London Labour has been urged by local party chairs and members of the London regional board to rethink the timing of the next regional conference, as activists on the party’s left say the planned July date is a breach of rules.
The party has decided that regions that have not held a conference in the last 12 months should arrange one at the earliest opportunity to protect regional democracy within Labour. But some activists have raised objections.
Proponents of the July date say the London conference is more than a year overdue and the REC election is two months overdue, and these would be further delayed if the next conference takes place in November as suggested by some.
LabourList understands that Labour’s London office has also set a date of July in order to allow plenty of time between the regional conference and local elections taking place in May 2022.
Yet those members opposed to July have argued that, while the REC must be re-elected after coming to the end of its two-year term, local parties need more time to elect delegates and candidates more time to be able to stand for posts.
A majority of the London regional executive committee – last elected in March 2019, when the Labour left won almost all of the positions being contested at the London conference – has today complained about the July proposal.
Jim Kelly, chair of the London board, said: “The rulebook clearly states that the REC has the right to determine when regional conferences take place, and after the disruption caused by Covid-19 members clearly need a reasonable timeline to elect delegates and stand candidates.
“The unilateral actions of staff in the London Labour regional office – seemingly backed by the leadership – will directly contradict this and is yet another instance of members’ rights being undermined.”
London REC members have written to Labour’s national executive committee to make the case for a November conference. They said a July date would show “contempt”, be “in breach of the Labour Party rulebook” and be “factional”.
Chairs and secretaries from 18 local parties in London have also written to Amy Fode, Labour’s London regional director, objecting to the timetable for the conference, saying it would not allow for a “full democratic process”.
They have made the case that being told on June 1st of the July conference means it would be “too late for motions and nominations to go through branches this month” as there is national conference business and there are AGMs taking place.
“Holding a regional conference in the school holidays also creates a disadvantage for those caring for children,” the letter to Fode stated. It also noted that all other regional conferences are set to be held in the autumn.
The local chairs and secretaries said they “insist on scheduling the [London] conference for after party conference” and argued that “we should be able to expect reasonable notice and be given adequate time to prepare our meetings”.
The officials came from Battersea, Brent Central, Ealing North, Edmonton, Hornsey and Wood Green, Islington North, Lewisham Deptford, Leyton and Wanstead, Poplar and Limehouse, Richmond Park and other constituencies.
Commenting on the row, a Momentum spokesperson said: “Over the last 12 months, the Labour leadership have ridden roughshod over party democracy and proper process in pursuit of narrow factional gains.
“Hastily arranging the London Labour conference in just a few weeks will deprive tens of thousands of London Labour members of their rights, as many CLPs will not be able to elect and send delegates. This is not how to run a party.”
LabourList understands that activists believe the Labour Party is particularly keen to push through the July regional conference date urgently because the London regional board plays a key role in candidate selections.
Correction: Hendon was originally listed as one of the local parties with executive members who had signed the letter to Fode, but LabourList now understands that the members in question have been suspended and there are acting officers in those roles who did not sign the letter.
Update: The chair of Richmond Park Labour has chosen to withdraw their signature from the letter to Fode.