By Mark Sandell, elected chair of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party
We knew we had to get organised for the AGM. It wasn’t going to be easy. This was a Party that had grown from under 2,000 to nearly 6,000 members in under a year.
We decided that the way to get these people out was to have a rally. We booked the rally, we got speakers in from around the country. So, bizarrely, our AGM was at 4pm on Saturday, so we called the rally for 1:30 on the same day. We didn’t know how many people would come. When we turned up, we had the room full with probably about 3-400 people, and about 250 people outside the room.
This still didn’t mean that we were going to win. Because we knew that some of the people in that rally were not Momentum supporters, but people who supported Corbyn in a general
We had stood as “Confidence in Corbyn”. Not everyone on this slate was a Momentum supporter. It was just people who had confidence in Corbyn. Some people on this slate just thought it was outrageous that another election was being forced. Some of the people on the slate may not have voted for Corbyn the first time around.
In the end, there were 610 votes cast. Across the board, our slate got 65% of the vote. So, it was overwhelming.
At the pub after the meeting, we were immediately confronted by the leader of the Labour council, who, remember, has had to face quite a lot of political problems because the left are strong enough to oppose the cuts he’s imposing, saying that things have happened at the AGM. We were bemused.
So we did an investigation. One of the people elected investigated the “spitting incident.” It was meant to involve a member of the Labour Party spitting at a security guard at the college where the meeting was held. We found out who it was who was meant to have done the spitting, and talked to them. I spoke to all the security guards — no spitting. I spoke to the college — no complaints. Complete fabrication.
The other thing that the leader of the council said, was that Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, was abused. Again, investigated, not true. An hour and a half later there was a piece in the television news in which I was interviewed along with others, including Kyle. He said, “if these incidents happened, it’s right that the AGM should be put into question”.
Lots of the things that he said at the time, he has since withdrawn, including from social media.
Now, if you are a workplace militant, you’ll sometimes end up in a difficult situation in a job. But usually I can hang onto my jobs for more than five days. I was chair of Brighton and Hove Labour Party for five days.
On Thursday we had a letter from Ian McNicol. He said Brighton and Hove Labour AGM had been suspended and the results annulled because of “accusations”. He went on to say that Brighton and Hove Party would be subject to the same restrictions as any other party; that it would not be allowed to have any meetings whatever; that it would not be able to have a nominating meeting for the leader of the Labour Party, or a hustings. There were also no meetings allowed to discuss the by-election which was going on at the time in Brighton and Hove.
The person who was standing in the by-election — we did a lot of campaigning for them, they got elected by a thumping majority, getting three times as many votes as the next candidate, who was a Tory, and getting ten times as many votes as UKIP.
Some people will remember a horrible speech from Neil Kinnock at Labour Party Conference, when he spoke against the Liverpool Labour Council. Some of the things he said, I might have some sympathy with. One of the things he criticised them for was rushing out redundancy notices by courier. He said it was outrageous, and not socialist behaviour. I agree. I’m not sure I’d be against that happening to some people working for the Labour Party. I think we should have some redundancy notices ready for some of these people.
We want to keep Corbyn, obviously.
But if we don’t change some of those structural problems, we will be fighting with people at our backs who will be looking for the first opportunity to sink the knife in.
Mark was speaking at a solidarity meeting with Brighton LP organised by London region Momentum