LABOUR Party members in Holborn and St Pancras have been warned to avoid disappointment by turning up early to tonight’s meeting at St Pancras Church where reforms to how their meetings work is up for discussion.
The push for all-member voting and a removal of the delegate system was always unlikely to get through in Hampstead and Kilburn last week, but those campaigning for this change feel they have a greater chance in the south of the borough with more sympathetic minds in the congregation.
Both sides of the debate have been rallying their numbers to attend; the meeting is supposedly likely to be the largest since Sir Keir Starmer’s selection meeting, the last time people queued to get into the church for a Labour meeting.
Supporters of the change say it will make the whole membership feel like their views are being heard and able to guide local policy, but critics say, officially, that it removes the union-link which stands through their delegates and, unofficially, that this amounts to a grab from new Corbyn-enthused members. There are reams of opinions on this in the letters to editor published in last week’s New Journal.
A louder scare story for those thinking about staying home this evening has circulated, that if this change is adopted then it is a step on a road to Mr Starmer, largely popular among the local membership, eventually being deselected. This has been labelled as pure Project Fear tactics by supportive of the proposals, who say that’s not even in close to what’s on the table.
There are more backstage stories of dirty tricks which have been supposedly either getting people to the meeting or not; perhaps not surprising given the tone and atmosphere of local Labour Party meetings we’ve heard about through this year. One sticky point is who will observe the counting of votes, and in which part of the church.
Organisers have told members to ensure they have ID and there has been a reminder too that only members of the Holborn and St Pancras CLP will be allowed in.
An email invite adds: “In the event that we exceed the capacity of the venue, we have agreed with the London Regional Office of the Labour Party who are sending an officer to oversee our meeting, that those remaining in the queue will be allowed to vote and leave Those admitted to the venue will have to remain until the debate is finished before casting their votes.”
There are around 3,000 members in the constituency and one of the ironies is that many who do not normally attend meetings are likely to be there tonight discuss how future ones should be run.
One of the nagging questions I’ve had whenever stories about bad behaviour at Labour’s meetings come up is that even if a fifth – heck, a tenth – of this vast membership turned up at the meeting and said we’re not going to accept anti-semitism, sexism or any of the other claims we’ve head on Twitter in their name, then the weight of numbers would be an intimidating wall for a small number of antagonists to push. If you suggest this, the response is often that people are scared to attend – or that people are too busy to attend regularly.
Most, it seems. sign off a monthly sub and turn up once in generation to decide who should be the next parliamentary candidate, and do little else within the party beyond an odd bit of leafleting or envelope stuffing at election time. But how many, on this wet Tuesday, will be queuing outside the church this evening?
Get there early say the organisers.