“The NEC will be recommending to Conference that it elects David Evans, which unfortunately would be a serious mistake.”Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
The Labour Party should focus on attacking the Tories – not Labour members – writes the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is encouraging party members to get your CLP to agree that your delegates to Annual Conference this September will vote against the NEC’s recommendation on the General Secretary.
Under the Labour Party rules, the General Secretary is ‘elected by party conference on the recommendation of the NEC’ (Chapter 4, Clause II.4.A – Page 23 in the current version of the 2020 Rule Book).
The NEC will be recommending to Conference that it elects David Evans, which unfortunately would be a serious mistake.
We need a General Secretary who will prioritise uniting the party around an alternative agenda to that of the Tories, to aid Labour in making a much needed electoral advance. It is an important post in the party, which should not be used as a platform for divisive attacks on party members.
Since the NEC appointed Evans to act as General Secretary in May 2020, various measures have been introduced to curtail the rights of Labour Party members. Unprecedented restrictions have been placed on discussions of party business, with around 70 local party officers suspended from party membership for defending local party democracy.[See Note 1] This has made local party meetings into unwelcoming spaces for many party members and as a result our membership has already suffered a large decline.
None of this has been of electoral benefit, as is evident from: Labour’s significant decline in opinion polls since the summer of 2020; the predominately poor local election results in May; and the appalling loss of Labour support in the Hartlepool and the Chesham and Amersham by-elections.
Regrettably, the party has been deterring, not attracting, electoral support. Right-wing factionalism does not deliver victories for Labour. It undermines the party’s functioning, both internally and also in elections.
It has been a mistake, with damaging consequences, that the party recently abandoned its democratic traditions. It is a mistake that Annual Conference can help to correct.
The long standing custom and practice was that party members discussed and adopted positions on matters across the full range of party business and policy. The culture, of encouraging internal debate, helped our party became one of the largest political parties in Europe. It also assisted the leadership, keeping it in touch with our members, who form the backbone of our local campaigns.
Our members are important to our success. The stifling of internal democracy is unfortunately damaging the party and this is benefiting our electoral opponents.
Annual Conference needs to shift the party’s focus on to fighting the Tories. Delegates can best assist the party in achieving such a re-orientation by rejecting the NEC’s recommendation on the General Secretary.
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the election of the General Secretary.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does the General Secretary require Party Conference 21 approval?
Yes. The Labour Party is an unincorporated association. It is governed by the contract between members (the Rules). These Rules are contractually enforceable terms between all members (NOT Party and members). The Rules (contract) detailing the appointment of the General Secretary are in Chapter 4 clause II, sub clause 4.A:
Election of General Secretary
A) The General Secretary shall be elected by Party conference on the recommendation of the NEC and shall be an ex-officio member of Party conference. S/he shall devote her or his whole time to the work of the Party and shall not be eligible to act as a parliamentary candidate. S/he shall remain in office so long as her/ his work gives satisfaction to the NEC and Party conference. Should a vacancy in the office occur, for whatever reason, between Party conferences, the NEC shall have full power to fill the vacancy subject to the approval of Party conference.
The Rules (contract) specifically states that ‘The General Secretary shall be elected by Party conference…’. The use of ‘shall’ makes this a mandatory provision.
Upon the resignation of Jennie Formby as General Secretary, on 04/05/2020, a vacancy occurred between Conferences. The Rules permit the NEC to fill an immediate vacancy, ‘subject to the approval of Party Conference’. The NEC exercised this temporary authority on 26/05/2020 when it appointed David Evans to act as General Secretary subject to Conference Approval.
The requirement that the appointment be subject to Conference Approval is a contractually dependant condition. This means that for the main contractual provision to enter into legal force the dependant condition (Conference approval) must also be properly fulfilled. If it is not then the General Secretary appointment made by the NEC would be voided and rendered ultra vires.
As an analogy. A tennis club board agree to hire a new groundskeeper, but it is subject to the approval of the Club honorary President. The President refuses to give approval. In these circumstances any contract of employment is voided because the Club Board do not have the legal authority to agree any such contract unilaterally.
The exact same principle applies to the NEC. It has limited contractual authority to appoint a General Secretary for a temporary period subject to the dependant condition of Conference approval. In the event Conference does not approve the appointment then the NEC authority is voided, and any contract of employment entered into by the NEC would be ultra vires. Any decisions made by such a General Secretary, on the basis of authority given directly or delegated from the NEC would be ultra vires. Any expenditures made by, or authorised by this person would be ultra vires and would amount to a misapplication of funds by the NEC and could be sued for directly from the individual members of the NEC.
- Originally published by CLPD at https://www.clpd.org.uk/2021/06/24/labour-party-delegates-should-oppose-the-nec-recommendation-to-endorse-david-evans/