23 years in “special measures”

by Hattie Craig

My CLP (Birmingham Hall Green) has been in special measures ever since it was constituted along its current boundaries in 2010.

A previous CLP, which it incorporated, had been in special measures since 1997, when it was constituted. And the previous CLP before that had also been in special measures. So my CLP, however constituted, has been in special measures for at least 23 years.

Special measures is the taking away of political control by local members of their local party, and giving it to the national structure, specifically the regional office. So in particular this means it is very hard to become a member; ward meetings are often barred from happening, or there has to be a membership verification process for anyone who shows up; and the result is you can’t have binding decisions taken at meetings and the regional office or national party can just cancel any decisions we make.

In terms of my CLP, there was, supposedly, some irregularity back in the 1990s regarding the selection of candidates, where there were doubts over some of the members who signed up and voted in selections. But no details of this are available any more, and in my view there is no justification for this continuing. It’s now, after all, much easier to check people’s identity, with online bank accounts, and so on. And let’s not forget we’ve got a Compliance Unit getting rid of people left, right and centre.

But there are cases like Brighton and Hove or Wallasey, where parties have been suspended for being too leftwing. Pretty much all the officers in our local party, and most of the members, support Corbyn. So I think this is a factor. Another factor is the ethnicity of the majority of the CLP. The CLP is in a majority-Muslim area. I think that this is not inconsequential. There are four Birmingham CLPs which are in special measures, and all are in areas with a high Muslim or Pakistani population. There is a feeling of injustice from members of these groups that they are under suspicion, that having lots of members from these communities in the party is regarded as a bad thing.

The Chakrabarti report has already made recommendations about how to resolve this. The report condemned the prolonged use of special measures against CLPs. In 2013, there were 14 CLPs in special measures, of which 12 had been in special measures since before 2005. So this is not an isolated issue. There never seems to be a way to get out of special measures, no roadmap for a CLP to get out — the CLP is at the mercy of the regional or national party, with no reports, no progress. The report recommends that no CLP should be in special measures for more than 6 months and after 6 months there should be a review by the NEC, so that the use of special measures is not a way of taking control away from local members. I think there should be very clear definitions of cases where special measures might be applied.

We should see this in the same way as we view the Compliance Unit, namely, that very often the decision to apply special measures is a political, or factional, decision.

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