Minutes of the special meeting to discuss motions for the Founding Conference of Left Unity 14 November 2013, 7.30pm, at LAMP

Apologies:

Roger, Phil, Maureen

Present:

Ally, Anna, Colin (observer), David, Kate (observer), Lynn, Mary-Ann, Pauline, Peter, Skip, Stuart, Tim, Trevor

Membership:

It was agreed that Anna and Trevor be considered present by proxy, and their amendments accepted as moved and seconded, and their votes in favour counted.

Every person present was either a fully paid up member of Left Unity, or joined on the night, or committed to join on the night, with the exception of those indicated above as observers. Only the votes of members were counted.

Chair:

Agreed that Lynn take the chair and Stuart the minutes.

Founding Conference motions, amendments and discussion

A. Aims.

It was moved by Anna and Trevor that the amendments to the Aims section of the Draft Constitution be amended, as previously circulated. In the discussion, it was felt that, although there was broad agreement with the thrust of many of the arguments made in the amendment, it was perfectly possible to vote in favour of those arguments by voting for one of the alternative statements put forward by platforms or local groups; and that nothing much was added by moving the amendment, apart from the idea that a formal party should not be founded at all, which was an odd suggestion to present to a founding conference of a new party.

3 For, 6 Against, 3 Abstentions. Amendment falls.

B. Party name.

Most people were happy with the current sole contender, Left Unity, and no alternative proposed was able to win a seconder.

C. Electoral Strategy.

It was moved by Anna and Trevor that the amendments to the Aims section of the Draft Constitution be amended, as previously circulated. In the discussion, there was again broad sympathy if not always agreement with the sentiments expressed – ie, to push any idea of standing in elections way into the future in favour of building a movement gradually from below. But for the most part, said one, the amendment was a slightly longer version of the ideas already clearly expressed in the motion, and that, furthermore, contrary to what was expressed in the previous meeting, a careful reading would reveal that the motion as unamended expressed nothing more than the ideas which had previously won broad consent within our local group. The part of the amendment that referred to splitting the vote did add something new, not expressed elsewhere. But this idea – that LU should not be a political party but a broad coalition of all the forces opposed to austerity, including Labour party members – already existed, and was fully supported by LU: namely, the People’s Assembly. The LU proposal was that it was necessary both to do this and to go beyond it and form a new party of the left.  Some spoke against the need to take the Labour party into our considerations at all – it had already had its day, and amply demonstrated its determination to betray us again and again. Others said that if we set out as a new political party with electoral ambitions from the outset, that would immediately alienate all otherwise sympathetic Labour and Green party members.

2 For, 8 Against, 1 Abstention. Amendment falls.

D. Campaigning priorities.

The point was made that the above motion on election strategy, assuming it was passed unamended by conference, did not rule out future decisions about electoral strategy that took into account, for example, whether or not to stand against left Labour, Green, etc, candidates. Some disagreed, saying that setting out from the off at the founding conference as a political party in the full sense sent the wrong signal if we wanted to build genuine left unity. Agreed that individuals could and should just vote as they pleased on the day for campaigning priorities.

E. Draft Constitution.

i. Part 3. Membership. It was moved by Anna and Trevor that the amendments to the Membership section of the Draft Constitution be amended, as previously circulated. In the discussion, it was generally agreed that the proposed rules in the Constitution were standard democratic fare and not unreasonable for a new political party, and that there was nothing to object to in them as they stood.

2 For, 8 Against, 1 Abstention. Amendment falls.

ii. Part 4. Structure and General Principles. It was moved by Anna and Trevor that the amendments to the Structure section of the Draft Constitution be amended, as previously circulated. In the discussion, some spoke in favour of this amendment (to remove the quotas for women representation on committees). We should be able to vote for the candidates that we choose, it was argued, and that those we choose should be elected and take their positions, and we should be equally indifferent to whether the result led to 100% women or 100% men – that equality and democracy were what mattered, not the imposition of artificial quotas. Others spoke against, putting the case that quotas were an imperfect and certainly not ideal but nevertheless necessary way to signal our commitment to gender equality and the underrepresentation of women in many social institutions, including political parties.

6 For, 4 Against, 1 Abstention. Amendment carried.

It was further agreed that Ally would speak to the amendment at conference should Anna or Trevor not be able to attend.

iii. Part 6. Branches. It was moved by Anna and Trevor that the amendments to the Branches section of the Draft Constitution be amended, as previously circulated. The substance of the first amendment – that the number of members that will constitute a branch be 5, not 10 – was agreed by all to be a good idea, but members could vote for the idea by voting in favour of Rugby’s amendment, so no need to propose our own. The second amendment, that Left Unity branches should not be bound to abide by Left Unity’s nationally agreed rules, was defeated. It was felt that this was a reasonable and standard rule to follow in a democratic political party – that a branch’s independence should be respected and allowed, but nevertheless circumscribed by whatever is collectively agreed by all branches (Conference) nationally.

3 For, 8 Against, 0 Abstentions. Amendment falls.

iv. Anna and Trevor’s amendments to the Sections and Caucuses, National Council, and Accountability sections of the Constitution fell for similar reasons to those expressed in iii above.

That the formation of sections and caucuses not be subject to agreement by National Council:

2 For, 6 Against, 3 Abstentions. Amendment falls.

That we elect no appointed speakers:

2 For, 5 Against, 4 Abstentions. Amendment falls.

That we have no directly elected office holders on the National Council:

2 For, 9 Against, 1 Abstention. Amendment falls.

v. Part 13. Executive Committee. Ally moved that the Executive Committee be directly elected, separately, by the whole membership, as opposed to essentially being a sub-committee of the National Council, as proposed in the Draft Constitution. The argument was made that some members of the Executive Committee would not be voted for by the entire membership, as some members would be regional representatives (voted onto the National Council) appointed to the role (of Executive) by National Council. It was argued that the Executive should be a separate and directly elected body. Others objected that this would create a dual power structure – both National Council and the Executive would be directly and separately elected, and so there would be no obvious hierarchy in the sense of who was reporting to whom. It was further argued that the proposals mean that the Executive Committee is already elected – being but a subcommittee of the elected National Council, and responsible to it; that the nested, inverted hierarchical structure as proposed, with all the democratic checks and balances built in, was more democratic than the proposed alternative, giving no more power to the Executive than delegated to them by the Council, and hence by Conference, with clear lines of accountability and responsibility. One said that the levels of democratic accountability built into the proposed structure were very high by any standards.

2 For, 3 Against, 4 Abstentions. Amendment falls.

vi. Appendix 3. Ally moved the following amendment: “Add the following sentence at the end of point a). ‘For this transitional period, the ten directly elected posts on the existing NCG will be opened for re-election or otherwise at the Founding Conference today, with nominations allowed from the floor in any lunch break, and voted on during the afternoon.’ The motion and the democratic rationale speaks for itself, and was reflected in general support in the discussion.

8 For, 0 Against, 1 abstention.

AOB:

It was agreed to hold a Christmas party at LAMP on 12 December, and to invite all campaigning groups in the area to come along. If you’re coming, please confirm by emailing Stuart. If you can think of a group to invite, please do so!

For: everyone. Against: bah humbugs. Abstention: ruled out of order by the Central Committee till the buttered rum has run out.

Timetable

16 November: Deadline for submission of amendments.

22 November: Statements, resolutions and amendments circulated to local groups.

30 November. London: Left Unity founding conference.

12 December: Christmas social at LAMP. Please confirm attendance.  

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