Decisions on National Conference – positive steps forward to building a democratic movement

Yesterday National Committee (3 December, in Birmingham – not met since May!) decided Momentum’s first national conference, set to take place in February 2017, should be ‘a delegate-based conference with decision-making by delegates voting at the conference’. This position was won by 31 votes to 28 votes after debate around three possible ways of organising the conference and the decision-making processes. This is a positive step forward to building a democratic activist based organisation, where delegates are elected from local groups and liberation strands, where face-to-face political debate and discussion takes place in local groups,at regional committees and at the national conference.

It was agreed that from local groups there will be 2 delegates for every 100 members or part of; that ‘members in areas without local groups to be represented at the same rate as members in groups, elected by OMOV ballot in regions’; and that ‘Momentum Youth & Student and liberation groups may send a number of delegates to be agreed by the National Committee in consultation with these groups, subject to the verification of structures and election processes by the National Committee. Delegates will be elected face to face in meetings open to all members in a local group.

We also agreed to elect a Conference Arrangements Committee of 7 people ‘to make further decisions regarding the agenda, subject to the approval of the conference where possible, and to the decisions of the NC and SC to date’.

I’m sure over the next few days there will be much talk about the machinations of this National Committee, who was there, how they were voting, what they were arguing etc. One big discussion will, no doubt, be around the Labour Party groups that get automatic delegates to Momentum National Committee. Groups such as Labour CND, Labour Against Austerity, Open Labour, Compass, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Briefing, Labour Representation Committee and Labour Futures (Jon Lansman’s blog). It was Jon Lansman who proposed these groups and their delegate entitlement at the first National Committee back in February this year (04.02.16). That NC was divided, angry and, in parts, somewhat confused and chaotic. Jon says that these groups were put forward by the MPs involved in establishing Momentum early on and this is the way it is. This may be so but what about other Labour supporting groups that might want to affiliate to Momentum, how do they do so? At the moment it’s affiliation by invite only. Another inconsistency is that trade unions pay an affiliation fee (FBU and TSSA) to Momentum and get two delegates. There is at present no policy on affiliating groups, their delegate entitlement, commitment and affiliation fees. We need to fix this.

Yesterday’s NC saw an impressive turn-out from the Labour groups ‘affiliated’. LRC (President is John McDonell and Matt Wrack is Chair)and Labour Futures (Jon’s Blog) have sent delegates to all the NCs. Briefing failed to send anyone to the May NC. The other Labour groups have a poor track record on attending (I intend to get a very accurate record of this soon). Interestingly, with the exception of LRC delegates (Jackie Walker and Michael Calderbank) the other Labour groups’ delegates voted en-bloc for Jon’s proposals, and were in fact, the only people getting up to support any of his proposals (which were often billed as the Steering Committee’s proposals).

The matter of affiliated groups to Momentum is something we have to discuss and resolve. If groups can affiliate to Momentum we have to have an agreed criteria, there has to be some affiliation fee and all delegates have to be individual members of Momentum.

Other things to note: there will another NC in January this will be dominated by conference arrangements and details.

Early on in the meeting we moved parts on a motion set to be taken later in the day so we could discuss electing a new Steering Committee. The existing SC only had a mandate until the end of July (elected by in early February as a temporary committee). Jon and others on the SC are desperate to keep control and have consistently argued that the SC has more legitimacy than the NC and therefore should remain in place. Cheeky on every level. The SC which is an executive body elected from the National Committee. It is not a higher body, it is subservient and accountable to the NC. Add to this the NC is newly elected through democratic structures and procedures and therefore, on every level, has more legitimacy that the SC. We lost this by a couple of votes. With hindsight it might have been better to take this item a little later in the day, we may well have won it. There will be a new SC elected at the National​ Conference in the new year.

Conference Arrangements Committee:
Four of the seven people elected supported a national delegate based conference with decision-making powers.
Delia Mattis
Jackie Walker
Josie Runswick​
Alec Price

The other three members of this committee supported Jon Lansman’s proposals conference and structures at the natioanl Committee.

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1 thought on “Decisions on National Conference – positive steps forward to building a democratic movement”

  1. So the recently elected delegates will be in charge of organising the conference, with contribution I suppose by whoever actively participates, not just the same few folks holding onto ‘the keys’. Good! Wonderful!

    Do you think there will be steering committee elections in the first half of 2017? A shame that can’t be part of conference!

    I respect the delegate system as a trusty way of having captains about and in charge when the greater crew can’t be expected to all weigh in at short notice and at length to so much of business, and besides the few full time office staff of the organisation, they can swing into action rather like Retained firefighters! Is this a romantic innacurate view? And chosen by the community so they don’t constitute any imperial guard.

    I also hope we will commence some One Member One Vote in the course of conference, to vote where necessary to decide our course on a few obvious issues, and discuss and move in an open forum. It worked for Jezza afer all. I also hope that unlike that brexit referendum the community will be able to collaborate for a clear legitimately elaborated and understood choice we will unite on, not false and arbitrary dichotomies! We need to bring power to the people and we can’t forget the power of I.T. in that or the people’s demands will be underpowered. The right of all members to launch motions to OMOV by petition is vital too.

    Its important to achieve a functioning model of democracy in this organisation. I also think we take votes on immaterial and not necessary communal decisions too much, with a lot more quantity than quality: Moving to say that we all agree to a statement of principle and support without meaningful effect, when we aren’t a government in waiting but a campaign group for one, and when then just a little over half of us do agree to make that statement it can be divisive and dubious! I’m sure a gathering should be an attractive, beautiful, empowering, outreaching and self-explanatory event to the public to grow, not something that seems professional and vocational. Too often we fail on this hurdle. This is a concensual, understanding and practice problem. I don’t want to ever vote for less votes!

    There is some good reading here! https://barcelonaencomu.cat/sites/default/files/win-the-city-guide.pdf It is helpful to have a focal point for educational discussion in Momentum practicing debate, but can be a little false and imposing. I’m sure you know what I mean. I do hope more of our meeting-time can be given over to freeform things, working in working groups where we can write letters to press, draft motions for the Labour party branches, make placards and banners and chat with who we need to chat with to get all the miscellaneous things done, hosting community engaging events and campaigning. It would be great to signpost upcoming Labour branch and CLP meetings well and drive engagement through to them.

    I look forward to the next meeting but I don’t know when it is!

    Love,
    Will

    Like

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