September 22, 2020

Report from LLA conference

Please find below a report of last weekend’s last weekend’s successful and very lively LLA conference. Over 120 delegates from 32 of our affiliated groups participated in our two-day event. Conference was live-streamed in our main Facebook group, where you can find videos from the event. Please join the group if you have not already done so (and it is helpful to answer all questions to speed the joining process up).
As the Conference arrangements committee (CAC) reports below: “Most delegates seemed to agree that conference was a very enjoyable and democratic event … though our online event could not quite substitute the feeling and atmosphere of a real life conference, where delegates meet, chat and exchange ideas in the break and perhaps bars afterwards. While we believe the inclusion of online elements in future events and conferences can be beneficial for those who are unable to travel or have childcare issues etc, we are looking forward to meeting comrades face-to-face again soon!”

Some of the highlights:

  • We passed anemergency motion in solidarity with LLA supporters Sam Gorst and John Dunn, the most recent victims of the witch-hunt against the left in the Labour Party. We also decided to support Sam’s legal fund with a donation of £250. Together with a donation from Labour Against the Witchhunt of £500, this enabled him to reach the target required to fund legal support for his appeal.
  • We passed an emergency motion from LAW, criticising David Evans’ attempt to ban branches and CLPs from discussing issues like the IHRA mis-definition of antisemitism. The motion makes clear, “there is no ban” and the vacuous phrase “not competent business” means precisely nothing. We will now produce model motions for branches and CLPs on this matter and urge comrades to ignore Evans.
  • We confirmed our orientation to the Labour Party: We urge comrades to remain members of the Labour Party, but we continue to accept members expelled and suspended as part of the witch-hunt. We also agreed to continue to allow those to remain involved in the LLA who have left the party in despair over the direction taken by Keir Starmer – provided they don’t support candidates who stand against the Labour Party.
  • Click here for all motions agreed at conference

In terms of the ongoing NEC elections, we agreed the following additions to the Report presented to conference by the Organising Group (final version here), which clarifies how we are continuing our campaign to democratise and politicise the process to select NEC candidates:

Our internal LLA ballot is designed to find the best candidates that we want to push in the nominations process (which ends on September 27). It will help to inform how and who the LLA will support by the start of the election. 

The LLA ballot concluded in the following order:

1 Roger Silverman
2 Laura Pidcock *
3 Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal
4 Carol Taylor-Spedding
5 Alec Price
6 Yasmin Dar *
7 Mish Rahman *
8 Ekua Bayunu
9 Ann Henderson *
10 Gemma Bolton *
11 Steve Maggs
12 Nadia Jama *
13 Lee Wood
14 Crispin Flintoff
15 Cameron Mitchell

Labour Left Alliance supporters are encouraged to consult with others in their CLPs to put forward nine of these candidates for nomination. Those marked * have already secured the five nominations (as of 22nd Aug) required to appear on the ballot in October.

Taking account of nominations received and any candidates who withdraw, LLA will draw up a voting recommendation in September. LLA will discuss with the candidates above whether they wish to be part of an LLA-backed slate. Because the STV voting system almost entirely removes the necessity of tactical voting, we will recommend voting for any LLA slate first before also ranking the entire CLGA slate and other candidates in order of preference.

The LLA will invite all nominated left wing candidates (CLGA inclusive) to a discussion during the weeks between the close of nominations and the start of voting. The purpose of the discussion is to seek agreement on which candidates go forward to the vote, how many candidates go forward to the vote, the politics of the candidates going forward, the tactical order of preference to maximise votes.

Day 1, Saturday August 22 2020

Over 120 delegates attended conference over the two days, with a maximum attendance of 106 at any one time. For LLA supporters not organised in one of the groups affiliated or whose local groups did not meet, we organised a number of regional and national pre-conference events to elect delegates. The vast majority of delegates though were elected at pre-conference events organised by 32 of our affiliated groups. We also had observers from the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and Left Unity in attendance and conference was live-streamed in our main Facebook group. The videos are available there. Please join the group if you have not already done so (and it is helpful to answer all questions to speed the joining process up).

We started our first day of conference with a defiant act of solidarity: We discussed and passed an emergency motion in solidarity with LLA supporters Sam Gorst and John Dunn, the most recent victims of the witch-hunt against the left in the Labour Party. We also decided to support Sam’s legal fund with a donation of £250. Together with a donation from Labour Against the Witchhunt of £500, this enabled him to reach the target required to fund legal support for his appeal. Further, we passed an emergency motion from LAW, criticising David Evans’ attempt to ban branches and CLPs from discussing issues like the IHRA mis-definition of antisemitism. The motion makes clear, “there is no ban” and the vacuous phrase “not competent business” means precisely nothing. We will now produce model motions for branches and CLPs on this matter and urge comrades to ignore Evans.

Conference then heard a report from the LLA Organising Group about some of the key aspects of its work in the last few months, focusing on our fantastic education programme (Click here to download a PDF with an overview of our educational events), our efforts to seek left unity with other groups and our strategic orientation to the Labour Party: We urge comrades to remain members of the Labour Party, but we continue to accept members expelled and suspended as part of the witch-hunt. We also agreed to continue to allow those to remain involved in the LLA who have left the party in despair over the direction taken by Keir Starmer – provided they don’t support candidates who stand against the Labour Party.

Conference also supported an emergency motion from the Organising Group on our ongoing efforts to democratise and politicise the NEC candidate selection process. A motion from Dulwich LLA, which suggested that any additional slate recommended by LLA would “split the left vote”, was overwhelmingly defeated by conference following a number of contributions asserting that is not the case.

  • Click here to read the Report from the LLA Organising Group as amended

 In the afternoon, we discussed proposed changes to our constitution. Two quite radical proposals, from Rotherham LLA and Labour Party Marxists, were voted down, as was a proposal from Sheffield to accept only Labour Party members into the LLA. Despite some vocal disagreements, we voted to include disciplinary procedures into our constitution. Congratulations to our chairs Phil Pope and Daniel Platts, who kept a cool head, despite some very complex votes.

A detailed overview of the votes and all amendments etc is available here.

Day 2 – Sunday August 23

The second day of conference began with a lively debate about two lead statements produced by the LLA Organising Group, outlining two rather distinct proposals on the future for the LLA. In the run-up to conference, we organised an interesting online debate, in which the two main proposers – Dave Hill from Brighton LLA and Kevin Bean from Merseyside LLA – discussed their visions with other members. You can watch the excellent debate here on Youtube.

While Version 1 focuses on “the things that are necessary and achievable in the here and now, which relate directly with the working class” (Dave Hill), Version 2 proposes “an outline of the kind of society and socialism we are fighting for” (Kevin Bean). This debate about the correct strategy for socialists is of course not exclusive to the LLA and reflects discussions that have been going on within the left for decades, if not hundreds of years. We don’t believe differences of opinion are problematic, quite the opposite. Debating such differences out in the open, while remaining on comradely terms, are signs of a healthy political organisation. 

Such a fundamental debate will naturally ignite passions, and this was no exception. Our organisation is vibrant and enthused, and this debate presented worthwhile and educational. Interestingly, the vote about which version should be taken forward for possible amendments, reflected almost exactly the vote on the Organising Group: While two thirds supported Version 1, one third was in favour of Version 2.

For the afternoon session, we invited motions on political questions – and were somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of motions that flooded in. In the end we received 17 motions, with amendments to about half a dozen of these. To the credit of the chair Carol Taylor-Spedding, we managed to get through almost all of them and whenever a subject proved controversial, she allowed for extra debating time. Three motions were remitted to the Organising Group, while a motion on Covid-19 will be worked over by the original proposers from Cheltenham LLA and Barnsley Labour Left, who submitted important amendments.

  • You can read all motions as agreed here
  • For information about how motions and amendments were discussed and voted on, click here

Most delegates seemed to agree that conference was a very enjoyable and democratic event, though its enforced nature as an online-only event did present the conference arrangements committee (CAC) – and delegates – with an entirely new set of challenges. We showed all motions and amendments live on screen, ensuring most delegates could be fully aware of proceedings. However, the CAC certainly felt that our online event could not quite substitute the feeling and atmosphere of a real life conference, where delegates meet, chat and exchange ideas in the break and perhaps bars afterwards. While we believe the inclusion of online elements in future events and conferences can be beneficial for those who are unable to travel or have childcare issues etc, we are looking forward to meeting comrades face-to-face again soon! Thanks to all delegates who participated so actively and made this a very worthwhile, democratic and comradely conference.

In solidarity,

Eve, Carol, Tina, Ken, Ben, Phil, Dan
LLA conference arrangement committee