Bumper Christmas Edition!
Apologies for the long gap since the last Bulletin. As a result there is quite a lot in this one.
PCC Hustings 8th January 2021
Next May, on the same day as the North Yorkshire Council elections, there will be an election for a new North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner to replace Julia Mulligan. On 8th January we have a Zoom Hustings to select the Labour Party candidate. The two applicants Alison Hume and James Alexander will each give a short presentation followed by open questions from the floor. The vote will be done on Zoom at the end of the meeting and the result announced straight away. This is an important election for a high profile position and one which Labour can win. The Tory incumbent has not been popular and is not standing for re-election. Although she won by 65,000to 45,000 votes in 2016, given the current state of national politics, Labour can win. It is a case where the campaign could make a difference and the candidate is crucial. Please put this in your diary and commit to attending if you possibly can. To be eligible you must have been a member before 26th April 2020 and not be in arrears. Zoom Link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83291158129
There will be a membership check. Sign in from 6.15 and you must be signed in before 6.45. The meeting must be quorate which means at least 33 signed in.
Letter to General Secretary
Following the suspension, lifting of suspension and then withdrawal of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn by Keir Starmer, the acting General Secretary of the Party, David Evans, sent two emails to constituency parties. These were contentious because they banned constituencies and branches from discussing a broad range of issues around the Equality and Human Rights Commission report and Jeremy Corbyn and threatened Chairs and Secretaries with suspension if they facilitated such discussion. Your Constituency Executive Committee sent the following response.
Many thanks for your emails of 26th November and 8th December offering guidance on discussion within constituency parties and their branches of issues related to the EHRC report ‘Antisemitism in the Labour Party’. The Thirsk and Malton Constituency Executive Committee has discussed at some length both the EHRC report and your emails.
To be clear, we unequivocally welcome the report and are calling for the full and rapid implementation of all of its recommendations. The most fundamentally shaming aspect of it is that it took an outside body to investigate and put before us as members the full facts of what has been going on in our Party for a number of years under the stewardship of Ian McNicol and Jenny Formby and a succession of National Executive Committees.
However, while the report itself is welcome and points clearly to a way forward, your ban on discussion of these important issues is not. It is not well founded, is not properly thought through and is damaging to the Party. The blanket assumption on which it is based, that the membership as a whole and their constituency and branch bodies generally present a culture of values which are racist, is without foundation. Party members deplore racism, have actively campaigned against it for many years and want any racism that does exist in the Party to be expunged promptly. The endemic problematic culture that the EHRC exposed was the one which has existed at the top management level of the Party. The culture that resulted in the appalling failures of process and failure to deal fairly and efficiently with complaints. And it is this specifically which has put the Party in breach of the Equality Act.
Discussion is our democratic right, protected under article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights, as the EHRC report notes., and is the life blood of a healthy party. Banning discussion and threatening constituency and branch officers, in case we indulge in racist behaviour, is not only deeply insulting it is a diversion from focussing on and tackling the real problem which is at the top. Morale is low following the General Election and combined with the debilitating effect ofCovid-19 this has meant that constituency officers and activists are already struggling to enthuse and gear up members for the May elections. If you want to destroy our chances of running a strong campaign you are going the right way about it.
We understand that you are new to the job and have come into it at a particularly difficult time. However, as far as the Party goes your letters are making a difficult situation worse. We are confident that we can run our meetings in a way which is respectful, welcoming to all members and does not contravene the Equality Act. We welcome the Leader’s resolve to focus on winning elections but would ask you to reflect on the fact that he cannot do that without the wholehearted commitment of all Party members. We appeal to you to rethink the way you are approaching this issue and put at the top of your considerations that your overriding responsibility is to respect, support and enthuse the rank and file members.
Yours etc. “
Our letter together with the General Secretary’s letters are on our website. The Executive considered signing the Open Letter, which has to date been signed by 194 constituency parties,but could not reach a consensus on this.
Antisemitism Action Plan
The NEC has now published the Antisemitism Action Plan called for by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, having previously got EHRC endorsement of it. There is nothing surprising or controversial in it; it simply implements the EHRC’s recommendations. The extent of external oversight is quite a feature but in view of the Party’s abject failure to manage complaints itself isnecessary to restore credibility. The new independent complaints procedure will not be in operation until next December because it requires rule changes which need agreement of a conference
Defend Freedom of Information
Twenty years ago the Labour Government established the Freedom of Information Act, following the example set by the USA in 1967. It allows any member of the public to request specific information held by any public body. Broadly the request can only be denied on grounds of national security or personal data protection grounds. It is fundamental to genuine democracy and has become widely used in the UK. Open Democracy has discovered that the current Tory Government is increasingly avoiding its legal obligations to provide information using a special Cabinet Office unit described as ‘Orwellian’ and called the ‘Clearing House’. See their report ‘Art of Darkness’ and consider signing the petition.
NEC Reports (Back to Black)
Thanks to the recent election of Ann Black to the NEC we are now receiving reports from a member of the NEC who was elected by members and nominated by Thirsk and Malton.
NEC 7th December 2020 Covers the Antisemitism Action Plan, the Equalities Committee on 4thDecember and the National Policy Forum. Ann is Chair of the NPF and says ‘I am stressing the need to engage members more fully, and to make visible progress on themes such as the green new deal and the future after Covid, as well as key campaigning points around which everyone can unite, such as maintaining the uplift to universal credit, protecting tenants from eviction and opposing public sector pay freezes. I would be grateful for thoughts on policy development, and indeed on anything else.’
NEC 24th November 2020. Covers the NEC Away Day which is first meeting of new NEC and covers a very wide range of issues. Started with virtual walkout of a number of NEC members over the election of Margaret Becket as Chair. The report also covers the Joint Policy Committee on 17th November. This brings together the Shadow Cabinet and the National Policy Forum and was apparently very positive.
All Ann’s reports are permanently available on her Website. Next NEC Meeting is 11th Feb
2021 Women’s Conference Online 26/27 June Women’s Conference will be going ahead online next year. We will need to elect delegates, probably two, by 10th May, decide on a resolution to submit by 28th May and, later on, mandate our delegates. If we had a Women’s Branch it would make these decisions. In the absence of a Women’s Branch the Constituency Executive will consult women members and be in contact once we have a bit more information. Meanwhile, come on. Lets get a Women’s Branch going. If anyone is interested please let me know and if anyone would like to help by becoming Women’s Officer that would be great. As the Conference is online I think anyone will be able to check in as a visitor.
Covid-19 Lockdown Three
And then there is coronavirus. The statistics are grim. We must all do our best to protect our families and friends by going further than government guidelines not treating them as a maximum. And we must do what we can to help the most vulnerable. Back in April I asked whether we should cut Mr Johnson some slack. I thought not – some thought we should. He is such a pathetic figure now that it is hard not to feel just a bit sorry for him but the fact is that while Covid-19 is not his fault at every stage where he had an opportunity to affect its course he made the wrong call. After 79,000 deaths he has finally lost his smirk. However there is far more to our government’s inability to deal well with the pandemic than Mr Johnson’s ineptitude. It is at root a class issue and the class divide is deeper and more embedded in England than almost any other state. The rich, who our government are and represent, are largely insulated from the effects of the virus and the judgements they make are driven by their instinct to put profit before people. The corrupt profiteering from Covid contracts for cronies is just the tip of the iceberg.
But it is Christmas
So it would be uncharitable to mention Brexit. Have the merryest, safest Christmas as possible and a much better New Year. Here’s a Christmas message from our Grand Daughter. And these Christmas Crackers are from Party member (and our printer) Nick Turnbull.
Production is down in Santa’s workshop…
Many of his workers had to elf isolate!
What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
A Christmas quacker!
Why didn’t Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
All Virgin flights were cancelled!
Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel?
They have herd immunity!
Who is Santa’s favourite singer?
Why did the pirates have to go into lockdown?
The “Arrrr!” rate had risen!
Why should you think of 2020 like a panto?
It’s behind you!
Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join the conference call?
There was no Zoom at the inn!
What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song?
Driving Home for Christmas!
What do the Trumps do for Christmas dinner?
They put on a super spread!
What does the Queen call her Christmas Broadcast?
The One Show!
Why did the snowman look through the carrots?
He was picking his nose!
Best wishes, Mick Johnston and Anne Seex Secretaries of Thirsk & Malton Constituency Labour Party