Something rotten in the Labour Party's South West Region

Phil Gaskin, the South West Regional Director of the Labour Party appears to have helped my CLP to break party rules, using a doctored record of the 2016 CLP AGM to undermine democracy and prevent members from having a say in Plymouth.

He needs to answer the following questions :

The killer clause in the tampered record is this :

"The Executive to be the decision-making body on behalf of the CLP".

This sentence was added by someone after the event. It breaks party rules. Yet Phil Gaskin has quoted this falsified clause in correspondence.

It is his job to make sure that the party follows the rules. Yet he has done exactly the opposite. He needs to answer these questions.

In the Kafkaesque world of the Labour Party, the head of complaints, Sophie Goodyear, tells me that the complaints have been dealt with by Region. ie. the person who appears to have broken party rules has decided that he didn't break party rules. This really isn't good enough.

It needs to be properly investigated. And clearly it can't be investigated by the person involved. It needs an independent investigation. I now believe that the Labour Party is incapable of this. Despite the obvious signs of abuse, including clear documentary evidence, the party's instinct is to pretend nothing has happened and to look the other way.

If the party can't be trusted on this, it raises the clear question, what can they be trusted on?

In July 2016 the Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport CLP passed a motion to move to All Members Meetings. Here is the original Agenda, and here is the motion itself :

"That this CLP's General Committee (GC) becomes an All Members Meeting with the aim of increasing member's participation in party activity. Delegates to the said body will no longer be required"

This should have been enacted by the CLP Executive, but they have instead fought to prevent members having any say in the party. The first trick was to claim a quorum of 25%. ie. out of around 1,200 members in the CLP, we would need 300. The executive's job was to arrange a reasonable quorum with region. But the executive didn't want to allow members to vote, so they stalled. For months. For comparison Phil Gaskin's own CLP of North Swindon had around 600 members and a quorum of 20. So 300 is an impossibly high figure, deliberately designed to prevent quorate meetings.

In April 2017, the CLP Chair, Eddie Rennie, spoke at the April Executive Committee meeting. This is the record of what he said, from the minutes:

"Chair reflected on the AGM changes in 2016, changes clearly stated that the EC was the decision-making body."

This is new. Eddie is now claiming, falsely, that the AGM gave all power to the EC. It did not. This is a complete fabrication. But he's now using this false claim to override any pretence of democracy in the party. Here are the 6th April Exec committe meeting minutes. I wrote to the CLP Chair, Secretary, Vice Chair and both my Branch delegates. All refused to let me have a copy of the minutes.

At the July 2016 Executive meeting they declared that members would not be allowed to vote at AGM. They declared, without any authority to do so, that we must have a delegate based AGM. Members would not be allowed to vote.

A formal complaint was made to Region about the refusal to allow members to vote at their own AGM. After a bit of toing and froing, with Region being apparently obtuse, we had an extraordinary ruling from region, dated 15-Aug-2017.

Phil Gaskin's ruling

But then someone noticed something odd about the email from Gaskin. The 2016 AGM motion he quoted was different from what was actually voted on. It took a while for the whole thing to sink in. This was the first time I was aware that the AGM record had been tampered with. Someone had actually tampered with the record of the meeting to undermine democracy.

Eddie, the CLP Chair, was cleary aware of the fake version and had quoted from this back in April. He said the same thing to a GC meeting in July 2017. The CLP Vice Chair, Alex Beverley, repeated the lie at a branch meeting on 25-Jul-2017, apparently being familiar with the fake text. Region had used this doctored version of the motion in the ruling used to prevent members voting.

Here is a side by side version of the two documents, using 'meld' to highlight the differences :

Tampered motion

The word "ordinary" has been put in front of "General Committee". This is to help the Exec in their attempt to stop members voting at the AGM. The word "all" has been removed from "all members meeting". This is to downgrade the change from a formal AMM model. The words "and debate" were added to the sentence. They just want a talking shop.

This is all an indication of the depths to which some members of the CLP will stoop to prevent members from voting. An abuse of power? Certainly. A breach of the party rules? Definitely. Fraud? I believe so.

The killer line is the last part. The sentence "The Executive to be the decision-making body on behalf of the CLP". I call this the "Politburo Clause". There is no such model for CLPs in the Labour Party. The rules are very clear. Yet here we see the Regional Director of the Labour party, Phil Gaskin, quoting something that couldn't possibly be true. Not just quoting it, but using it to undermine democracy in the CLP. There are just two CLP models; delegate and AMM. Any other model has to be agreed by the NEC. It is just not possible to have this model as a valid rule. It is Gaskin's job to enforce these rules. He is employed by the party to do that. Here we see him blithely supporting a breach of the rules and helping to disempower members.

The Party Rule Book details just two different models for CLPs; Delegate based and All Member Meetings (AMMs). It is all there in very clear black and white in Appendix 7. No other models are currently possible. Models have to be authorised by the NEC. Only two models are authorised; Delegate or AMM.

There has been a conspiracy of silence surrounding this matter.

Members of the Executive went on to abolish the existing branches, make up ridiculous rules on quorums, vote in branch AGMs where they weren't even entitled to attend, and then void the results of those AGMs when they didn't get the right result. All without any consulation, all done by edict, all done using fake authority derived from a fake document. People have been bullied and intimidated and several have left the party as a direct result. The ruling body of the CLP has been completely silent on all of this. Ordinary members have been kept completely in the dark. Most new members will not even be aware that it is normal to have GC meetings, or for members to be involved in the running of the CLP.

Phil Gaskin has questions to answer. It is his job to uphold the party rules. He has done the opposite.