International  •  Politics & Economics

Farcical Irish Labour Society AGM hijacked by the Right

30 October 2017
ON OCTOBER 25th the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) held its AGM under tight security at Portcullis House in Westminster reports.
Past the airport style searches at the entrance, leading to hour long queues outside the door, was a team of Progress apparatchiks attempting to prevent entry to anybody who wasn’t a Blairite MP or Special Advisor (SPAD).
The AGM was held in the tiny Grimmond Room despite the large number of RSVPs, reported to be 130 plus, sent in the week leading up to the event. As I approached the door ten minutes before the start, the Chair of the Executive emerged to say the room was full and nobody else would be let in. A number of people in the queue challenged the Chair and questioned the democratic legitimacy of an AGM that excluded its members. Eventually they opened the neighbouring Thatcher Room but dozens remained locked out in the corridor and outside the building. As I was pulled aside by the Vice-Chair to provide proof of LPIS membership, a steady stream of suited MPs and SPADs trickled into the room behind me. I started receiving text messages from friends outside who were told by Stephen Pound MP that the AGM had been “cancelled” due to a “disturbance” and that everybody had to leave. However in the same queue several people were observed being plucked out and fast-tracked into the building. When the meeting began, a point of order was raised by Austin Harney who asked for the AGM to be suspended and reconvened at a future date in a larger venue to allow maximum participation and facilitate those members excluded outside. His proposal was met with heckles and jeers and overwhelmingly voted down. As Left candidates were locked out and prevented from participating in the hustings, there was a proposal that the election of officers be suspended until Blairite MPs such as Stephen Pound, Wes Streeting, Ben Bradshaw, Stella Creasy, Neil Coyle, Vernon Coaker and Chuka Umunna were allowed to attend a vote in the Commons and return afterwards. This shameful manoeuvre highlighted some are members are more equal than others. Eventually the MPs remained seated when the parliamentary vote was cancelled. Frustrated by the LPIS limiting its activity to a piss-up in the Houses of Parliament every St. Patrick’s Day, a Left Slate was hastily arranged before the AGM to win seats on the Executive and steer the organisation toward outreach work with the Irish community in Britain on issues such as representation, poverty and social exclusion. The Left also wants to build links with social and class struggles in Ireland, in particular the fight for abortion rights which is opposed by the SDLP in the North. Progress is losing influence in the Labour Party and they stitched up the LPIS AGM to rein in Jeremy Corbyn’s growing support on the NEC. The LPIS is an affiliated society meaning its delegates can influence party elections and candidate selections. Progress supporters complained bitterly about Left “factionalism” on the night but a breakdown of the vote for the joint Vice Chair position, for example, showed an equal 132 votes passed for their preferred candidates. It was a very disciplined intervention from the Blairites! According to Skwawkbox, John McDonnell’s office has sent a complaint to the NEC and other members should follow suit. A model resolution is in circulation (see below), calling for the NEC to suspend the LPIS pending an inquiry, and should be fully supported.
Left Slate supporters should continue their protests. We need to organise to make sure that the the LPIS becomes a body in touch with the Irish community, that is able to relate to the impact of cuts and austerity, as well as the fight for women’s rights in Ireland. It is also a burning necessity to raise awareness of the devastating impact Brexit will have on both sides of the border. A labour movement campaign to rid Ireland of the British border altogether is way overdue and we should urge Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to support it.
Model resolution
This branch/CLP notes that the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) AGM, which took place on Wednesday 25 October, was beset by a series of irregularities.
The AGM for this affiliated socialist society was held on a weekday evening at 6.30pm in Westminster, disadvantaging Irish Labour Party members in other regions such as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow from participating in the meeting or standing for election as an officer to the Executive Committee of the LPIS.
Despite an electronic RSVP system being used to give the organisers forewarning of the large numbers planning to attend, the venue chosen was significantly smaller than required and was not changed. This left many attendees, including members of this CLP, unable to participate.
Members queueing to enter the venue, Portcullis House, were incorrectly told by Stephen Pound MP that the AGM had been cancelled shortly after it had begun.
Members already inside the venue came out to cherry pick attendees to enter via the staff entrance.
At least one nominated candidate for the Executive was not allowed to address the meeting after gaining access to the venue.
This branch/CLP calls upon the Labour Party NEC to suspend the LPIS pending an inquiry into these events.

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