THE MAYOR OF NEWHAM has survived the immediate threat to his bid to prolong his 16 year mandate. Labour’s NEC decided in January not to re-run the trigger ballot process which had resulted in Sir Robin Wales’ victory by 20 branch votes to 17.
Meanwhile, the national Fabian Society decided that the vote cast by Newham Fabians was in breach of its rules. At the beginning of March it was revealed that the vote of the East Ham branch of BECTU, now amalgamated with Prospect and no longer affiliated to the Party, was invalid because its annual subscription to East Ham CLP had not been paid. So Sir Robin’s victory has now been reduced to 18-17, with other investigations still ongoing.
Smarting from his loss of support among Newham Party members, with branches voting 11-9 for an open selection, Wales launched a new strategy. A sudden rush of affiliations from local GMB branches increased the number of their branches affiliated to East Ham CLP to 26. Meanwhile, a quorum of 25% for branch meetings was invoked, invalidating at a stroke seven of these branches’ GC delegates and their nominations. The mayor’s keenest supporters quickly proposed - successfully - that the slate nominated by GMB branches, composed entirely of Wales’ supporters, be accepted en bloc.
Unsurprisingly, West Ham Labour Party members were concerned on receiving an affiliation request from a similar number of 26 GMB branches. Worse, on 2nd March two West Ham Labour Party branch AGMs, officiated by an EC member closely associated with the mayor, had their meetings cancelled because they lacked a quorum of 25%. Each was attended by more than 40 members, most of whom went home frustrated and disillusioned.
A weakened Sir Robin is attempting to regain control of Newham Labour Party by his usual methods: a distortion of the rules driven by his supporters. It’s discouraging members and causing disaffection. Equally, the GMB’s behaviour may regrettably lead some members to question the very desirability of trade union involvement in party processes.
As it has issued guidelines allowing for quorums below 25%, the NEC should overrule the proceedings of the East Ham AGM and order its re-convening. To prevent the subversion of democracy, it should take action against regional staff to ensure they act in the interests of all members.