Labour Party Conference – Brighton 2017

Labour Party Conference – Brighton 2017

In September 2017 I attended the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. This was my first time at a party conference, and my first time as a delegate. A delegate is a representative of a Constituency Labour Party unit or CLP, this is how members are divided across the country, into the constituency boundaries on which MPs are selected. So I was a Rushcliffe CLP delegate.

Delegates and Voting

As a delegate you get a seat in the main auditorium and you carry a percentage of the total votes of the CLP. I think the vote is equal to the membership at a particular cut off date. I don’t know what date that was. The percentage of vote that you carry is worked out by the number of delegates a CLP sends, so if it sends one delegate they carry 100%, four delegates, each carries 25% and so on.

Rushcliffe sent four delegates, but one didn’t come. We were worried this would mean losing 25% of the CLPs votes, but it turns out the organisers have dealt with this sort of thing before. We let our regional organiser know, they suggested we go and see the people in the voting area, they cancelled out the missing delegates potential votes and we then each carried 33% of the vote.

Votes were required at various times in the auditorium, often by a show of hands, but sometimes by card vote, if requested or if the show of hands wasn’t conclusive. This was more often the case this year as the CLP delegates vastly outnumbered the trade union delegates (maybe by 100 to 1!), but each group represents 50% of the total votes in the room.

Below are some pictures of my card vote book, but they give you these either before hand at a regional reception or you can pick them up at the conference voting area. When one of these is called tellers appear with ballot boxes and they’re passed along the rows of seats. Each vote in the book is numbered and barcoded, that’s how they know how much your vote is worth. Tellers are selected at random from the delegates and are notified at the start of the conference. Tellers can still vote, but it’s hectic for them!

In addition to the auditorium votes, each CLP gets a single vote in elections for candidates in the various bodies that make up the important bureaucracy of the Labour party, such as the National Executive Committee (NEC) or National Constitutional Committee (NCC). These votes are cast in the aforementioned voting area and are first come first served for CLP delegates, but are open for pretty much the entire day. In theory (and in our case in practice) this single vote is agreed by the delegates and cast by a nominated delegate. However it is open to skulduggery! As an early bird can sneak in and cast the vote they want to without any agreement whatsoever. Leaflets from all factions advised delegates to arrive early to cast their vote to minimise the chances of this happening.

Results of these one of votes can be found on the Labour Party MembersNet in Legal and Compliance. They’re broken down by CLP, so you can see how your delegates voted, and hold them to account! It would appear that in 2015 and 2016 Rushcliffe didn’t vote in the NCC elections… This year we voted for the “left” slate as our CLP nominated them at its AGM.

Conference Arrangements Committee

The day’s activities for conference are set out in the CAC Reports. These are documents produced by the dull sounding Conference Arrangements Committee, who despite sounding like they plan the seating plan and catering, are actually a very powerful group. They get to set the agenda for the entire conference, with very few exceptions, the topics that are “debated” and the people who get to speak are selected by this committee.

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The CAC report is presented each day and voted on and thus the day is agreed by the conference floor. I don’t know if this has ever not passed. This year it looked close but the 100 or so people voting for the CAC report on the final day were trade union delegates and were representative of 50% of the vote, a smattering of CLP delegates were then enough to carry the motion. This was done by a card vote.

Conference Day by Day

As this is a report for the CLP (Constituency Labour Party) I’ll give a break down day by day. Each day I arrived at the conference venue early, to pick up a hot copy of the CAC Report, avoid queuing for entry, and to get a cup of coffee and a table next to the front door. This last practice was just for Labour celebrity spotting.  Most days this was also an opportunity to chat with random delegates about their CLP gossip.

Day One – Sunday

Day one of conference had the thickest CAC Report (all these are available on MembersNet). It was about reports and gongs. Our very own Richard Crawley received a Merit Award for doing pretty much everything in the CLP for the last 30 years. Apologies to those who also did things over the last 30 years but it seems like Richard did a lot!

After the award Richard very kindly treated a number of us to some lunch at a restaurant on the beach, the guest list included sitting MPs, MEPs and Lords!

The rest of the day was on reports. These can be read via the link above, or watched on Youtube.

Richard Crawley’s award is at about 1 hour 20 minutes if you want to skip ahead.

Other Sunday highlights were the priorities ballot and compositing. This is where the conference votes on the subjects of the “contemporary motions” to be discussed. This was subject to some controversy as it was suggested the conference was “banned” from discussing Brexit. What this actually meant was the Momentum “Slate” did not include Brexit and the Labour First “Slate” did. This vote was one of those where you have the whole day to vote and the CPL only gets one vote, to select four subjects. Rushcliffe CLP voted to discuss NHS, Housing, Social Care and Brexit. The final results can be found in Monday’s CAC Report.
Compositing is where all contemporary motions from CLPs across the country on a particular subject are boiled down to a single motion. It’s important for the CLPs who have submitted a motion to attend these meetings to make sure as much of their motion as possible is present in the final composite. The final composites can be found in Monday’s CAC Report.

Day Two – Monday

Monday’s conference started with the discussion that never happened, Brexit and Internationalism. It’s all up here on Youtube

The afternoon session was on Jobs and Living Standards.

During the morning session (that you’ve no doubt just watched in it’s entirety), there was a moment were a seconder for a motion from Bolsover CLP couldn’t be found. Fortunately a certain MP from Bolvsover took the podium to second the motion and lit up the conference with a barnstormer of a speech.

During the afternoon session I attended one of the training events that run alongside the main conference, this was on membership engagement. As a delegate there was little time to attend these training sessions.

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The same could be said for Fringe events. I dashed across The World Transformed, where I’d purchased a ticket for the whole Fringe Conference, but each event had a massive line and a wait of over an hour to get in. As a delegate you don’t really have this much time in a day. I did spot Ken Loach though.

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I did return later and waited over an hour for a panel on Winning Power. Which was very good and extremely interesting. It also had a special guest appearance…

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Jeremy’s introduction to the panel actually lasted nearly half an hour and was extremely well received.

Day Three – Tuesday

Tuesday was the meatiest day of the conference, it had a dramatic start with the CAC Report nearly being rejected. It was a good example of the power of union delegates at conference. They didn’t seem to be there in huge numbers, but this very small number carried half of the votes of the entire conference floor. I’ve not checked if you can see it clearly on the youtube video but it looked like the floor rejected the report, a card vote proved it wrong though!

The afternoon session kicked off with the conference’s guest speaker, Naomi Klein, and ended with the deputy leader’s speech, so all in all a good session.

On the evening of the Tuesday I met up with a stand up comedian and political commentator Tiernan Douieb. There was also a chance meeting with a couple of guys who are currently homeless that changed my thinking on local politics and Labour “activism”. If anything this meeting was the most important part of the conference for me.

Day Four – Wednesday

Wednesday is all about the Leader’s Speech. We were very fortunate to be in the line up to meet Jeremy from his car.

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After this line up we were ushered through and took up some of the few remaining seats, these amazingly were right behind the shadow cabinet.

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Jeremy’s speech to conference seemed to go down well. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to hear I approved too. After the speech there was a chance to mill around and have short conversations with important people.

I was very fortunate that after the journey home I was welcomed by this.

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That was it really for conference 2017. If you have any questions please let me know.

Demystifying Standing as a Labour Party Councillor

Last year I attended my first meetings with the Labour Party. Some of these early meetings involved selecting the candidates for the Nottinghamshire County Council, I found the process confusing, some people seemed to know what was going on but I certainly wasn’t one of them!

HIGH16112_317681Coming up in 2019 are the Rushcliffe Borough Elections. This time round I’m determined to know what’s going on, so am attempting to put together the procedures for standing as a Councillor with the Labour Party. I hope by publishing them here I can help others understand the procedure too, meaning more people will put themselves forwards.

The first stage is to self-select as a candidate. To do this you need to contact the Regional Office, or more specifically the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), who will send you a number of forms to fill in. In 2017 in Nottinghamshire these were:

1.     Declaration – agreeing to terms of being a Labour candidate

2.     Nomination form – why you think you would make a good Labour candidate

3.     Register of interests – to ensure transparency with Labour candidates

4.     Candidate contract  – committing to campaign for Labour as a candidate

Once you’ve returned them to LCF, You’ll be invited to interview.

This will be with a panel of the LCF. I’m not entirely sure what they ask you in this interview. If you’re successful you’ll be added to a list of candidates who can be selected by your local branch.

The second stage is a shortlisting meeting. (This was where I spent time being confused last year. I had missed any reference to the first stage outlined above!) At a shortlisting meeting Labour Party members are separated into the areas in which they live, and they can then select approved self-selected candidates from a list provided by the LCF. These shortlisted candidates are then invited to a hustings and selection meeting.

The third stage is a husting and selection meeting. In this each of the shortlist candidates has a turn to be asked a set of questions by the members of the area they have been selected to represent. Once all have been quizzed, the members present can decide to move to a ballot – or indeed to go back to shortlisting. A secret ballot can be taken and the successful candidate selected.

There are some finer details to all the stages, but I think this is essentially the process. As we get closer to selection I’ll see if I can list all of the details, but as I understand it these are set by the LCF and can differ from election to election.

 

All Women Shortlists in the Labour Party

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Something else I’m practicing at is the Labour Party. I first joined in 2011 and rejoined a couple of years ago. I’ve been fairly involved since. It’s an interesting organisation and I’m having fun trying to unpick some of the rules, regulations and procedures.

This month our Constituency Labour Party unit is meeting to discuss our position on All Women Shortlists. Being new to being active in the party I have no position on these AWS and am trying to find out how they’re operated and why we use them. For the why I’ve been able to find out a few things, listed below. I still seem to be missing the how.

The Labour Party operates All Women Shortlists (AWS) to help address gender balance within the party. Here we attempt to put together some resources to help explain the background, implementation and history of the process within the Labour Party.

The Fabians (an organisation affiliated with the Labour Party) have produced a document entitled “Practicing What We Preach” which is available here.

Background to the legal framework required for AWS is outlined within an essay on the Bar Society’s website by Sarah Pughe from City University, which can be found here.

A parliamentary research briefing on AWS can be found here. Interestingly this document outlines the procedures of all parties that consider AWS. In the case of the Labour Party it documents a history, but for the Liberal Democrats it is able to outline a clear process. It’s appendices contain lists of all Labour Candidates selected via AWS.

Considering that the parliamentary research briefing couldn’t outline the Labour Party procedure I don’t feel so bad for not being able to find it.

Curious as to how AWS might have been applied in our area (the East Midlands), I decided to have a look at some historical data. Fortunately Wikipedia have some great pages on the last three general elections, and with some extra effort I was able to tabulate them and draw out the number of MPs and PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates) put forward by the Labour Party. Strictly they were all PPCs until elected. (Spreadsheet on googledocs here if you want to look)

The raw numbers say in the East Midlands we have had twice as many male MPs as Female, by virtue of one male loss and one female win we now have 2/3 male, 1/3 female. However in terms of candidates we have from two and a half to three times as many male candidates as we do females. So to me it looks like we’re not operating AWS across the East Midlands, or if we are we’re doing it selectively.

2010 2015 2017 Grand Total
Man MP 10 9 9 28
PPC 18 18 17 53
Man Total   28 27 26 81
Woman MP 5 5 6 16
PPC 6 7 7 20
Woman Total   11 12 13 36
Grand Total 39 39 39 117

One last interesting point I noticed was when sorting the data by county. It’s show here for the total of the three GEs to magnify the point.

Derbyshire Leicestershire Lincolnshire Nottinghamshire Grand Total
Man MP 8 6 14 28
PPC 9 18 16 10 53
Man Total   17 24 16 24 81
Woman MP 6 3 1 6 16
PPC 10 3 4 3 20
Woman Total   16 6 5 9 36
Grand Total 33 30 21 33 117

It would appear that Derbyshire, if it doesn’t run AWS, it does a good job of maintaining gender balance, having closest to equality in number of MPs and having actually had MORE female candidates than male over the last three General Elections. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire manage to put forward just over one female candidate per General Election (not including sitting MPs). Again it would appear that we have not been applying All Women Shortlists in an even way across the East Midlands.

This is all based on my own observations of public domain information. Shared here on my personal blog as a private individual, not wanting to influence opinions on AWS, just to explore what it is that we are currently doing. I’m open to discussion, suggestion and criticism – and with that this post will no doubt change.

Practising at High Fat Low Carb

Practising at High Fat Low Carb

So back in January I stepped onto the scales and discovered that a combination of things (I’m blaming Christmas and over eating after my dad passed away) had lead to me to hit the magical weight of 200lbs, or 14st 4lbs in old money.

I wasn’t happy about that, and in a lot of ways, not happy in general. Losing my dad broke me. I’m usually a pretty cheery chap, but I was finding it hard to leave the house, hold long conversations and oddly started to feel pretty guilty when I was happy spending time with my own kids.

After receiving a parking ticket (another post in itself) I had a panic attack on the way to a meeting with my business partner. I’d not had one of them before and it was a bit of an eye opener. Good friends told me to give myself time and to be kind to myself. Looking at the scales, I decided I wasn’t being kind to myself.

The problem is that I love food. For a short time I was a chef, my dad was a chef, among other things. I’d tried dieting before and found that it’s not really for me. Recently I’d heard there was another way, High Fat / Low Carb.

Listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss and Dom Agostino, I was captivated by a way of eating that would allow me to chunk out on cheese – that would not only make me skinnier, but also make my brain faster and allow me to hold my breath under water for longer. I’ve always admired Guybrush Threepwood.

By shunning carbs your body uses another cycle, I’m guessing an alternative Krebs cycle or a different feeder for the Krebs Cycle, to burn fat, requiring less oxygen in the respiration process. I’m guessing there’s some equations to show this simply, I’m a chemist don’t you know.

Currently I’m writing this for myself, so if it’s all over the place I’m not really too fussed.

Now I’ve been excited by new ways to eat before… they’re not diets, they’re alternative ways of eating… like Clean and Lean – which required such a middle class shopping list it was untrue. Also the Slow Carb diet, which is HFLC (what the cool kids are calling high fat low carb) but with beans instead of no carbs – which was a bit crap for me as it felt like I was substituting all the time.

So why was this one going to be different? Because I wasn’t going to change my diet at all. I was going to practice at changing my diet, so when I finally do change my diet, I will be good at it! Also I could eat things that I like, such as eggs and bacon, and steak and mushrooms.

Now the details are lost to time (this was six months ago as I write), but I definitely remember failing spectacularly on the first Friday (maybe day 5) and having a big Greggs (UK chain store of bakeries) blow out, with a bacon and cheese pastry and possibly pan o’chocolate, subway lunch and maybe some cashews in the evening. But it was ok, I was only practising at the new way of eating, not actually doing it. Why did I Greggs out? No breakfast at home / £2 eating a hole in my pocket. Next week, plan to eat breakfast every day, don’t have £2 available.

So the next week I managed the full week, and duly celebrated with a Greggs.

Oddly the only practising thing helped me keep going back to the HFLC diet, each time I’d treat myself and fall off, I could ask myself why, possibly adjust – or even justify it “I just really love chinese food, and every now and then, on my new diet plan, that I will start one day, I’m going to need to schedule one in. Also schedule a breakfast session to clear the leftovers”.

I found I could keep to the diet longer each practice, and although I’d slip back it wouldn’t take long to clear the weight.

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After 6 months I hit that goal. There’s a little more to it and I might come back to flesh this out, but for now, here’s a picture of my disgusting (but thinner) feet.

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So that’s why I’ve decided to call the blog practice makes. I think I’ve decided that I’m going to stop trying to be perfect right now, but I’m going to practice, so if once day I do decided to be perfect I’ll be better at it.