A selection of anonymised quotations from the statements of 78 people — out of about 600 — who attended the annual meeting of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party on Saturday, July 9. [This article contains about 9,700 words of the 27,222 words submitted.]
The statements from which these quotations were extracted were collated after the Labour Party’s NEC suspended Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party after allegations of “abusive behaviour by some attendees” and concern that the safety of members “was compromised”. None of the 600+ witnesses has made public any evidence to substantiate these unfounded allegations.
If you wish to submit a statement about your experience — of any kind — at the July 9 annual meeting of Brighton, Hove and District Labour, please submit them in confidence to BHDLabourParty@gmail.com. In addition, you may also want to send them to Katherine Buckingham, the Labour Party’s head of disputes and discipline.
“At no time did I witness any unseemly behaviour. Therefore, I was shocked later in the week that the party had been suspended and that the AGM was going to have to take place again after September 25. I remain very angry at the decision to suspend all activities of the local Labour parties.”
“Realising that I had witnessed the incident at the heart of all the fuss, I challenged some people who were quoting the allegation of spitting as a fact — including Cllr Warren Morgan, who was not on the spot, as I was.
“I was then subjected to bullying challenges from him and some other men, which I found threatening.”
“At no time did we see any abuse, intimidation, or disruptive behaviour. On the contrary, everyone was patient and good-humoured.
“Therefore, I am astonished that the chair of the NEC’s Disputes Panel has arbitrarily decided to suspend the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party and declare the election void. I call upon the NEC to publish the information they have which led to this decision being taken. I also call upon them to rescind the suspension and to reinstate the results of the election.”
“The allegations of spitting are entirely false — I was about 10ft inside the building and heard and saw everything. I consider it disgraceful that an election result and democracy itself were annulled because of false allegations brought about by disgruntled losers.”
“I am astonished at the stories that have emerged, as I saw only a good-natured and friendly atmosphere for the whole two-plus hours I was at City College. The picture being drawn — I believe for undemocratic purposes — of a hostile atmosphere is, as far as I am concerned, based on what I witnessed, pure fantasy.
“I have read the comments of Warren Morgan and various councillors and a few ex-EC members to the extent that there was intimidation, an incident of spitting, violent and abusive behaviour, etc.
“I have to say this is the exact opposite of the disciplined, well-behaved, comradely meeting I attended. I genuinely have to say that it was one of the most orderly mass meetings, especially in the circumstances of three times as many people attending as the then-EC had catered for, I have ever been to.
“The only sour note in the meeting I went to was that one of the candidates for secretary, Greg Hadfield, received a solitary boo from a person who I feel has let himself down very, very badly indeed on this day.”
“I was in attendance with my husband, who is also a Labour Party member and my three-year-old son; I am also heavily pregnant. It was very busy with many people queuing and waiting on the stairs. Had there been any aggression whatsoever, I would not have felt at all comfortable staying given our circumstances.
“As it was, people were kind and polite. I was given a bottle of water and one of the candidates’ wives even offered to help me with my son who was getting a bit impatient. All in all I was impressed with how the meeting was managed given that the turnout greatly exceeded expectation. I hope this decision is overturned promptly so the elected members can get on with their important roles.”
“I attended the Labour Party AGM at City College last weekend with my partner.
“We saw no incidents of aggression or unacceptable behaviour of any kind. We were impressed by the orderly fashion in which the event was conducted.
“The atmosphere was calm, pleasant, and friendly. Even though the number of attendees was far too great for the size of the meeting room, those who couldn’t get in for the first session waited patiently outside for the meeting to be rerun. We walked around the back of the building after we came out of the first session to see how many people were still waiting to go in, and saw people queuing calmly and chatting as they waited. We saw no attitude, no spitting incident, and the whole event was well-organised and pleasant to be part of.”
“Everyone waited patiently and politely in the queue and there were no arguments of any description whatsoever.
“The organisers were very efficient in adapting the meeting to accommodate the large turnout and we were regularly updated on the time it would take to enter the meeting and which session we would be attending.
“When the queuing ended, the meeting itself was very well organised and a credit to Brighton and Hove Labour Party. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make last weekend’s AGM such a success.”
“There was a good deal of excitement, and generally much good humour. I overheard two or three young members referring to Momentum supporters as ‘nutters’, but they were just talking among themselves and I made nothing of it; the atmosphere was good.”
“I find it strange that some people are now objecting to the procedure, after the event, when they agreed to it at the time. The ballot proceeded peacefully and without incident and a second meeting followed. I later learned that three sessions were required, all of which passed without incident.”
“There was no bad feeling, no bad comments, and we all chatted about our own individual political opinions. The stewarding was superb.”
“I am aware that the Labour Party NEC has suspended the local party due to allegations of improper conduct at the meeting and annulled the results of the AGM.
“I am somewhat bewildered by this action. The turnout for the meeting was tremendously encouraging, with what appeared to be over 600 members enthusiastically participating in the ballot and democratic process.
“It was clear that not everyone would be able to fit into the hall and the officials led by Lloyd Russell-Moyle made a very sensible decision to conduct the AGM and ballot process in repeat sittings. I was part of the first sitting. All candidates and participants were respectful, orderly, and good-humoured. The voting process was clearly explained and I was able to cast my votes along with all others in the room in a proper and orthodox manner.
“I left the building and waited for my partner who was queuing outside the hall for a subsequent sitting. I am clear that I witnessed nothing untoward at all.
“I am disappointed with the NEC’s decision which, in the context of my experience on the day, appears irrational and ill-informed, and denies the fundamental democratic process.”
“I waited in the queue for some 20 minutes — all was peaceful and orderly — and then proceeded to have my membership card checked and moved into the hall where those standing for the officer positions each made a two-minute speech. The voting process was explained fully and again everything was conducted in an orderly fashion. Along with all others present, I was able to cast my vote appropriately and left the hall, to be followed by those in the third sitting.”
“I attended the first husting at the AGM. I witnessed a well-conducted husting and voting. The only rudeness I heard was when Greg Hadfield got up to speak and somebody in the audience booed. Even this didn’t cause a reaction from others. I felt that Lloyd Russell-Moyle chaired the meeting very well. Friends who were in the second and third hustings reported they were well-conducted.”
“Although there was a lot of moaning about the queuing, once everyone was told they would get a chance to vote, it became very calm. I was chatting with a very lovely man as we entered the building, but I was then fast tracked as a Hove member to register. Afterwards, I chatted with a lady who had not made her mind up in advance and was going to listen to all the speeches. Very refreshing! All in all very peaceful and friendly.
“I was standing not far from Peter Kyle who seemed permanently to be grinning and laughing with people. The meeting/vote was good-humoured — I was in the second session — and I went away happy I had had the chance to vote.”
“For the first time ever, I attended the Labour Party AGM. Having never attended before, I do not have anything to compare it to, but I found the experience generally very positive.
“Considering the fact that there were so many people there and we therefore had to wait around for long periods of time, I feel that there was a real sense of calm. There may have been a slight air of anticipation, maybe even bordering on excitement at times, but not at any point did I feel intimidated. I didn’t witness any cases of intimidation either.”
“When I arrived at City College for the AGM I was taken aback at the sheer volume of people queuing to get through the doors, it was overwhelming — but also incredibly inspiring.
“It was made clear to us by the stewards that the number of people was unprecedented and that we wouldn’t all fit in the room.
“There were a few sighs and quiet grumbles, but the people accepted the state of affairs and politely queued, as British people do.
“I waited an hour to vote, and whilst I did I can say, hand on heart, that I heard no aggression, intimidation or violence. I am prepared to testify in court, if necessary, that this was the case.
“Behind me in the queue I listened with interest as people with conflicting views about the direction the party should take debated, in a courteous and polite manner.”
“The atmosphere was friendly, caring and joyful. And I was keen to hear the various candidates present their experience. The ladies I sat next to were helpful and chatty.
“I am shocked to hear that our local Labour Party has been suspended! That our votes have been annulled and the newly-elected candidates barred from further meetings until after the Labour Party leadership vote has taken place.
“I find this ludicrous. I was in attendance from 4pm to 6pm and saw only friendly faces. And certainly no abusive behaviour as is suggested in the press. I sincerely hope the decision to void our votes will be overturned.
“The atmosphere in the queue as we waited was cordial, reasonable, and rather excited. I felt that a lot of people were in a broadly similar position to mine: very happy to have something worthwhile to vote for again after many wilderness years.
“There was an obvious desire to put both new and rekindled interests in politics to good use. It should also be noted that there were a wide variety of people attending, of all ages and probably about an equal number of men and women.
“I saw nothing untoward in the queue or in the meeting, though obviously I did not see several things — specifically, the other two meetings, the last queue, or how people who turned up later than me reacted to the organisation of the vote. However, there was no indication at any point of any issues.”
“As a witness, I would like to report that I neither felt any compromise to my own safety or saw others indulging in abusive behaviour that could truly be called threatening.
“It is true that it was an enthusiastic crowd, and many of the candidates (of all persuasions) were greeted with excitable applause and cheering, but the chair handled this well I thought and kept distractions to a minimum — tough when there was such a large crowd.
“There was one instance which could be described as mildly abusive — if you were of a particularly sensitive nature — when one of the candidates, Greg Hadfield, was met with isolated and short-lived booing from a member of the crowd as he walked up to the lectern to make his candidate speech.
“This was given short shrift by both chair and candidate and no such incident was repeated. In my view, this one minor incident does not qualify as abusive enough, or of such import to have me worrying about my personal safety.”
“All we did was stand in a queue, go into the hall, sit down, listen to the candidates, fill in our ballot papers, fold our ballot papers together, put them in the ballot boxes (buckets) and leave the hall via the balcony exit.
“In my opinion, considering the very large number of members who attended, the AGM was exceptionally well managed, and with good humour.
“I can only conclude that there are certain members of the Labour Party who didn’t like the result of this poll and have therefore sought a pretext to make it null and void.
“By refusing to abide by the democratic decisions of ordinary members of the Labour Party you risk destroying its credibility and thereby losing the respect of the wider British public.”
“The only health and safety issue I noticed was inappropriate use of the entrance and exit doors, which were intermittently locked without any rational explanation. And the only aggression I noticed was the heckler at the top of the stairs whom I could not identify.”
“There were no problems inside the meeting whilst I was present, although I believe there were some minor incidents outside when people thought they might be excluded from the meeting.
“I am shocked that such an arbitrary decision can be taken in the name of the NEC to deny me my basic democratic rights in a party which I have been a member for 57 years. I think the NEC should meet speedily to reverse this undemocratic and arbitrary decision.”
“Whilst waiting, this was a good opportunity to chat with and meet new people. I looked downstairs and could see and hear a similar atmosphere to what I was experiencing. I noticed the long queue outside, too. I was waiting near to Peter Kyle MP who was also in good spirits.
“I made it into the second session. All speakers and candidates were treated respectfully and there was an air of enthusiasm in the room that was a pleasure to be part of. At the end of the session, so many expressed how good they felt to have been a part of the meeting. I stayed for the last session and it was much the same.
“To sum up, this was a well-run meeting , considering the unexpected numbers of people involved. There was no misconduct and the membership were patient and well-behaved at all times. I see no reason why the results of AGM have been annulled. I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation and running of the meeting.”
“There were people from all walks of life, elderly and families with young children waiting patiently for a few hours to cast their vote.
“Despite the cramped conditions and long wait the general mood of the people was positive and good willed, a feeling of comradeship people coming together on a Saturday afternoon to vote for people who had inspired them, a vote that in my view would bring about support of Jeremy Corybn the leader of our party. In my view, there was no hostility or aggression.”
“I just wanted to commend what I observed at a very well run AGM by Lloyd Russell-Moyle and his team. My wife and I arrived a little late and found ourselves queuing for the third sitting of the meeting. Everyone was very well-behaved and queued patiently.
“We felt very safe with our 13-month daughter in the sling. Fellow members were very polite and courteous to us.”
“Lloyd Russell-Moyle chaired the meetings well; the officer candidates all obediently stopped speaking after their allotted two minutes; there was no abusive language and I did not hear any heckling. People voted and left promptly after each meeting, enabling the next cohort to enter. The room did not appear overcrowded or unsafe at any time.”
“Obviously, the meeting was larger than the room could accommodate, but there was no pushing and shoving. People queued patiently. I was there early, so I didn’t have to queue for very long. The front desk was efficiently managed by a team of volunteers, who checked everyone’s membership status and gave out ballot papers and agendas.”
“At no time did I or my family witness any intimidation. In fact, we never heard as much as a cross word from anyone. The atmosphere was one of calm resolution under trying conditions and I commend all the officials for the way they handled it.”
“By the time I arrived, there were already fears being expressed that not everyone would be able to get in but people were calm and polite. We walked in and ended up queuing on the stairs for a while. All that time the mood was friendly.”
“My experience — and from what you can see from the images — the whole process was well-conducted in a civil manner — with everybody being very British, we do know how to queue.
“People were assisting others, particularly if they were unable to stand for any length of time, by getting seats and making way for people in wheelchairs who wanted to get to the lift.
“The organisers came to explain what was happening on a number of occasions, keeping us well informed and people listened and were courteous.”
“I had to queue for an hour-and-a-half for the AGM, because of the number of people who attended. But the efficient way in which the votes were held in several sessions seemed sensible, and worked out well……I strongly object to the way in which my vote — the first time I’ve voted at a party meeting — has now been disregarded.”
“The venue that had been booked was not large enough to accommodate the 600 plus Labour Party members who turned up so people had to queue and vote on the ballot in three stages and every candidate had to speak three times.
“This was done with patience and good humour. I stayed in the building throughout the day, as I had offered to help with the count at the end.
“At no time did I see any intimidation, any abusive behavior, or anything that could be described as a problem. In fact, it was noteworthy how cordial and cheerful people were considering they had to wait a long time on a hot day to participate in the voting.”
“I didn’t enjoy the long wait, but I did enjoy the meeting. Quite frankly, it was a relief to get away from all the dry and dusty middle-aged old men who pontificate, hold forth, and generally drive away any young person who might want to get involved in local politics.
“At no time during the procedures did I get sight of or hear any disturbance or abusive or unpleasant behaviour. Nor was there any rumour or sniff or murmur spread through the queue that any bad behaviour had occurred. Nothing percolated back to us out of the meeting hall and I was there in the building from start to finish.
“I joined Momentum today as direct result of us being suspended and am ready and willing to help in any way I can.”
“I cannot understand why the BHDP has been suspended.
“I attended the AGM and would like to stress that — despite the large number of members who attended — it was conducted excellently by the outgoing chair, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.
“The AGM was well-conducted, speakers spoke well, and there was no problem with the voting slips. I can see no reason for those not elected to complain about procedure. It was completely democratic.
“I am in absolutely no doubt that stories have been invented purely because of the way the vote went. My children — aged 8, 10 and 15 — felt perfectly safe among reasonable people out to support what they believe in and those people who attended know this, too. My family inside the meeting also saw nothing but support for the speakers; the same followed inside the voting hall.”
“I joined the queue outside City College at about 3.30pm — along with Lord Bassam and many others.
“I finally got into the hall to listen to the candidates and to vote at around 5pm. I think we probably cast our votes and left at around 5.30pm. In all this time, everyone was uniformly good–natured, cheerful, and patient. I was particularly impressed with the patience and calmness of the people checking our credentials.
“I did not witness one cross word from anyone — only a quiet determination to cast their vote.”
“The meeting proceeded in an orderly fashion and all the candidates were allowed to speak and put forward their views, each being given two minutes to do so by the chair, who very clearly explained the whole procedure.
“I do not therefore recognise the characterisation of the AGM given by certain people in the media. In fact, I felt very excited and enthused about the fact that so many residents of Brighton and Hove, whoever they intended to vote for, took the time on a Saturday afternoon to come and exercise their democratic right, in some cases waiting over two hours to do so.”
“I would feel that the chaos is due to the outgoing committee booking an inadequate hall knowing that we have a large membership
“I would really like to choose candidates based on their ability which we were denied, due to the lack of space and questioning. Democracy was, however, served and I for one respect that — as should the NEC.”
“I have just seen the news that the results of this vote have been annulled.
“I am horrified by this lack of respect for democracy. As someone who attended the vote I saw nothing untoward, unless you include one of the organisers refusing to lend me a pen because they suspected ‘I was voting for the wrong side’.”
“I would like to say that this AGM was conducted as well as can be expected considering the lack of meeting space.”
“We were soon informed that, due to the high turnout of members, the meeting would be held in three shifts (presumably due to health and safety requirements).
“While people queuing outside were surprised, I only heard good-natured responses to this announcement.
“At no point, between 3.50pm and when I left following the submission of the last votes, did I see or hear any abusive behaviour taking place.
“As far as I was aware, at no stage of the meeting was the safety of members compromised.
“My experience of the AGM was overwhelming positive with friendly discussions taking place between people in the queue. The only negative remark I heard was one man expressing irritation towards Momentum as he appeared to hold them responsible for his having to queue.”
“The AGM was over-subscribed for the venue and it was clear that the majority of people in attendance were pro Corbyn. Due to the swathes of members, it was suggested that only the vote, not the motions, would take place, and in rounds, to allow for more people to vote.
“It was also mentioned, however, that the doors would shut at 4pm — which would mean many people wouldn’t be able to vote. I was there from the beginning until the first round of votes — so around 5pm I think. There was absolutely no bad or abusive behaviour from anyone during that time.”
“I am absolutely appalled at the suggestions that the branch AGM features threats, intimidation and bullying.
“I was in the first tranche of voters and it was a good-natured meeting I thought. People listened to all candidates respectfully. In fact the only person booed — when he was walking up to speak — was in fact one of the winning candidates.”
“I was in the third group to enter the meeting and I didn’t experience any incidents. There was a misunderstanding when members less able to stand were given the option to come inside early (but not to vote until it was their turn) and this was interpreted to mean that they would not be able to vote at all — but the most that came of this was a few raised voices, if that.
“The conditions inside were busy but no more so than an airport or a pub in Friday night — people stayed calm and I have a lot of respect to the committee for achieving all they did in a trying situation.”
“It was exciting to see that many people engaged; the turnout was massive.
“Initially, it was a bit chaotic. But the management immediately took care of the situation. I found it very orderly and properly done. There were no difficulties in getting your vote through. I didn’t experience any nasty vibe or comments from anyone. I’m a bit worried by this decision from the NEC; I’m concerned it’s based on very little.”
“I am writing to describe my experience of the AGM on July 9, which I attended with my three-year-old daughter. We arrived to large queues to get into the meeting so waited a while before joining towards the back of the queue. We were in the third group to enter the meeting hall.
“I witnessed no poor behaviour on the day — in fact, quite the opposite.
“There were other families waiting so my daughter played with other children while I chatted to people in the queue. The stewards were visible at all times and even handed out water when the building got too warm. They should be congratulated.
“The atmosphere was friendly and I met members I already knew and had chance to talk to new people.
There was a feeling of amazement that so many people had come together in such a positive way hoping to make a difference in the name of the Labour Party.
“My experience was a good one — despite the long wait. I was impressed to see so many people and did not hear any arguments or abuse. This is not to say they did not happen, but they did not happen around me whilst queuing for an hour to go in and during the middle meeting.”
“I am writing to express my sadness with regard to the results of the AGM being annulled!
“I attended the meeting and found the whole event to be very respectful. I am 27 and have never joined a political party before. Frankly, I have always found it disheartening, but I chose to join as Jeremy Corbyn makes me feel hopeful.
“I was apprehensive when attending the meeting as there were a lot of people there and I was attending alone. The atmosphere, however, was very pleasant. I sat next to a lady and her elderly mother; we very clearly shared different opinions, but I had a pleasant conversation with them and we were respectful of each other views, end of.
“The more I write the more my sadness turns to anger. I can’t help but think this is a massive ploy to block Jeremy.
“Like many who attended the AGM and many who couldn’t we are utterly taken aback by what has happened. My experience of the first wave of the meeting was extremely positive.
“Obviously I was not involved or aware of any incidents outside as I was lucky enough to be let in first.
“Sitting at the back I was sat next to a gentleman in a wheelchair and his carer. I do not know who this gentleman was, but he seemed to have a lot of friends who came to say hello and welcome him to the meeting.
“It gave me a calming sense of solidarity and his carer was being helped by other members. This gentleman needed easy access into and out of the hall and there was every provision made to not block the fire escape at the back in order for his ease of access.
“As for the marshalling of the crowds — coming from an industry where we have to manage similar numbers — I was very impressed.”
“There were some officious and somewhat aggressive commands directed at the people waiting politely in the queue. Personally, I did not see anyone in the crowd respond to this, negatively.
“I was in the first group that entered the hall and there were no incidents during the voting. Members were asked not to clap/cheer during the speeches, because of the time restriction and they responded to this request.”
“Everything was comradely and orderly. My wife and I left with our son to a cafe down the road where we could see the queue to wait. We observed no issues. Returning after about half an hour we went inside City College and were some of the last people inside. There was a queue right around the stairs and up to the mezzanine level. Again, people were cheerful and simply getting on with waiting. We observed no problems.
“After a few minutes, we proceeded up to the mezzanine. This area was packed. The event was, however, well-organised and there was no disorderly conduct. I witnessed no disruption or shouting, just members queuing or sitting in groups talking. One member moved through the crowd giving our plastic bottles of water to people who needed them as it was quite warm.”
“When I arrived after rushing from work I joined my brother and his very pregnant partner in the queue. There was a feeling of great excitement and hope among the crowd as we realised how big the attendance was. We chatted amiably with our fellow comrades, mostly about the weather — which was glorious — and the joy we felt seeing so many people politically engaged.
“In the hall I chatted with and lent my pen to a man who I knew had different views to my own. I experienced no nastiness at all. Yes we clapped enthusiastically for speeches we agreed with, but there was no booing or negativity towards or from others.
“I feel quite aggrieved that my vote has been annulled along with hundreds of others due to spurious accusations that have not been investigated or proved. I felt the AGM was managed very well in the circumstances. The only difficulty it experienced was due to its overwhelming popularity.
“I really feel like the NEC is repressing democratic engagement. It is such a shame because all this energy and hope could now be being harnessed to fight the Tories.”
“I attended the AGM and made it into the first meeting. I saw no bad behaviour except for a couple of boos when Greg Hadfield was called to the stage to give his statement. This is very minor and I didn’t feel the need to complain at the time, I was however a little surprised. No other candidates received such treatment in the 1st session.
“Apart from a tiny and very brief chorus of booing directed at Greg Hadfield, the meeting was very peaceful, it was nice to meet other members and take part in the democracy of my party.”
“The only abusive incident I observed was when a young male organiser, whom I would recognise again, approach the queue as it neared the door.
“He shouted loudly and aggressively that the people outside would not be allowed to vote as it was too busy inside. He seemed upset and slightly out of control.
“Members of the queue began to argue and suggested that he could not arbitrarily deny them voting rights. I was surprised by the aggression in his voice and body language as he held his ground and he seemed to be upset that his authority was being challenged.”
“I attended the AGM as a new member of the party. I saw no evidence of any abusive or intimidating behaviour. I was in the first session of the three, and although it was lively it was conducted in a respectful and comradely way.
“I am appalled by the decision to suspend the local party and annul the results, and my response is to be even more determined to ensure that democracy prevails.”
“I saw no intimidation or abuse at all. (A man shouting at organiser who was trying to let us know what was happening was told by everyone else to shut up, but I’m assuming this doesn’t count.) On the contrary, I posted on Facebook at the time that things were friendly and patient.
“The actions of the NEC are truly shocking. Apart from anything else, the misuse of words like intimidation and bullying devalues them, putting at risk people who might really need help.”
“The meeting was peaceful. I witnessed clapping and initially a degree of vocal exuberance that was entirely well-behaved. The chair pointed out that extended clapping etc would delay the meeting and mean that the other people waiting might not be able to vote in the allotted two hours. Which people respected.
“The worst thing that I witnessed was when one of the candidates was booed by one person. The chair frowned pointedly in the direction of the booer and the person did not do it again.”
“The meeting was good natured with the chairperson acting like a true professional, limiting the speakers to two minutes exactly.
“There were no unseemly incidents, no shouting, no heckling, no comments made during candidates speeches.”
I find it disgraceful that the results were voided. It is a total nonsense. It seems to me very likely that any allegations were used by those who wanted the results overturned from the outset and were desperate to find any excuse. This was clear by the glum faces of some councillors and EC members at the meeting who were supporting candidates who lost.
As a member of the Executive of BH DLP I am eager to see our Party fully reinstated and the disproportionate decision to annul our AGM of 9 July reversed. As an individual Labour member, as well as a Branch Secretary in Brighton Pavilion CLP, I should be grateful to learn why I have yet to receive your email which I presume should have been sent to all local members. I am not the only member who has not received it, which I find rather worrying.
I am an elderly wheelchair user and attended/voted at the BHDLP AGM on July 9th, 2016, assisted by my daughter. While pleased to see the unusually large turnout, I did, initially, wonder how the organisers would arrange a fair voting system for such a large crowd and hoped that everyone would remain patient and keep their cool, particularly as it was a very nice day and people might easily have become frustrated at losing too much of the rarely available sunshine on the beach. However it soon became obvious that there was absolutely no cause for concern. As soon as organisers had agreed the most efficient method for allowing all eligible members to both hear the candidates and cast their vote, they informed everyone concerned and the crowd settled down to wait in an orderly queue. Instead of the alleged ‘abusive behaviour’ and ‘intimidation’, I only saw a large, but good natured and extremely patient gathering of people, who were actually willing to wait in line to cast their vote, something the LP should be proud of in these days of political apathy!! Although crowds can sometimes be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair, this time it was very easy, since everyone was helpful, polite and in good humour.
I recently re-joined the Labour Party having previously been an active member from 1975 to 2002 in Hornsey.
I attended one meeting of the district party prior to the AGM and participated in activities around the EU referendum. The meeting I attended was conducted soundly with around 100 people attending and all the business on the agenda was covered.
I attended the AGM and found a queue forming outside the hall some fifteen minutes before the meeting was due to start. This was annoying and frustrating and quite unusual for a Labour Party meeting. After some time we were told by the stewards that the hall was full and it would take time for us to get in, but that we would be able to collect our ballot papers and vote. Also that there would be a relay system for us to enter the hall and to hear the speeches of the various candidates.
I must have queued for a further half an hour but eventually was directed to the person who would deal with allocating the ballot paper for my ward. I produced my membership card which was duly checked against a list and I was allocated a ballot paper.
After a few minutes I was able to gain access to the hall where I listened to the candidates and filled in my ballot paper and handed it to a steward and left. The whole process took over an hour and a quarter.
I would like to make the following observations.
The major error made on that day was to book a hall that was far too small. The hall took about 250 but over 600 people turned up.. I suspect the party officials were as surprised as anyone else.
Given the above problem the rest of the organisation for the AGM was handled well.
When I arrived at the venue, City College, there was a long queue winding up the stairs which I joined. Everyone was good-humoured and there was a happy mood. I waited for some time and there was an announcement that we would all get in but that the election for new officers, etc. might have to be done in tranches and that the business of the meeting would be delayed until the next meeting. Everyone was very patient.
A man asked if disabled people could go up in the lift and gain admission to the hall and I was one of those who went in. This was the first meeting of the afternoon and when it started the prospective officers gave their speeches to applause. There was no disturbance and everything was carried out in a friendly manner except for a solitary boo, although I was not sure whether that was meant to be humorous. Apart from that one incident I witnessed no hostility, aggression or abuse of any kind. I think everyone understood that a larger venue should have been booked.
When we had voted we took our ballot papers and placed them in buckets and then left the room. I remember passing Lord Bassam who was queuing on the stairs and saying hello to him. The queue was again mannerly and during the whole time I was at City College I had neither seen nor heard any unpleasantness.
I could not believe it when I heard that the chair of the NEC’s Disputes Panel had arbitrarily decided to suspend the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party and declare the election void. I very much regret this decision and I can see no valid reason for it. I hope that it will be reversed at the earliest possible opportunity and the AGM results reinstated.
I attended this meeting for the entire duration, having arrived some 10 minutes before the start and queued to get into the third sitting.
I can confirm that despite the inconvenience caused by the unexpectedly large attendance I had no sense at any time of a lack of safety. Nor did I see or hear anything to support the claims apparently made later about intimidation and unruly behaviour.
The organisers, who I think were the outgoing committee, responded well to the large numbers and all expected checks of membership cards etc were made in an orderly fashion.
I approached the building just before 4pm, when the AGM was due to start, and found a queue of people that went along the street and round the corner.
I joined the end of the queue, and other people continued to join the queue after me.
After about 10 minutes, one of the officials of the Labour Party came along, and seeing me standing with a stick (I have arthritis and standing is very painful) he invited me to come into the building to have a seat while I waited. He took me up in the lift to the floor where the hall was, where there were many more people waiting. Someone found me a chair and I settled down to wait.
Although there were so many people waiting, they were all good humoured and patient, and very kind to me.
I was thirsty, but was 20p short of the money needed to buy a can of cold drink, and a total stranger gave me the money, which I thought was very kind.
I am writing to give you my views about recent events in Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party. I attended the AGM on 9 July.
When I arrived at about 3.30pm there were already many people inside the building as well as many others arriving. However, I managed to join the queue and get inside the doors almost straightaway.
Initially there was some confusion as to what was going to happen, given the large number of people. However, quite quickly we were told that all other business was to be deferred but that there were going to be several sessions of voting and that we would all be able to get in and cast our votes.
I therefore remained in the queue, where people were chatting together amicably, and eventually got in to vote during the second session. At no point, neither outside the venue, in the queue nor in the meeting room did I witness any hostility or harassment of anyone or any other kind of inappropriate behaviour.
Although I have been a lifelong Labour voter, I have never been inspired to get more involved or join the party — until recently. The rise again of the Tories, with them winning the General Election in 2015, and the EU referendum result in June, left me feeling very disillusioned with the state of the political debate in the UK. The one bright spot has been the emergence of a mass popular movement inspired by the resurgence of a socialist agenda within the Labour Party and the resulting large margin of victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 leadership election.
So, having signed up as a member of the Labour Party after the referendum, it happened that the BHDLP AGM was to take place soon after.
There was also a pro-Corbyn rally organised by BH Momentum to take place earlier the same afternoon. Although a little apprehensive following the stories in the media about bullying and intimidation associated with Momentum and Corbyn supporters, my wife and I decided we wanted to go along and find out for ourselves.
What we experienced took us very much by surprise. The Momentum meeting was packed with people who looked like us (ordinary people, in our 50s) and not young zealots or hard talking political types. The speakers were inspirational, and what they had to say about a better future that can be achieved together inspired hope, and was warmly received.
At the end of the meeting the large crowd dispersed into the surrounding streets and we and many others made our way to the City College for the AGM.
We recognised a few people along the way who had been at the rally, but it was very much a case of lots of individuals making their way through the streets, and there was no sense of a march or mass migration, which to be honest was what we had half expected.
On arriving at the AGM venue, we queued calmly as everyone was checked against the membership list, given their ballot papers and ushered through to the hall. It was very clear that the hall was not big enough to take all the people queuing, and when it was announced that all business apart from the elections was to be postponed and the elections would be carried out in 3 identical sessions, as agreed with all candidates, it seemed a sensible way to deal with it in the circumstances. We were in the first session.
The main business got underway, with the candidates for the officer posts given 2 mins each to make their case. Naturally some candidates received a more enthusiastic reaction from the audience than others, but there was no heckling, interruptions or any other negative response. All candidates who spoke were given a hearing and applauded. We completed our ballot papers at the end of the session, and filed out, placing them in one of the buckets provided for the purpose. After that we left to go home.
We were very surprised to hear the news a few days later that the NEC had annulled the election and suspended the DLP. Had we not been present ourselves we would have believed that there must have been problems, after all that is the kind of thing we hear in the media a lot. Not only did we experience a calm and professionally run meeting and election process, but we also know people who were at the later sessions, who reported a similar experience.
The only conclusion we can draw from this is that the complaints made to the NEC had no basis in fact, and I can only speculate about the motivation of those people who made the complaints. We were not at all surprised by the results of the election, having experienced the massive support and enthusiasm for the socialist-leaning candidates. This was not a takeover of the party by a particular faction, it was a reflection of the mobilisation of ordinary people who want to work together for a fairer society.
I was at the AGM and all I can say is I saw and heard nothing that could be regarded as anything near intimidation or bad behaviour. In fact the only “incident” in the first session was one person booing Greg Hadfield which was treated with disdain by all (pro and anti Corbyn groups alike). I listened to the second session for about 30 minutes and there was no bad behaviour at all
Warren Morgan left after the first session and although he did not look happy there was no indication of experiencing anything other than voting he did not approve of. The intimidation accusation is a total fabrication from what I saw. How can the vote be questionable? Voting slips were handed out on the basis of showing ID and having your name ticked off on a list of members provided by the Party. The election was run by the officers elected in 2015.
The only problems were; a very long wait to get in and the room not being large enough
I have not seen anything from anyone who was “intimidated”, only those who have heard reports of intimidation. The only exception was an incident in a local pub afterwards which was racial abuse of someone who had spoken at the Corbyn rally beforehand.
Having been to thousands of political meetings in my life I would not even describe the meeting as boisterous!
There was a lively and friendly atmosphere. My party card and details were checked by a volunteer and I found one of the few remaining seats for the first batch of people. I overheard a couple of people complaining about a lack of resources in May but it seemed like quite normal conversation.
As someone who just moved to Brighton I was a little nervous at knowing almost no-one, so I was comforted by the comradely feeling that the meeting expressed. It makes me more confident that I will be welcomed into the CLP, once its suspension is cancelled.
I’m aware if some of the accusations surroundibg the AGM. I attended the AGM and was impressed by ethos and process, as well as patience and cordiality of people queuing to vote. I’ve written to that effect already so hopefully you have access to that message.
Your email is unhelpfully vague, though, about precisely what you are investigating. I have to say that NEC handling of whatever it thinks it is handling has been high-handed and obtuse, particularly given the national context.
I am writing to give you my statement of events at the AGM in Brighton. I arrived At 3.30pm only to be told that we couldn’t enter as the building was full. I told the man that we had come to vote and that we had a right to vote.
The man then left as he realised that we were within our rights to enter. There was no argument on the door at all it was all done peacefully. I then went in and stood in a queue. The chairman then came out and said that we could all vote and that there would be 3 sittings as the room was at capacity.
There was general good humour and we were all happy to wait. We were then directed to our prospective tables of what region we lived in. I was given my voting papers which I then studied to see who I was voting for. I had already a good idea who to vote for as I had studied the email of all the prospective individuals.
After waiting about half an hour in a very hot room we were then allowed into the hall. I must say I didn’t hear one word of anger at all, everybody was happy to wait so that they could get a vote. In the hall we had a drink from the drinks counter and waited for people to get seated. I then listened to all the speeches. There was no anger or bullying at all. I never witnessed anybody spitting or being harassed. I then put in my vote and left by the hall door.
It was all organised in a vey good way and I felt pleased that I was able to vote at my first AGM. I feel very disappointed that my first step into politics was annulled especially as I had made an effort and had taken the day of work and payed someone to work in my shop.
As a candidate for the EC I was in attendance throughout all 3 sessions of the AGM and certainly can confirm the entire meeting was conducted in an organised and open manner. At no time did I discern any inappropriate or intimidating behaviour by those present.
The decision to hold the AGM in 3 sessions was the only viable option for the Chair to take on the grounds of safety given the large number of members wishing to participate in what was the greatest exercise in democracy ever in the history of the DLP.
The patience of those members who were wating is indeed to be commended, the queue was immense but all were regularly updated as to what was happening, understanding and accepting the unique circumstances which prevailed.
I fail to understand the reason for the accusations of misconduct and intimidation being levelled, those who have done so, certainly from my knowledge of the meeting, have no justifiable grounds for any such complaint.
I was also a scrutineer for the counting of the ballots for the officer positions of the EC which were carried out immediately after the meeting closed — the count was carried out in full accordance of Party rules with the votes for each candidate verified by the Chair and the candidates for the post, the successful candidates each had significant majorities — there is absolutely no question that the count was a true and valid reflection of the votes cast by the members attending the AGM.
I am more than willing to be contacted if you wish to clarify any points I have stated.
I write in response to the suspension of the Brighton and Hove CLP and the annulment of the elections held on 9th July.
It is not clear precisely what complaints have been made, and I call upon the party to release details of the allegations, although I would not expect that details of the sources of those allegations would be released.
I then wish to put forward my own evidence of my experience of the meeting.
I am Membership Secretary of Queens Park Ward, and served as a steward at the meeting, arriving at 3pm. The stewards were directed by Christine Robinson, Vice-Chair of the Party.
The meeting was held at City College, its usual venue, which had previously been large enough for all the members attending. I was in position at the top of the stairs inside the building, directing members to form two queues according to their constituency, on one side for Pavilion, on the other for Hove and Kemp Town, as this is how the tables where members were being signed in and allocated ballot papers were arranged.
Around 3.30 members began to attend in large numbers, and it became clear that the venue was nowhere near large enough. At this point, the stewards were directed to stop more people coming into the building as there were safety concerns, and to stop people already in the building from coming past the top of the stairs into the upstairs foyer.
There was initial confusion, because it was not clear what was going to be the outcome, and there were a couple of raised voices questioning whether members would be denied the right to vote. However, in the main people waited with commendable good nature and patience. There was certainly no violence or abuse, and even though I was standing as it were in the front line, I did not feel in the least bit intimidated by anyone.
Once the party officers had taken the decision to proceed with the meeting in tranches to elect officers, but not to take the motion on the agenda in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, our party Chair Lloyd Russell-Moyle communicated this clearly to the people waiting on the stairs and inside the building, and then to the people queuing outside. I heard one raised voice, but the decision was accepted, and people continued to wait patiently for their turn to enter the meeting hall.
My husband and two of my daughters were towards the end of the queue outside the building, and they all commented afterwards on how well-behaved and good-natured the members queuing had been, despite the long wait and occasional confusion.
After an hour or so, my position at the top of the stairs was taken by another steward, and I moved between the signing in tables, assisting with collating ballot papers for handing out, and fetching more ballot papers and candidate lists as needed. Members were queuing to show their cards and collect their papers in an orderly fashion, all the stewards signing them in were experienced and long-standing members, and the ballot papers and other stationery were safely under the control of the stewards and Christine Robinson. I cannot imagine that it could have arisen that papers were improperly taken.
I went in to the third part of the meeting to cast my ballot. Once again, the meeting was orderly and good-natured and properly conducted. There was no abuse and no threatening behaviour. The ballot cast was secret. I should perhaps add that I voted for a balanced EC of candidates from all sections of the party, and was not particularly enthusiastic about the clean sweep for the Momentum backed candidates. However, I of course accepted the result as democratically valid. And the fact that a good proportion of the voting was for non-Momentum candidates must suggest that no one felt intimidated.
I left the meeting after voting and did not remain for the count, so have no knowledge of any alleged discrepancies in voting. However, I
subsequently attended our normal Queens Park ward meeting on 12th July. Several members had remained for the count, but I did not hear complaints of any such discrepancies. The meeting had an informal discussion around the future of the party, and a wide range of opinions were expressed in a good-natured and comradely way. The meeting noted at the end its thanks to Lloyd Russell-Moyle for the competent way in which the CLP meeting had been conducted, despite difficulties. I attach a copy of the minutes.
To be honest, I find the complaints that have apparently been made quite incomprehensible. Neither I nor anyone else I know witnessed any inappropriate behaviour at the meeting. And the suggestion that officers and stewards acted either incompetently or deliberately in contravention of party rules I find quite offensive.
I would like to make it clear that I am happy to attend in person to give evidence to any enquiry should it be required. I am also more than happy for the statement I make here to be made fully public along with my name, as I have no fear whatsoever of intimidation from anyone.