We have been contacted by dozens of people in the last few days, so we have put together this detailed article to assure you that there is NO BAN on moving motions in support of Chris Williamson in your branch/CLP – despite what you might have read in the media or been told by a regional official. But you should go into your meeting well prepared. Please find detailed guidelines below.
Remember, Chris did not say anything anti-Semitic: He was suspended merely for questioning if the party had responded correctly to the charge of being institutionally anti-Semitic! If we allow this suspension to stand – or even turn into an expulsion – this will not only be a great injustice to Chris, but to all of us!
Chris has been the only MP who has stood up for all those who have been witch-hunted on false or exaggerated allegations of anti-Semitism or ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. With his immensely popular ‘Democracy Roadshow’ he brought hope to many members that the party could be radically and democratically transformed to act in the interests of the many, not the few. That is why he has become a target.
He has stood up for us – now let’s stand up for him!
Why it’s not a ban
1.) There is some dispute if this is actually newly distributed communication or if it has been taken from an old email that was then re-distributed by an overly eager London regional officer. This would certainly explain why nobody seems to have seen the actual email from Jennie Forby (instead, it’s always the same brief snippet) and why many CLPs and branches have not received this communication.
2.) But in any case, it’s certainly not an instruction – and it’s not a ban! This becomes even clearer from a recent email that an employee at Labour HQ sent in reply to a CLP member asking for advice on motion regards Chris: “Unfortunately this motion is not deemed competent business as it relates to an ongoing disciplinary matter. As you will appreciate for reasons both of confidentiality and law, we are unable to discuss individual disciplinary cases.” All this email says is that ‘Labour HQ will not deal with your resolution.’ It clearly does not state that branches/CLPs are not allowed to discuss the motion. Quite clearly though, there is room for interpretation in the HQ’s stance on this issue, which reflects of course the struggles that are currently going on in the party.
3.) Also, once a case has been in the public domain as much as Chris’ has, it cannot in any way be considered as a “confidential” issue and is therefore clearly “competent business” for branches and CLPs to discuss.
4.) It is always up to the members of any meeting to decide what they want to discuss. All Labour Party meetings are entitled to discuss any issues they choose. Your resolution might not be “discussed by the NEC” (how many of them do?), but it will certainly be published on our website and elsewhere.
5.) Remember, every single statement and resolution will add to the pressure to get Chris reinstated. His case is absolutely crucial in the ongoing fight for the soul of the Labour Party. If he were to be expelled, that would be a massive defeat not just for Chris, but also the whole Corbyn project. It would be a huge victory for the right-wingers now so neatly assembled in Tom Watson’s ‘Future Britain’.
But if we can get Chris reinstated, this would give the left in the party a major boost – and it might help us in our fight to finally get natural justice and due process implemented in the party’s disciplinary process. And, of course, to get one of our few allies in the Parliamentary Labour Party back on board!
How to move a motion in support of Chris
Make sure to send us any resolutions and statements so that others can take courage and inspiration from them. We have collated all successful resolutions and statements here. Some model motions are available here.
1.) Ideally, submit as a ‘normal’ motion. They have to be submitted to the secretary of your Labour Party branch in writing 14 days before a meeting (unless it says something different in your local standing orders). Normal motions have to go through a branch first before they can be presented to the CLP – though please note that this is not the case with emergency motions.
2.) Emergency motions can be submitted anytime before the meeting of your branch or CLP (but as soon as feasible) – again, in writing to your secretary. The rule states that emergency business “may be accepted by the majority of the meeting on the recommendation of the Chair, who shall interpret the term ’emergency’ in a bona fide manner”. That means your chair has a lot of power and can “recommend” not to accept your motion. Please note that your chair cannot refuse to even table the motion (this is against the rules, though of course many try to do it nevertheless).
3.) If your chair rules against accepting the emergency motion (or refuses to put it on the agenda), you can try to overturn the decision:
- Firstly, you will need to raise a point of order, which must be heard. Then you need to explain why in your view the matter is indeed an emergency (for example, “because it only just happened”). Do not yet talk about the context of the motion, only why it is an emergency. Get somebody to call “seconded” straight away. This challenge needs to be supported by “no less than four members” at the meeting. The “challenge shall be put to the meeting without discussion” by the chair. If anybody tries to intervene and speak against your challenge, remind them of the rules.
- If 2/3 of eligible members at the meeting vote in favour of your challenge, the motion must be heard.
- You can then move the motion to the meeting. If a simple majority votes in favour of the motion, it is passed and becomes the agreed resolution.
4.) Always bring enough copies of your emergency motion and hand them out before the meeting – that will make it very difficult for the chair to try and stop your motion from even being tabled. You should also try and get as many people as possible behind the motion beforethe meeting so that they are prepared to back you up. And print out the relevant bits from the rule book, just in case!
Reference for further info on these rules: model procedural rules (page 73) in the Labour Party rule book 2019
Feel free to get in touch if you need some more detailed advice. Good luck! And please keep us updated!