What kind of CLP do you want?

What kind of CLP do you want?

All-Member or Delegate-Only?

The model 2017 rules for the organisation of the Labour Party set out clearly the basis for constituency organisation (starts page 81, Appendix 7 – LABOUR RULE BOOK 2017)

The traditional model for organisation is known as a “delegate structure” – local branch Labour Parties elect a number of delegates, proportionate to the number of members they have. For nearly 100 years, this was the only model permitted by the rules. Sometimes other organisations, such as trade unions, or the Co-operative Party, can also affiliate and send delegates.

But in the late 1990s, as Labour’s grassroots withered and local branch parties all but disappeared, constituency parties were allowed to become “all member meetings” as an alternative. In some areas, this was the only way local Labour Parties were able to survive.

Today, both structures are permitted under Labour Party rules. It is for each local constituency party to decide which model it wants – but that choice has to then be ratified by the National Executive.

The rules make it clear that local constituency parties can change their structural model only at an Annual General Meeting, and that the decision to change shall require a two thirds majority.

Because of the chaotic situation which developed during 2016, leading to the suspension of the North Cornwall Constituency Labour Party, supporters of each, alternative, structural model are now entitled to feel aggrieved: the one thing everyone can agree on is that the rules have not been properly followed.

Therefore, the CLP has agreed that its next Annual General Meeting shall make the choice – between “delegate structure” or “all member.” The Executive Committee is recommending that the choice shall be made on the basis of a simple majority, at an “all member” meeting in March 2018.

The Executive Committee now wants to encourage the widest possible debate within the North Cornwall CLP, with supporters of each model promoting their arguments on the merits of the case.

This website is to be the main forum for information, so supporters of both “delegate structure” and “all member” organisational models should feel free to argue the case here. That does not mean that the debate cannot also take place more widely. But if anyone has any questions, this is the place to ask. You can add your comments or questions in the box below.

Supporters of each alternative model should try, as far as possible, to be detailed in their arguments. For example, if we are to be a delegate structure, then how many delegates, proportionate to the size of each branch membership? If we are to be “all member” then what percentage of that membership should be required to constitute a quorum? At today’s count, the North Cornwall Constituency Labour Party has 667 paid-up individual members.

The most important thing is that when North Cornwall Labour Party members turn up for the AGM next March, they are aware of the issues, and the rules, and feel confident to engage in the debate.

Graham Smith, Chair

Supporting Papers:



12 thoughts on “What kind of CLP do you want?

  1. “The rules make it clear that local constituency parties can change their structural model only at an Annual General Meeting, and that the decision to change shall require a two thirds majority.”

    “the one thing everyone can agree on is that the rules have not been properly followed.”

    ” The Executive Committee is recommending that the choice shall be made on the basis of a simple majority, at an “all member” meeting in March 2018.”

    Surely a certain dichotomy here? Whilst accepting the importance of such a decision for NCCLP democracy the rules are clear that any motion can only be carried with a two thirds majority at the AGM.

  2. We experienced two structural changes in 2016. These were: 1)the election of branch delegates to the first CLP meeting; 2)the acceptance of all member voting at the next CLP meeting of the CLP. Neither of these was underpinned by the outcome of a vote. In my view, we need to decide, by simple majority voting, what we want and then ratify this with a two-thirds majority at the AGM in March.

  3. I agree that such clarity would be welcome. But the problem with this approach is that in order to prevail, supporters of the All Member model would need a two-thirds majority, something they have never achieved before.

    If we rewind to Year Zero, we must start from the Delegate Model. And even though I support the Delegate Model, I want to win the argument on the merits of the case, rather than arcane procedural trickery.

    That is why I advocate a simple majority, which thereafter will require a two thirds majority to change. The clear lesson from the current messy situation is that we ignore the rules at our peril!

  4. It occurs to me that the expression ‘suspension’ in this post might lead to confusion. For clarity, North Cornwall Labour Party wasn’t suspended from the Labour Party!

    No CLP General Meeting was held in December 2016, January 2017 or February 2017. But other activities continued throughout that time, and our Branches were meeting as normal.

    And the pause in CLP meetings at this point had no bearing on the structure we’d adopted.

  5. Because CLP meetings are held on a Tuesday evening I find that , due to working late on Tuesdays, I am unable to attend most of them, (although due to recent rule changes will be able to attend the ones held in my constituency), so would have to favour the delegate structure. It occurs to me that, having recently received my opportunity to vote for new members of the NEC via electronic voting, this method might be the most democratic method to use whenever practical.

  6. As I say in my main post, I favour One Member One Vote – but the All Member CLP model does not deliver that. It currently delivers a turnout of only 2%, greatly exaggerating the representative legitimacy or “importance” of those individuals who do turn up.
    We do however already have OMOV postal ballots for crucial elections, such as leader, NEC etc.
    The crucial question – which is still unanswered – is what percentage turnout, in an All Member structure, is an acceptable quorum? We cannot ignore the rules and we have to be quorate.
    So if you think All Member is better than delegate, then think of a number, and let’s debate how democratic it is. Under current rules (25% minimum) we would need AT LEAST 167 members at every meeting. It just isn’t going to happen.
    We might get away with a smaller percentage, if the NEC agrees. But we still need a number.
    Just how low are you prepared to go?

  7. I notice that Truro & Falmouth CLP has an all-member meeting on 4th January, and that in order to be quorate needs at least 35 members present. Truro & Falmouth is a larger CLP than we are, but even so an attendance of 35 is more than double the number who attended our last CLP meeting. Before we get to the AGM in March, we must have some idea of just how small an attendance we could accept under the all member model. We would also need prior approval from the NEC. I urge supporters of the all member model to come up with their preferred number as soon as possible.
    There is no dispute over what the rules say: we can run an all member CLP with less than 25% of the membership. But it has to be a number larger than zero! I strongly urge advocates of the all member system to declare just how small an attendance they would be prepared to accept. They can then argue just how democratic it is.
    Under a delegate structure, we can be quorate with 25% of the total number of delegates: a much easier ask, and imho more representative of the wider membership.

  8. I am in favour of one member one vote and therefore all-member meetings. However, we need to be realistic. In order stand a chance of ever being be quorate we would have to ask NEC to ratify meetings at about 2% of the membership. That does not seem very democratic to me. Unless we can set up online voting to encourage greater participation of the North Cornwall membership, the delegate model is the only practical one. If we go down this route, I would like to see quorate at much higher than 25% of the total delegates (75%), otherwise this model would also be undemocratic.

  9. I think Marc has identified the crux of the issue – to find the model which is both practical and actually delivers the greatest democracy.
    Labour Party rules set a quorum at 25% of those eligible to vote. If we raised that to 75%, then – practically – we would need to lower the minimum number of those eligible. Otherwise we would never get the 75%.
    My personal favourite formula is for one delegate per 10 members. Every branch would be entitled to plenty of delegates. And a CLP meeting attended by 65 delegates would be 100% turnout. It would be great, although it is unlikely to happen in practice.
    A 25% turnout would be within the rules, with only 16 or 17 people present. Hopefully the actual turnout would be closer to 50%, or more.
    If we required 75% of delegates, the maximum number of delegates (practically) would be around 24, based on current attendances. This number feels far too small. And a 75% turnout doesn’t leave much room for error – if four or five people were not able to attend then the meeting would still be inquorate.
    But I do think Marc is on the right lines, and that somewhere between one delegate for 10 members (and a 25% quoracy), and one delegate for 30 members (and a 75% quoracy), we will find a structure which is both practical and democratic.
    The proposal for a delegate structure still has all CLP meetings open to all members, to observe and speak. A delegate structure can always call an AGM or EGM which is open to all members to vote, such as for leadership nominations.
    But what is clearly NOT democratic is a theoretical “all-member” structure which does not actually require anyone to turn up at all.

    1. Totally agree with Graham’s comments. In defense of my earlier post I would simply say, I had envisaged each branch having perhaps only 2 to 4 delegates. They would essentially be directed by their branch and would be expected to turn up to all CLP meetings unless they had a reasonable excuse. If I were a delegate, and I am not putting my name forward
      , I would consider it my duty to attend CLP meetings.

  10. Hi comrades
    Hello from a member in NE Herts CLP. We, as it happens, are consulting too on a new structure for our CLP.

    Just one comment I would like to share is this. What with the national party Democracy review due to be completed before conference this year. I am suggesting to our CLP we wait on that and see if it will be recommending/mandating new ways of structuring CLPs. Seems to me that if we make changes this year at our AGM in July – we could well be needing to re-visit them very soon afterwards. Just a thought!

    Yours in solidarity

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