So tonight was the CLP Supporting Nomination Meeting, about the only way for a local Labour Party to hold a meeting of its members given the current lockdown imposed by the NEC.
This was to replace the Emergency Meeting that had been agreed at the previous CLP meeting should take place in the event of a leadership challenge being made in the Labour Party.
There are strict rules about how a Supporting Nomination Meeting should take place: a 30min debate with a maximum of 3min per speaker; a strict cut-off time for arrivals, and so on. The only topic is which candidate our CLP will declare support for in the leadership campaign. Only those eligible to vote in the leadership election could attend.
The attendance was, the Chair said, the highest he had ever seen for a CLP meeting. The opportunity to speak was therefore decided by lots, and it was requested that for balance, if the first person spoke for 1 candidate, then the next had to be speaking for the other; although the order could be switched (e.g. 1 and 2 must be different, and 3 and 4 must be different, but 2 and 3 could be the same in that case).
The chair drew numbers from a bucket, and each ballot had a number on it; if your ballot matched the number called, you could decline to speak, or speak for a candidate subject to the rules of balance (so, if you wanted to speak for the same candidate as the one before, you might have to decline). What was interesting was how many of those selected who stood up and said they hadn’t prepared, weren’t really planning to say anything, but then gave their views calmly and honestly (if sometimes hesitantly and repeating their words out of nerves). I suspect some of them were people who weren’t used to speaking up at all but because they had been chosen, they answered the call (I could draw a Biblical analogy or two there, but I’ll leave you to think of those yourself, if you like that idea).
The other thing that was clear was that while someone was speaking you could tell some people disagreed fundamentally with what they were saying, but the same people who disagreed applauded just as firmly as they did when they agreed with a speaker.
As luck would have it, I was the penultimate speaker, and gave some of the positive thoughts about Corbyn from my “open letter” post a couple of weeks ago, and the point about stirring up passion and involvement from my post about anger at politics. And I quoted Clause IV (the new one) and invited those there to decide who best fit that ideal.
I was also one of four selected by lots in the same way, to act as a counter for the ballot. I think it worked out as a Corbyn supporter and a Smith supporter at each desk, and we double-checked the number of votes before announcing the figures. I won’t give the exact figures but only percentages:
That wasn’t the point for this post. The point was that we debated the issue. We held a ballot, and we came to a declaration as a collective voice. People were empowered to speak and be heard, sometimes, I suspect, people who did not often feel that. And above all, people were involved in what happened and how things turned out.
There is a lesson here, for those who care to heed it, perhaps?