Just over two weeks ago. I was elected Secretary for the Wall End Ward of the East Ham CLP (Constituency Labour Party). Last Thursday, I attended my first CLP AGM. I was shocked by the blatant disregard for courtesy, democracy and fairness throughout the proceedings. I wrote the following on Facebook:
I’m not feeling good today, about myself or my part of the world. Last night I attended the AGM of the East Ham CLP (Constituency Labour Party). My first, as I was elected secretary of my ward just two weeks ago. We were presented with a short agenda and a list of nominees to be officers and delegates. Apparently there had been nominations from the 10 constituency wards that had been presented but were considered invalid so, with 5 exceptions, the list consisted of nominations from branches the GMB union affiliated to the CLP.
Challenges were made and questions asked, through points of order, concerning the legitimacy of the proceedings including the status of the Chair and other officers as delegates. These questions were brushed aside in a meeting that became increasingly tense as the challengers persisted. An explosive moment came when one challenger was asked by the chair if he wanted the CLP to become like than of Tower Hamlets. The challenger asked if he was being asked that question because he was Asian. He was promptly shouted at by others in the meeting and was asked to withdraw the remark. He did this but tried to continue with his objections. The Chair at the suggestion of the Mayor ruled that the meeting should move immediately to elections. There was a vote on this by show of hands where only those in favour were asked to show their hands. There was no count of hands and looking around the room it was unclear to me whether more than half the room had their hands up but the motion was passed, albeit to loud objections.
The Chair then said that only those nominees on the printed list would be standing for election and that there could be no nominations added from the floor. There were objections to this and the meeting was becoming increasing angry. The Chair went through the list and confirmed nominations unchallenged. I don’t know what happened with the four LCF (Local Campaign Forum) positions where more than one candidate was listed as the meeting was very noisy and my anger was bubbling over. It was at around this point that I walked out of the meeting shouting my objections that this was undemocratic and the people sitting and approving it should be ashamed of themselves.
When I am in the throes of ‘righteous anger’ my voice projects well so what I said will have been heard. I am mostly perceived as calm but outrageously unfair and bullying behaviour sends me up the wall and over the edge. But there is nothing righteous about anger even though my perception and position may be clear and correct. Ends do not justify means and angry old men do not look good. I cannot wholly regret my outburst but I will not repeat it as it does me no good and is bad in principle. If it becomes necessary I will withdraw rather than become enraged.
After leaving the meeting I went to a local pub with other ‘dissidents’. Even those who were much more experienced that me said that it was the worst meeting that they had been to. It was utterly clear that candidates supportive of the standing regime had been railroaded through. It is clear too that the process by which this happened is unsupportable. This should be obvious simply from the list of nominees almost entirely nominated from the (unnamed) branches of a single trade union. That list should be all that is needed to mark the whole proceedings as undemocratic, unfair and illegitimate.
I am grateful to have received very supportive comments from many people on this.