judge expected to rule if the Labour Party try to take Progress to court for the unpaid 50%?

        “Is this organisation part of the Labour Party?  No.  Did this organisation consent to this charge of 50%?  No.  Has any chargeable activity been incurred that could justify the Labour Party raising a bill, and was this activity contracted for? No, and no. Case dismissed.

        If you do not understand this, do you mind if my family make a resolution to charge the Homfray family 50% of your income, and when may I expect payment?

        • Alan Giles

          With all due respect, Jaime, I find it strange that so many non-Labour members or supporters, or non-Progress “magazine” subscribers get so exercised by this matter. Whatever your views on “Progress” it certainly seems to be the more Conservative/conservative LL readers who get most upset.

          I am an ex Labour party member but still (try) to support the party – at least those sections of it who are not trying to be slightly lighter blue Conservatives, I don’t want the group proscribed, pestential nuisance that it is, but I think concerned members and supporters have a right to know all about the organisation. Is it just the vanity project of an old supermarket owner with too much time and money on his hands?. Is it a magazine, or is it an alternative opposition (to Labour) in waiting?.

          Others have made the point that Progress elects it’s own officers with no say being given to it’s members (or “readers” if it is “just” pace Mr Reid et al) “a magazine”.  Who on earth thought the  gurning, dissembling Twigg a good figurehead, for example?. 

          Sainsbury was very generous to the Labour Party when he was science minister, forever showing largesse, but now he doesn’t give a penny piece to the party itself, but to this organisation/magazine, and you do have to wonder why (both the generosity in office and the parsimony now)

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