Activists accuse conference body of “stitch up” over immigration policy

Sienna Rodgers

Anti-racism activists have accused the key committee responsible for organising Labour conference of a “stitch up” designed to block members’ plans for a radical immigration policy.

LabourList understands that the conference arrangements committee (CAC) has decided to separate out motions into two subject groupings, ‘Immigration’ and ‘Immigration Detention’, in a move that could prevent key motions from being prioritised for debate at conference.

A proposal promoted by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement (LCFM), submitted by five local parties, called on the party to promote immigration, extend free movement and back other specific policies – including the closure of all detention centres.

A separate campaign, Labour Against Racism and Fascism (LARAF), drafted a motion that was sent to conference by seven local parties. It called on the next Labour government to “end the detention estate” as well as “adopt a community-led response for migrants”.

Both motions share a key pledge – the closure of all detention centres, rather than only those with the worst reputations – but they have been categorised differently, which risks splitting the vote in the priorities ballot at conference.

According to a reliable Labour source, the move was challenged on Monday at the CAC meeting, but the objection was “rebuffed” and “the mood in the room was to keep it as it was”.

Pro-migration activists in the party are disappointed and concerned that neither motion will be debated as the CAC has prevented the two motions in question from being merged, or ‘composited’.

Labour MP and anti-racism campaigner Clive Lewis commented: “It seems ridiculous that two motions with very similar purposes – in fact overlapping demands – would be put in separate parts of the conference agenda, risking neither getting prioritised.

“Migrants’ rights are not a side issue – they are a huge and central part of what Labour stands for, especially at a time when the government is drifting to the far right. If there is a debate to be had, we need to have to have the debate out in a comradely way at out biggest democratic event. We cannot have this issue pushed behind closed doors.

“The CAC should look at this again, because there is a real danger of a stitch up being perceived here, on an issue that is crucial and deeply felt by members.”

Update, 2pm: CAC member Seema Chandwani has tweeted that she and Billy Hayes cast their votes at the meeting in support of the subject groupings being combined. Hayes has tweeted that they lost the vote by four to two.

Update, Wednesday 18th: Chandwani says she has spoken to the CAC chair, Harry Donaldson, who “agreed (without hesitation) we will review the categorisation of these motions today”. She added: “It will still go to vote but it gives us all an opportunity to view with fresh eyes taking on board the views expressed.”

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