Bristol West Labour complains of “overreach” by region as AGM cancelled

Sienna Rodgers

Local party Bristol West Labour has complained of “overreach” by the South West regional office after its annual general meeting was cancelled this week allegedly without prior notice being given to the executive committee.

The chair, co-secretaries and a number of other Bristol West Labour members have been suspended by the party after considering a motion on the suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn despite being told not to do so.

General secretary David Evans had issued a warning about hearing motions related to disciplinary cases at a local party level before the meeting was held, and Bristol West members was told by senior party figures that it should not take place.

LabourList reported earlier this month that the meeting was conducted over Zoom, joined by around 200 members, and the motion considered without debate. It passed by a majority of 19 with 99 voting for, 80 against and three abstaining.

A number of Bristol West Labour members including executive officers were subsequently suspended. According to LabourList sources, this was due to the motion and due to tweets calling for the resignation of the regional director.

Bristol West this week had its scheduled annual general meeting (AGM) postponed by the regional office, and the executive committee has now released a statement saying they are “disappointed and frustrated” by the way this was done.

The local party rejects claims by region that there were problems with the notice period, insisting that the noticed period required was exceeded, and that there was a problem with “the unavailability of role holders to effectuate their roles”.

The statement counters: “We have many other CLP officers you elected at the last AGM who are able to run the local party and hold meetings while the chair and secretaries are suspended, in accordance with the party rules.”

LabourList has been told that the acting vice-chair (membership) of the local party has had their access to the email system “revoked”, with one source saying the regional office has “effectively gagged” the executive committee.

It is understood that Bristol West Labour asked for a meeting with the South West regional director to discuss the AGM postponement, but he has replied on Friday afternoon to turn down the request.

Below is the full text of the statement released by Bristol West Labour.

All Bristol West members should by now have received an email from Labour South West informing them of the postponement of our annual general meeting (AGM). We would like to make clear that this has completely bypassed your elected representatives on the executive committee. We are disappointed and frustrated that regional office have not consulted or informed us of this move prior to emailing members and we oppose the silencing of our Constituency Labour Party (CLP) members for the following reasons.

They claim there were problems with the “notice period; members not receiving emails and the set-up of the online meeting; and the subsequent advertising of this link outside of the party membership,” as well as “the unavailability of role holders to effectuate their roles”.

The facts of the matter are that the meeting exceeded the required notice period as specified in the Labour party rules. The CLP first announced the meeting on the 30th of October and then sent a reminder with the Zoom link on the 16th of November.

The meeting was set up following party guidance for online meetings and voting. Additionally, regional did not contact the executive committee with any concerns about the running of the meeting. They even had a meeting with the secretary last week where they said they were happy with the process and didn’t raise any concerns.

327 members had registered to attend the meeting – this would have made the meeting the largest the CLP has ever seen. It is impossible to reasonably claim that members were not made aware of this meeting.

As with any meeting, the executive committee were going to check people’s membership prior to admittance. It’s impossible to stop people sharing a link (just as it’s impossible to stop people finding out venues for in person meetings) and it is not against Labour Party rules to do so.

We have many other CLP officers you elected at the last AGM who are able to run the local party and hold meetings while the chair and secretaries are suspended, in accordance with the party rules.

To suspend all meetings of the CLP and take over the running of the AGM while the rest of the executive committee remains capable of taking on the roles necessary to carry out the running of the local party – as we have done for the past 16 months – demonstrates an overreach on behalf of regional office.

We have sent a request to the South West regional office to attend a meeting with the executive committee to discuss what has happened and how we can work together to find a solution so we can organise to win the local elections in May.

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