Leicester’s ‘Results’ Are In: CLP Nomination Meetings in Context

So far, 255 Labour Party constituencies have nominated Jeremy Corbyn as their preferred leader of the Labour Party, while his lack lustre opponent, Owen Smith, has received the supporting nominations from just 49 party branches.

Here in Leicester, Keith Vaz’s constituency party held their nomination meeting on August 5. Councillor Ross Willmott nominated Jeremy Corbyn and gave a short and informative speech in defence of Corbyn’s continued leadership of the Labour Party to the Leicester East CLP. This was followed by a number of short contributions from other members (see report below). Then Keith Vaz summed up with a lengthy speech about why his constituency should support Smith — a vote was then duly taken, with 45 backing Vaz’s recommendation and 17 members siding with Corbyn.

Amid much disappointment, Liz Kendall’s Leicester West constituency party was due to hold their nomination meeting on August 11, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. The day after the planned meeting the Leicester Mercury led with the headline “High attendance safety concerns trigger cancellation of Leicester West CLP leadership meeting.

It turns out that Kendall’s CLP had booked Hansome Hall in Belvoir Street for the nomination meeting, but despite the hall being able to hold up to 250 people they were worried that as many as 700 people might have chosen to attend. Leicester West party secretary Vijay Singh Riyait, who, like Kendall, is a key strategist for the pro-corporate pressure group known as Progress, explained to the Mercury: “For safety reasons, the venue has a limit on the number of people it can admit, and we take our members’ safety seriously.”

Kendall and companies’ apparent concerns about holding, what would probably have been the best attended CLP meeting in Leicester’s history, did not however phase the organisers of the Leicester South CLP. Thus the following night (August 12) a nomination meeting was successfully held without endangering the lives of Labour Party members, whereupon Corbyn was duly nominated by the branch — with 55 backing Corbyn, and 43 voting for Smith.

CLP nominations

Leicester East CLP Nomination Meeting (August 5, 2016): the following is a short report posted on facebook (on August 8) by Leicester East Labour Party member Davey Ivens:

“Agendas were issued at the meeting, which was well attended. The process laid out by the Chair (John Thomas) was for a review of the candidates, nominations and seconds, contributions from the floor, appointment of tellers and then the ballot.

“No review of candidates was made, it being deemed by the Chair that members already had enough information with which to vote. Jeremy Corbyn was nominated by Ross Willmott who spoke in favour making the point that JC has existing huge mandate from members, membership was booming, new policies being developed inc. investment bank, against privatisaation, green jobs, NHS etc. JC seconded by me, spoke to agree with RW and also to make the point that JC preferable to other candidate in terms of integrity and honour and committment to the labour movement. (The two comrades next to me both said that this was their reason for getting back involved and I thought a ‘personal’ note might help convince waverers).

“Smith nominated by a comrade called Baljit (I hate when a Chair calls people without asking them to say who they are, especially when there are new members in the room). A strange nomination speech that contained no politics at all and just asked for a ‘democratic contest’. Seconding speech talked more about Smith’s chances at a general election compared to Corbyn’s, but no reasoning why except the attitude of PLP.

“There were 4 contributions from the floor, all pro Corbyn except one comrade who said that he voted for JC previously but felt that his leadership would bring better policies but more disunity. No-one spoke for the other candidate… until the MP addressed the meeting at the invitation of the Chair. Keith spoke for much longer than all other speakers, who were limited to 2 or 3 mins each. He talked about his liking for Corbyn, ‘one of his closest friends in Westminster’, JC’s integrity and real dedication to diversity within the Party and House of Commons and his abiltiy to convince people on a one-to-one basis e.g. Vaz’s vote against Trident. The crux came though when Keith talked about the PLP’s lack of confidence in JC and how this is crucial in a parliamentary system; he felt JC could not cut it as leader and would not lead us to a Labour government in the next 20 or 30 years…

“It was clear that the majority of those present were there to vote as the MP recommended, despite (in my view) the lack of any real political support for Smith or consideration of the issues at stake; the ballot came in at 45 Smith to 17 Corbyn – I’d say there was some good organisation involved in turning out the vote – not surprising given the current control of the machinery and Vaz’s good standing with many in the CLP – but something we need to learn from over the next few months, as the left’s strength grows in the party.

“Informal discussion with comrades after the meeting focussed on the positive fact of 17 votes for Corbyn, better than some expected. Important now that comrades in Leicester East who support Corbyn’s leadership and the new policies being developed work together to increase our impact and prioritise our interventions for the coming period.
“(Didn’t witness any ‘incident’ except a bit of ‘off-stage’ raised voices between the Chair and some comrades outside, which didn’t affect the meeting).

“In unity, Davey.”

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