Statement Regarding AGM 2017
2 November 2017
STATEMENT ON THE LPIS AGM 2017
On the evening of 25 October the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) held its AGM in Portcullis House, Westminster and this statement is a response to some very inaccurate and at times untruthful reports which have been circulated on social media by candidates who did not succeed in being elected and their supporters, some of whom are not members of LPIS and were not at the AGM.
LPIS is a socialist society affiliated to the Labour Party. The aims of the society are to promote the interests of the Irish community to and within the Labour Party and to promote the Labour Party to Irish citizens in Britain. The Society is open to all people of Irish heritage and anyone who simply has an interest in Irish affairs.
In 2016-17 the Society campaigned on Brexit and its implications for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the peace process and Irish citizens here in Britain. LPIS campaigned on women’s rights and the Exec also began the process of making our membership and financial processes fit for the 21st century, as well as improving communications with members throughout Britain, Ireland and indeed Europe through our social and digital platforms.
The composition of the LPIS executive committee (2016-17) was wholly representative of the wider Labour membership. The reelected chair has a long association with Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum, as have a number of other officers. Others don't. This hasn’t mattered in the slightest as the group worked well together to deliver the society’s aims and for its members. As Irish people we know the damage sectarianism has done to the island of Ireland and we have always been clear that LPIS operates as a non-sectarian organisation standing up for Irish interests and not for any particular clique within the Labour party.
As a campaigning political society, the LPIS AGM has always been held in Westminster, so a suitable room in the parliamentary estate was booked. The meeting has always taken place on a weekday evening.
In the week leading up to the AGM it became apparent that the meeting was attracting more people than usual – certainly far more than our existing active membership.
Over the years the AGM has had an average attendance of 35 members. We usually expect only 50% of RSVPs to attend so despite the rise in interest we were still confident that the room we booked would be suitable for the event.
Leading up to the AGM, the sitting Executive became aware that a group - many who have never been involved in the society before - had nominated themselves for positions on the committee. They appealed for support through social media platforms like Twitter (one of their tweets asked for 'leftie paddies' to join and attend) and through other formerly uninterested outlets like 'sqwawkbox' and they made it clear they were intent on taking over the society. In response individual officers standing for re-election naturally sought support from friends and colleagues who have been active members of the society and in the Irish community for years.
Interestingly, the sectarian faction that planned to takeover the society did not bother to notice that the sitting chair and other exec members have been long-term active supporters of the current leadership of the party, which was clearly their main concern. Sadly, they didn't suggest a meeting, they didn't call or even show the remotest interest in the society, its aims or the wider interests of the Irish community. Whatever their vision was, it wasn't about the principles the society focuses on and however narrow their interests, they clearly didn't recognise that their support for the party leader was already shared by committee members. It was not remotely comradely.
They may have regarded us as some small socialist society that could easily be intimidated: well wise up - we're Irish and we're Labour. As an affiliated society, with an executive made up of volunteers, we have no intention of wasting time by indulging in tiresome Twitter spats and pseudo-journalism. The LPIS has work to do for the party, the Irish community and campaigning to win for Labour. That, after all, is how we will actually make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.
As for the meeting itself, the facts are:
Over 170 people attended the meeting and voted in the elections. 31 candidates put themselves forward for election. All votes were scrutinised by an observer from the NEC. The chair was re-elected 132 votes to 37 and this margin was similar to that for other posts.
When it became clear that the Grimmond Room was full, every effort was made with the parliamentary estate to open a second room and everyone in the queue was successfully accommodated in the second room. If the Exec were trying to limit access to 'the' room, one has to question why we went to the effort of getting permission to open up another one!
No member who turned up for the meeting on time was turned away. The LPIS is sorry that a small number of members who arrived well after the start of the meeting could not be admitted.
The majorities by which the new Exec were elected ranged from to 99 to 78 votes so the small number of people who arrived too late to participate should not have made a material difference to the elections even if they had all been asked to turn up to vote for the sectarian “slate”.
One member was nominated in his absence from the floor as he had arrived too late to participate. Nonetheless his nomination was accepted and voted on. All 30 other candidates each gave a 2 minute husting.
There is absolutely nothing unusual about preparing for a meeting. An email that was sent to all Exec members about the order of the meeting has been totally misconstrued by some trying to undermine the outcome of the AGM.
No one on the executive committee has any knowledge of anyone telling people outside the building that the AGM was cancelled.
A motion moved by a member to cancel the AGM was resoundingly defeated in both rooms.
The elections took place at the beginning of the meeting, as was agreed prior to the meeting, so those with no further interest in proceedings could leave early. As predicted, many people left. Maybe they were not that interested in a motion to support an Irish History Month, which was passed unanimously.
The meeting voted that an amendment to the Constitution to include the post of Disability Officer should be remitted to the Executive due to lack of time. We will be looking at the process for filling this post at the first meeting of the Exec.
The whole meeting, which was only delayed by 12 minutes despite the need to organise another room with the parliamentary estate to accommodate members, was overseen by a member of the NEC.
We welcome the increased interest in the Society and will take on board the lessons of this experience and work to make all meetings as accessible as possible.
We look forward to Labour's NEC standing up for small socialist societies such as ourselves and thank the NEC representative who attended the AGM and ensured all elections were fair and transparent. We would also ask the NEC to insist that some of the rather disturbing references on social media to 'Irish blood', 'Oirishness', 'lefty paddies' and the legitimacy of some memberships are wholly contrary to the values of the party as a whole. It is anti-Irish racism and alien to the kinder, gentler politics promoted by the leader of our party.
We have nothing to add to these facts about our AGM. 'Sqwawk' if you want to, we have work to do.