By Conor Sewell, Sevenoaks CLP conference delegate
Another year, another stich-up on free movement ahead of Labour Party Conference. Although perhaps not entirely surprising at this point, this annual ritual does not get any less frustrating with each passing year.
For those of you who are blessedly unaware of the details of how the conference motions process works, allow me to briefly summarise. CLPs and affiliated unions submit motions to conference; these motions are then grouped together into “zones” by the Conference Arrangements Committee (or CAC); delegates to conference then vote on which zones should be prioritised for debate on the floor of conference.
Seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, nothing is ever so straightforward.
This year, there are two main motions to conference whose focus is on migration and detention. One is from Labour Against Racism And Fascism (LARAF), and calls for an end to detention and for the Labour Party to pursue policies that do not criminalise migrants. The second is from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement (LCFM) and is wider-ranging, but also contains the closing of detention centres as a central demand.
These motions are pretty similar: in any sensible world they would be grouped together in the same zone, composited together, and then debated and voted on by conference. Unfortunately, this is where the CAC comes in.
Instead of putting both motions into the same zone, the CAC has classified them as being on two separate topics. The LCFM motion is classified under the heading of “Immigration”, with the LARAF motion instead classified as “Immigration Detention”. This stitch-up is so obvious as to be almost laughable.
Why the stitch up? To split support, so neither motion is debated? Or to allow the relatively moderate LARAF motion to be passed without having to deal with the more radical LCFM one? Either way, not good.
Despite the best efforts of a couple of members of the CAC (Billy Hayes and Seema Chandwani), too many of the committee are opposed to the Labour party adopting a more humane immigration policy. They are determined to prevent delegates from being offered alternatives to Labour’s current immigration policy, which is nowhere near radical enough and concedes far too much to the nationalist right.
Last year, the LCFM motion got lost in the morass of the Brexit composite. We cannot let an issue this important be lost to internal politicking again. We must all oppose the CAC’s decision. We need to spread the word about this coup. The CAC need to be held to ccount for their blatantly undemocratic decisions.
How we do this? We demand these motions be grouped together, and we demand that they be heard on Conference floor. Delegates from CLPs who have passed Immigration motions have already started writing to the CAC about this issue; if your CLP passed one of these motions, encourage your delegates to write to the CAC too.
If the CAC refuses to change its decision, we should consider further ways to challenge it, including by referencing back the relevant part of the CAC report to remerge the topics. If it comes to it, I urge all delegates to vote for both the LARAF and the LCFM motions to be prioritised for debate at conference, so that we have a chance to discuss and vote on these vital and important proposals. If we stand together, we can win a better Labour immigration policy.
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