Thursday 24 June 2010

Stoke Central Labour AGM

Not the snappiest of titles ever to have featured on this blog, but it succinctly describes what happened this evening: Stoke Central Constituency Labour Party finally held its long overdue annual general meeting.

Regular readers and those sad enough to follow the permutations of politics in the Potteries will know Labour in Stoke Central hasn't had an easy time of it in recent years. The CLP has been paralysed by a drawn out faction fight that was one part personal, one part political and the final part organisational (more
here and here). This resulted in the administrative suspension of the entire party shortly after your humble scribe joined (pure coincidence, I assure you). When things seemed they couldn't get any worse, sitting MP Mark Fisher stepped down and in came new MP Tristram Hunt after a selection process that can euphemistically be described as "controversial". This was the final straw for many long-serving members, most of whom decamped shortly before the election.

So it was hard to say what tonight's AGM had in store for the members who turned up. There were many faces not present who were at the (unofficial) CLP meeting I had previously attended to give Mark Fisher his send off. But by the same token there were an equal number there tonight who were absent from that preceding meeting. Thankfully, it was business like and friendly. As it was an AGM concerned with the election of officers, politics, properly speaking, were not on the agenda: that was mostly confined to a few remarks by council leader Mohammed Pervez on the new four-way coalition running the city and bits of pieces from Tristram on his parliamentary experiences.

The votes themselves were all uncontested, apart from the chair's position. However one of the candidates was handicapped by his holidaying in Spain and lost out, which is just as well: it's hard to take over the running of a meeting in Stoke from the sun-drenched beaches of the Costa Brava.

Yours truly ran for the position of political education officer. I wrote a very short stump speech in case it was contested, which I reproduce here for those interested in such things:

Rebuilding Labour is more about recruiting members and winning back past supporters: it has to develop the talents we already have as well. Political education in the party has an important part to play in producing new activists, trade unionists, councillors and MPs.

As political officer I will develop a programme of political education that will deepen our understanding of socialist, trade union and Labour values; learn from the considerable experience members of this CLP have; work with Tristram to bring well-known speakers to the city; and work to make accessible to members the sometimes complex and rarefied policy debates taking place in the council chamber, the think tanks and parliament.

What do I bring to this role? I'm passionate about education. I've been teaching at university level for almost eight years, I have recently been awarded a PhD, and I write regularly on political, social and cultural issues. If you allow me to become your political officer this evening I will bring all my skills and experience to the position.
In the end there was no contest so my actual remarks were even briefer and they went down well (no one shouted "he's a Trot! Stop him!")

The AGM took the decision to move from delegate-based meetings to all-members meetings: under the previous leadership this was a major bone of contention and was partly why the CLP was slapped with a suspension.

And that's all there was to it really. I think one member summed it up well when she said this was the first CLP meeting in 20 years which she would be leaving on a high. I get the impression this was more productive and convivial than what had gone before from a number of members. Long may it stay this way.


Paul said...

Well done. We're currently going through a reconstruction process around here, so I have a feel for where you're coming from about the half-personal, half-political and how it all gets fused and seemingly intractable.

As for your inviting speakers, I can confirm I operate at very reasonable rates, well within Tristram's personal budget.

Phil said...

You may live to regret making that kind offer.

Anonymous said...

Is the reason that the Labour Party rule book (2010) does not demand 'all members meetings' due to the fact that such circumstances allow the by-passing of collective branch decision making to fall to a few hot heads who organise outside of the party structure? The Militant Tendency were very good at it, apparently.

Brother G said...

Congrats on your win Phil. I look forward to some grade A indoctrination.

SJW said...

An All-members meeting prevents small unrepresentative factions from holding all power in local party structures.

Ivy said...

I cannot believe that there are actually people in this country who want socialism.
It is literally 1 step away from communism.
Please, let me know what on earth you are even thinking.

Anonymous said...


Brother G said...

Ivy: Having taken a glimpse of your blog, I'm not sure attempting a discourse with you about 'thinking' would be worth much.

Phil said...

I would suggest to Ivy that what she thinks is socialism isn't what socialists think is socialism, and should therefore moderate her tiresome critique accordingly.

Gary Elsby said...

In February 2010 Stoke Central held its AGM.

Speeches were heard, positions filled and counted and verified by a sitting Councillor.

It was declared null and void with no reasons given to date (apart from a lie regarding 'all members meeting' not being carried out)

The Labour Party rule book asks for no such thing (it is a consideration).

Mark Fisher MP made a speech there and then making the point that all member meetings were a disaster for the party and could open up militant groups to organise beyond the common cause of delegate responsibility.
!00% in attendence agreed.

A document came the way of the CLP in the previous November cautioning that an GE could take place in May 2010 and that AGMs should be carried out away from May 2010. Stoke Central held theirs in February.

The NEC lie about me and fellow Officers and our right (right) not to have 'all memeber meetings'(delegates only to vote on behalf of branches).

The NEC won't sue me for slandering them because they just simply dare not.

Gary Elsby said...

Incidentely, I'm at a loss to why being on holiday is a handicapped position for Chair (or anything else) in the Labour movement.

You seem not to mention names and you give no indication of 'supporting nominations' from branches (a view from the branch structure).
Failure to do so often allows a stitch up.

Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Phil

I'm curious about your assumption(s) concerning the reason for suspension of the CLP, in particular the issue of all member meetings.

Do you think there is a rule requiring CLPs to hold all member meetings?

Anonymous said...


Phil said...

No Peter. My understanding was the NEC instructed all three CLPs in Stoke to move from delegate-based to members-based meetings. North and South did so, Central did not.

I know this wasn't the reason for the CLP's suspension, which is why I used the word 'partly'.

Gary, no doubt we'll have some discussion about this at Mark's retirement do tomorrow evening.

Gary Elsby said...

Prove that Stoke North and South were instructed this way.
I was told this way after we were suspended and apparently this direction came from Cath Speight, Chair of the Org sub Committee of the NEC.
I saked for that proof as well.
It never came.
It is a lie as far as Stoke Central is concerned and no such direction (under what ruling?) was ever forthcoming.

They made it up and then suspended us for not doing what we were (not) told.

I gather one member was disallowed from attending the AGM and as a consequence, his denial of rights is in the hand of a Barrister.
The AGM of Stoke Central (June 2010) is therfore suspect and will be declared 'null and void'.
(it should be declared null and void because a refusal to acknowledge a candidate on holiday is corrupt and has no basis in rule).

Phil said...

Gary, you really are you own worst enemy when it comes to presenting arguments online.

Firstly, I am not arguing with certainty that North and South were instructed: I'm saying, going off what various people have told me since joining, that I *believed* this was the case.

Second, you've got the wrong end of the stick regards the chair's election. There were two candidates, one of which was on holiday. He was not excluded from the vote, rather he was at a disadvantage because he was unable to put his case to the meeting in person.

I usually find it worthwhile carefully reading what someone has to say before jumping to conclusions.

Gary Elsby said...

Eric Wilson suspended Stoke Central for not holding an 'all member' AGM.
email to Barry Stockley and Gary Elsby.

We observed the rule book correctly, the NEC did not.

Stoke South were not instructed to do anything of the sort, they chose to do it a year before.
As a consequence of their actions, only eight people attended their AGM.

BINGO! and just as we thought.