Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Newham mayor ‘trigger ballot’: GMB union says it followed the rules as it affiliates more branches locally

Check out former Guardian journalist, Dave Hill's website "OnLondon" about the latest twist in the Newham Mayoral Trigger saga. Leaving aside this important issue for the moment, what is happening with excessive trade union affiliation to local Labour Party's is a national issue which in my view threatens to completely destroy members democracy in the Party.

For whatever reason the GMB has recently decided to affiliate 26 branches to West Ham Labour Party. I understand that a similar number of GMB branches was also affiliated to East Ham.

What this will mean that it will be pointless for any local Labour Party wards or Branch to vote in future MP or other Trigger ballots since they will be completely outvoted. In West Ham there is only 10 branches. They will be completely swamped by the 26 GMB branches or maybe Unite or another union might affiliate say 50 branches? It only costs £6 for a trade union to affiliate each branch.

Also, it will be a complete waste of time in most Local Labour Parties for its members to turn up to its Annual General Meetings since they will be outvoted by trade union affiliates. This happened recently in the East Ham Labour Party AGM, when all positions and nominations were decided purely by GMB delegates.

I am strongly in favour of trade unions being involved in the Party but this makes us look at best ridiculous. The Labour Party is already in a mess and unless this issue is sorted it could even finish it off and destroy us.

This is a Labour Party issue and the party needs to urgently review its rules on affiliations.

"A London GMB official has explained why he believes his union followed correct procedures in the Labour Party process that led to the selection of Sir Robin Wales to seek a fifth term as Newham Mayor but which 47 party members in the borough have claimed contained many “procedural irregularities” that “made a material difference to the result”.

Gary Doolan, a GMB political officer, says his union was fully entitled to its four votes in the affirmative nomination or “trigger ballot” process, all of which backed Sir Robin going forward unopposed as Labour’s mayoral candidate for 2018, and that he suspects the challenge to it is largely the product of “old political battles” and “twitchiness” arising from local political circumstances. Sir Robin won the ballot, conducted between 25 October and 4 December last year, by 20 votes to 17.

In a sometimes strongly-worded letter sent to Labour’s governing national executive committee (NEC) in January, the 47 complainants listed three alleged “major failings” in in process, including the fact that some affiliated unions, the GMB among them, cast votes for each of their branches affiliated to Labour locally while others cast only a single vote no matter how many of their branches had affiliated.

They stated that “it is not our purpose, in general, to question the internal affairs of affiliates” but asserted: “It cannot be right that the NEC accepts this stark variation in practice within the franchise of the process,” which they attributed to “a different interpretation of the rules” brought about by “unclear” procedural guidance. The NEC declined their request for an inquiry to be held into the running of the process and some votes to be declared void or held in abeyance pending its outcome.

Doolan said his union correctly followed its own rules relating to all trigger ballot processes, which sitting MPs too must undergo. These include votes to which branches of the union become entitled when they affiliate to Labour CLPs being cast on their behalf by the London region rather than by the individual branches themselves.

Another locally-affiliated organisation, Newham Fabians, have been informed by the Fabians at national level that their procedure for deciding how to vote in the ballot breached the society’s own rules. The union Bectu, which had a branch affiliated in Newham at the time of the ballot (but which has since disaffiliated from Labour altogether), has said that no affiliation fee was paid in 2016.

Both Newham Fabians and the Bectu branch voted “yes” to Sir Robin going forward automatically. It is understood that the 47 complainants, who are drawn from both of Newham’s CLPs, West Ham and East Ham, are awaiting legal advice before deciding on their next move.

In January, the GMB increased the number of its London branches affiliated to Labour in Newham by more than 20 as part of what Doolan says is a new political strategy for increasing working class participation in grassroots politics across the capital and wholly unconnected to the dispute over the trigger ballot process. He wrote to West Ham CLP in mid-January listing 26 branches that wished to affiliate to it, enclosing a cheque for £156 to cover the required fees.

Many of the 26 branches are in workplaces outside Newham, including Barking, Bromley, Hendon, Woodford and the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but Labour Party rules permit branches to affiliate to CLPs if a member of it is also party member who is “resident or registered as an elector within the constituency”.

The trigger ballot process allowed each of Labour’s 20 wards in Newham a single vote and 17 in all for affiliates. Two others unions cast more than one vote and four cast only one. Of the 20 wards, 9 voted “yes”to Sir Robin going forward automatically with 11 preferring the alternative, an open selection battle in which other hopefuls could have contested him for the nomination. The affiliates, comprising unions and other organisations, voted “yes” by 11 to 6.

The complainants’ letter to the NEC argued that “if trade union affiliates are allowed more than one vote, it presents a situation where trade union affiliates are able to affiliate as many branches as they want to any CLP, thereby completely out-voting party branches and the democratic expression of branch members’ wishes”.

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