CLPD's Annual General Meeting (AGM), its 44th, was held on Saturday 25 February at Friends Meeting House in central London. A packed room with an attendance of approximately 150 members, this was the largest AGM since 1983, reflecting CLPD's fast growing membership.
Rachel Garnham took the chair and introduced Kelvin Hopkins MP, who is CLPD's Parliamentary Labour Party (LP) liaison officer, as the first speaker. Kelvin spoke of the need for LP members, councillors and MP's to unite and support Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team. Kelvin said he believed such unity will lead to Jeremy as Prime Minister in 2020.
Salma Yaqoob gave a rousing speech on the need to put pressure on the government and its big business and banker friends and ensure that it must be the many who run the country and not the few. It is time, Salma said, to take back control for the people and this could be achieved via the LP.
Pete Willsman, CLPD Secretary and member of the LP National Executive Committee (NEC), reported on CLPD activities over the last 12 months. Speaking to his written report, Pete directed members to the five rule changes from CLPD for LP conference this year. These include changing the threshold for MP's and MEP's nominations for a new leader from 15% to 5% to ensure the process is as democratic and open as possible.
Pete said two of last year's five CLPD rule changes had been successful. He then called for members to become part of a CLPD working party on the LP rules. Pete urged Constituency LPs (CLP's) to nominate Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes for the two CLP reps on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC), and Anna Dyer and Emine Ibrahim for the two CLP reps on the National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
The afternoon session was opened by Claudia Webbe, councillor and new NEC member. Claudia vowed to be accountable to the LP membership and said one of the issues she was addressing on the NEC was the 11,000 complaints from people refused LP membership. Claudia said there was a lack of consistency by the Party in these decisions and urged people to appeal where appropriate.
Claudia commented that, with approximately 540,000 members, the LP was the largest political party in Western Europe, and this was due to Jeremy Corbyn. Claudia spoke of the recent by-elections and that the mainstream media had rolled out Peter Mandleson and Tony Blair to attack the Party just before these elections. We must speak to the people to enable the LP to form policies to win the next General Election, Claudia said.
In a wide-ranging speech, Tosh McDonald, President of train drivers' union ASLEF, confirmed his union's support for CLPD. Tosh said there was no place for discrimination of any kind in the LP, and that ASLEF's support on leaving the EU was not based on bigoted reasons. Tosh confirmed his union's continued opposition to driver-only trains in the current industrial dispute with Southern Rail. Tosh also spoke on the prolonged and complex issues in the dispute, and did not rule out further strike action if necessary.
Diana Holland, Unite Union Assistant General Secretary and LP Treasurer, spoke next. Diana stressed the importance of the LP/Trade Union (TU) link, and that it gave the LP the potential involvement of tens of thousands of TU members. Diana addressed some of the issues Unite had campaigned on, including gangmasters' legislation, bus regulation and the NHS. Diana said that from 1 March 2018, due to government legislation, TU's members must opt in to their unions' political funds and do so yearly. Diana urged everyone to spread the word on this and not to ignore the tick box for the fund when LP members are asked to opt in. Diana finished by saying it was time to build solidarity not walls.
Written reports from the regions were accepted, and Anna Dyer (NCC) gave a verbal report on Scottish matters. Anna commented on the SNP and the issues facing the LP in Scotland.
The final session of the day saw seven resolutions put to the AGM. Motion 4 on the EU, and motion 5 on CLPD policy, produced lively debates. All seven were carried, with motions 1 and 5 being amended.