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The Secret CLP Secretary diaries

The Secret CLP diaries – An intimate dairy of a CLP Secretary in an English county

The Secret CLP diaries – An intimate dairy of a CLP Secretary in an English county

Published by Adam Jarvis at Shakespir

9,900 words

Copyright 2016 Adam Jarvis

Shakespir Edition

Contents:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Chapter 1 – May 2014 – May 2015. Pages 4-11

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p<>{color:#000;}. Chapter 2 – May 2015 – December 2015. Pages 11 – 17

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p<>{color:#000;}. Chapter 3 – January 2016 – May 2016. Pages 17- 25

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p<>{color:#000;}. Chapter 4 – May 2016 – January 2017. Pages 25 – 26

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p<>{color:#000;}. 1966 – January 2017 – May 2017 . Pages 27 -31

Each chapter is named after the General Election victories of the Labour Party

Each area/seat/election name to protect the actual location is named after the 231 Labour MP’s i.e. Islington North

Chapter 1 – 1929

Tip

I sat at my laptop in my University house, and checked my emails, amongst another emails received was from my former Branch Chairman about an upcoming Branch meeting and selection of candidates for next year’s District Council Elections. It wasn’t the first email I had from him this year, I’m not sure how I had found myself on the email list for the local Labour Party Branch, although sadly not for the CLP meetings. I do remember in mid 2013, a phone call from my mum told me he had come knocking looking for signatures to put up a candidate for the recent by-election, he hadn’t got 10 signatures and we never stood in the election a local Independent had won which was a small victory. I promised myself if we had a candidate in the future we would always fight the election. From what I could remember I had emailing him apologizing for not being at home and so started a political conversation, where I had inadverntly said I was still a member of the party at my University address and would be returning soon; the first was no true and the second might also follow the same course. There were no minutes or Agendas included in any of the emails sadly, it would be some time as CLP Secretary that I would have a greater engagement and information supplied to members.

I was coming to the final few weeks of my University life, the knowledge that whatever happened I had at least passed the course, although whether this resulted in a 2:2 or 2:1 was yet to be known. Politically, I was also at a crossroads, I wanted to start my Masters at the current University – but a late change in the Postgraduate courses on offer had left me wondering whether taking a gap year was more responsible. If I had stayed it would have made me odds on to be the parliamentary candidate at little over 22, but for a party that would have finished 6 out of 6; was this an unwanted record I wanted, not the first time echoes of home and the chance to return home and campaign for Labour in a General Election looked far more exciting, I still remembered the sadness that I was unable to vote in the 2010 General Election for Labour due to my age. And so I uploaded the page, the face of Ed Milliband came up, and Labour’s policies, that were at this point quite generic and simply agreed on being against the Coalition Government, and so I clicked on a few buttons, and a few minutes later I had rejoined the party, using my Mums address, I immediately emailed the Branch Chairman sending my apologies for not being able to attend the meeting and my interest in helping the Parliamentary candidate in his campaign, he was the same person who ran in 2010 so yet again someone else I knew before I attended any meeting. I also casually mentioned that I would be happy to stand as a paper candidate where I live if there was still room, how wrong I would be.

Once I did return home in September after attempting to stay away from home for as long as I could, only two of the original four boys living in the house were left, it did occur me that I hadn’t received any contact from the local party, welcoming me or informing of the future events that were planned, only my luck of living on the same street as the CLP and Branch Chairman allowed me to know what was going on. This would be the first major change I would make when I took charge of the party, welcoming every member with information to their convenience. Time flies as it always does, and the first CLP meeting came around, and I had been able to get a lift off the Chairman who drove me to the meeting, this became more helpful than I had first anticipated as he discussed with me what he hoped to achieve from the meeting, and who he expected to get opposition from with his reforms. Whilst I stayed quiet in these conversations due to my lack of knowledge of the people themselves, his knowledge of my experience at University, setting up and chairing a University political society for over two years, not mention standing in previous council elections, gave him a good let out to speak of his worries and my more modern outlook on the political developments locally and nationally. Once there, Michael came over to members to thank us for their support, and I was next and so came a big handshake and a smile, if this was the start of my time in Labour then great, little did I know I would not see Michael at another meeting, at it would be my only chance to see someone act as Secretary and supporting the Chairman. Over time, once a few branch and CLP meetings had come my way I saw the big personalities, of which there were less than five, to me and my own ambitions it looked remanisant of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of John Le Carre’s book, which saw the members of the spy service described by the nicknames; Tinker, Tailor, Solider or Spy – a reference to their different personalities and capabilities.

Within this structure there were four branches, with this very rural constituency the Branch was the lifeblood of the party, meetings were held on a regular occurrence. Due to the Chairman’s reforms they were largely just talking shops of the CLP All members meetings, it was clear especially in our branch that as we also had the CLP Chairman and Secretary both living in the same branch that there was at times a struggle to understand what was Branch news and CLP news, not to mention the fact we were having the branch meetings at his home. Before the Corbyn surge of membership, this was a small group of less than five regular members attending, it was not surprising that I soon became an unofficial deputy Branch member always the one who he checked things up on. It was at this point, that he uttered the words to me, ‘we are struggling to fill in some target seats, would you be willing to fill one in for us’, I had nothing else to say than yes, my earlier offer to stand in Stoke Central had been dismissed out of hand as it wasn’t a winnable seat, with the offer of a car ride I was sure whether the new seat was I would be able to get there. Once the next CLP meeting occurred, it was clear I had become the subject of a number of email contact, as I was given the seat of Leicester West, alongside the eccentric Parish Councillor, who know one had wanted to go with. I had the unrivalled position of being one of the few prospective candidates who was willing to stand in any seat, this new seat I was offered was in another branch, and I had a frosty handshake with the branch officers, who must have already sensed my Chairman’s motives quicker than I had. The acceptance of my hard work in time, especially in connection to my fellow candidate would bring me close to the branch and would see my next two Chairmen come from its ranks, but like all relationships I would always keep a watcxh on them and at arms length.

A week after the meeting that I was given the seat, it was nearing Christmas and I decided I needed to contact my now fellow council candidate to iron out arrangements, I couldn’t get through to him by calling him, so I texted him, a fairly long text detailing my idea to get a number of different leaflets out by March, which was the official start of the election period, a few weeks went by and no text back or contact. Two weeks later I got forwarded an email by the parliamentary candidate notifying of a council introductory session in the council buildings, of course another lift was arranged, and this time I collected the forms and walked in, not as a standard candidate in a unwinnable seat but I was now part of the inner circle of decision making in the local constituency. Amongst the things we discussed queuing up to get to the meeting was another young guy who had been persuaded to stand in Liverpool Walton, yet again this town had no resonance to me, and I had no idea where it was. Once the meeting started and I was the only person under 35, a long diatribe of obscure local government rules and laws were read out, we got to the question and answers section and did I tell you that running late my fellow Leicester West candidate sat by me and this increasing the Labour representation by a staggering 4, at a meeting of over 30, he seemed eager to ask a question, and he asked how we stop children, especially teenagers taking selfies whilst casting their votes, and so started a few minutes of back and forth arguing whether putting the photo on Facebook or other soail emdia outlets contravened the laws of privacy, to cut a long conversation short no one knew, but all seemed to agree who were present that it was of small importance in the wider issues at play. At the same time my Chairman was getting more and worked up, head shaking from side to side over this distraction and of course to me I felt embarrassed to having to campaign alongside this man who clearly had no knowledge of what anyone under 30 wanted. Before leaving he said he had deleted the text, because he doesn’t reply to texts, once he left a general intake of relief caught us all present. My Chairman gave me a lift back and I was focused on being a paper candidate and not being part of his team, which would cause me more stress than I needed, a clearly annoyed James was already deciding a solution, he would eventually pull all resources from his campaign to win in the seat (he would cope by producing his own leaflets that hadn’t got the right legal names on, but that’s for another story).

It would be the last event I would enter as candidate for Leicester West, very soon after the other major internal power struggle, was won by the Chairman James with one of our only two Labour councillors forced to stand down, after a major argument over Labour’s local policies, and only after I would discover the reason an inability of the Parish Council to build a path from the cemetery to the road, to make it easier for residents to access the church and cemetery, that was a part of his 2011 election victory; we will ignore the fact that Labour’s won on its national and local policies and that he was standing in a safe seat. Once this resignation had been confirmed I was on the way to be moving to Liverpool Walton, I was already on the way to the seat without being notified but I agreed and was excited at 22 to be challenging in a safe Labour seat, alongside the new youth member Ramsey. With the email that offered this position was also an invitation to the Liverpool Walton Community Hall and my first branch meeting that I would attend outside of my own area.

Once I was driven there, I walked out alongside James, we looked like two revolutionaries walking into a partisan meeting; yet again I was not just walking in as a standard member but I was shadowing James in all of his duties now. We walked in, to the majority of people I had never seen, not for the first time branch members who don’t attend CLP or other meetings would cause me trouble. I was introduced to George the Secretary and Ramsey who was now my fellow candidate for the seat, two men who would form an important part of my first year as Secretary. Sat opposite was a guy I had seen once before, but knew he was the son of my now former candidate Alex; Ramsey sadly had never seen him before and introduced himself and me as the new candidates for Liverpool Walton. Only after a few awkward questions, of who he was, and how long he had been in the party, the conversation ended with him confirming that he was in fact William’s son and was standing in the neighbouring seat with a quiet obscure guy called Arthur, a man who would form a key part of my second year as Secretary, but one that was more strained than any other Executive members. James sat down near to me, put down his many folders and papers, handing some out to colleagues and led the meeting effectively but also at a fairly quick pace, I was confirmed without any speech or debate, and within a few minutes I was standing in a safe seat, and James had confirmed to himself and us in that meeting that he would be supporting us at all times in the election. I sat their amazed at how similar to my student days in politics, a chairman with the highest knowledge of the rules could be able to outmanoeuvre everyone and rule by himself.

I felt at once free, In the only situation I could see it happening I would be sharing the seat and the campaign with a member who was younger and less experienced as I was, it would be the first time with Labour that I would be organising the campaign largely myself. This District election was coupled with the Parliamentary General Election, and this at its rarest saw joint leaflets and campaigns, something I was not supportive of and would voice openly my disagreement. This team became very much James as Chairman and Agent, Michael now as General Election candidate and District election co-coordinator, and unofficaly me as the Secretary and joint campaign coordinator; within this tiny group of people, all of which lived within 5 miles of each other. Within this mistakes would be expected, the first problem was the dealy in leaflets arriving and their design. And so started one of those situations that would be repated in jest many years later; James was asked to follow up the leaflets situation as they were late, he arrived at the local printers, one he had never used before, and it was decided on purely financial reasons. When entering in the shop, and the standard question of where is order number … came the answer, ‘we are awaiting delivery from Germany, they have been delayed but we have been assured they will be here soon’, through a number of staggered questions later it emerged it was cheaper for them to printed in Germany and shipped over than it would be to be printed here. In a tiny part of England this case showed to future problems that would haunt me for the first and second year of my time as Secretary, one person making decisions that had largely nothing to do with them, and the EU being a thorn in our progress locally.

Once the leaflets were delivered to everyone, I could see for cost saving measures, the back of every district election leaflet featured a General Election message that was very national and had a major image of Ed Milliband featured, when all surveys and think tanks had commented that he was a weak link and was polling behind both Cameron and Clegg in personality stakes. On the other side was the biography for each candidate, my section featured a misspelling and the wrong way to phrase my University, other people had names and jobs spelt wrongly, and it wasn’t a good start to the campaign. I would take note of this, and in the future would endeavour to have biographies doubled checked and the responsibility shared out to avoid mistakes to be made due to a lack of time. The journey in less than a year since I had previously stood in the City Council elections at University to know having my photo and information on the same page as the Labour logo and brand, it was a proud moment. So started a number of weeks of intense campaigning door knocking, leafleting, and even meeting in obscure car parks to hand out the leaflets to all the volunteers. Over time Ramsey’s lack of experience started to show, running late to meet up’s, starting long conversations with residents when there was a limit on how long we would be out each day; luckily for me the nominating was fairly easy as these were already signed at the branch meeting and the need to go door knocking was largely unabated. Now that I am in charge of collecting these on certain occasions I know the stress that occurs.

As time went by and national politics of course became louder, Labour were clearly losing in the noise of the Conservative party machine. It was astonishing only a few days before the election day that I along with Ramsey went on our first Parliamentary campaign route in the candidate’s car, unlike the District Election this was even harder to win, and so a focus campaign which I understood and would in the future propose myself was started. Going to a few seats where it was perceived there was a greater Labour chance, including the two seats we had councillors in, a team was assembled and a number of leaflets were distributed along the streets. No door knocking was discussed as we had so many leaflets left distributing them out in as short a time as we can was the best option for the situation.

Once the election night came and went, pretty uneventful on a local level as the expectant final result which saw us finish second was completed, although that didn’t come in until 7am the next day! I spent the night watching avidly every election result from every seat and came across a former seat I was involved in less than a year ago, amongst the many pronouncement of the results for every candidate, coming last, I believe 6 out of 6, was a former friend of mine who had stood for Parliament as he had promised barely over 20 years old. It only gave me more resolve in my decision to help out in a more winnable seat and one which I would one day stand in myself, and have a realistic chance of winning. Like all elections, the actual result came by quicker than expected, and it was soon over, but I still had my District Election results to see and the other parish elections we were contesting. Being close to home, I arrived on the Friday morning early, ready for a long verification and then count in the sports hall, it seems there were still Conservatives left celebrating last night’s victory, luckily all those standing in the council elections were the most concentrated of their party staff. The seat I was standing in was not only perceived to be a Labour seat but had the most candidates in due to it being a 2 seated ward, I fulfilled my role as Counting Agent for my seat, but with a high turnout, almost certainly to the fact the General Election was held on the same day I moved to the other seats and offered support to my other candidates, with all rarely in a fight in any seat this support was warmly received. With the Council Agent, being our parliamentary candidate and the CLP Chairman being his Agent, we were left short for the council count, and I simply due to experience and my candidacy I found myself coordinating the count, acting as Lead Counting Agent, as the only one who had campaigned in every seat alongside the parliamentary candidate, and us missing two candidates who were working with me; I had a great knowledge of the state of the seats and our own poor performance in them. I will cut this short, as I lost the seat, but did beat the Green Party candidate to fifth, so do finish last for the first time; we only held onto one of our seats, and the fact there were only three candidates standing for the two warded seat, of which two were Labour candidates isn’t a hold we much celebrated. Once the results were in the process of being confirmed, the CLP Chairman took me to the side, as I was shadowing him for a few months now I knew he was standing now at the next AGM, along with the Secretary; he said he thought I was ideal to be the next Secretary, with the idea of it being a good platform for me get experience to one day be promoted to Chairman and even parliamentary candidiate.

Chapter 2 – 1945:

Quote – ‘Your idea to have a topic to debate at every meeting, is a great step forward for the party locally’

They say eventful moments can easily pass you by, and within minutes of becoming Secretary, the next item on the Agenda was discussed, and I found out how my Chairman was going to be. The man who James had earmarked for the role had not attended so the ageing Vice Chairman was persuaded to be Chairman for a year. On top of this announcement I had also offered to go to conference along with my new Chairman to Brighton, with the problems I saw come my way in the first six months not attending Brighton didn’t feature that highly. The offer of a car ride down there for the week quickly got changed and I found easier to navigate my way round whilst being in the CLP anyway.

I got a membership list given to me in a hard copy of the current membership list by James after the meeting and kept it safely in the folder, I wrote down the email addresses and as soon as I got back started to draft my first email to members. It would be the last membership list seen in the CLP, as I was one of the instigators for a more online kept membership list for the CLP, and after Jeremy Corbyn’s victory and a membership manager was appointed to national office, a helpful email would circulate usually every two weeks to me outlining changes in the membership of the constituency, a quick forwarding to the relevant officers in each branch would save time and paper. A few clicks later and the first email was sent out, how do I phrase it? Formal or informal? I decided to copy previous emails styles I got and made it as warm and informative as I could, we already had the meetings planned until the New Year, so not that much discussions was needed. I also send an email to regional office outlining the new officers, soon a visit to the Regional Office was made, starting a long love affair with the building and the people, many meetings and events later, I would know people purely on the fact I had seen them at the meetings in the building, I even once attended a meeting that had nothing to do with constituency, but that’s for another story. It did though take me a number of months to access Membersnet – the online member’s portal, due to slowness in communication between regional and national office; it’s no wonder that I am still one of very few people to access it for the CLP. By the time the first meeting had come round, I had very quickly took over nearly all details of the meetings, and had redesigned the hand outs to make them more appealing and informative, and committed myself to spend the first year having a greater engagement with members. The first meeting was largely looking back at the previous election and discussing the leadership election that was getting under way, it was clear my new chairman was seeing himself as a mentor to me and I was included in all decisions and announcements.

It is worth at this point discussing the change in leadership and member rules, started in 2014 after the Falkirk debacle, dubbed the Milliband rules, it created affiliated supporters where union members had the option to join the Labour Party or not, moving away from the old block voting. On the face of it, this move made no difference, especially as in a small rural constituency like ours, union members would joined at one point and then stay with us or choose to leave, their wouldn’t need to be a lot of time spent in checking for new members. The problems started with the Registered Supporters ‘£3 members’, a number of people in the CLP had no idea who had become supporters and what the rules were. At one point I had to print off information from the national website to confirm to myself what the rules were, at a number of Regional meetings this problem was brought up time and time again, although for many it was knowing who were supporters at meetings, and who could vote, luckily for us no supporters came to our events. Little did I know that less than twelve months later another leadership election would be called and more problems would occur.

As the year drew to a close, I started to hear whispers that Michael our former parliamentary candidate who had basically disappeared was preparing to make a bid to become the Laboiur candidiate for the Police and Crime Commissioner election schdueld for May the following year. Amongst the earlier Skype calls with him earlier in the year confirming members details and contacts I heard nothing concrete. An email was circulated around soon enough from Regional Office confirming the details of the dates and process to being selected, unlike last time though where it was a straightforward vote, it would be changed to make it more democratic (so they say). This meant that a meeting would need to be called within a two week period at the end of January where the candidates would attend and run a hustings similar to a parliamentary one. We didn’t have a meeting planned for this early in the year, so started plans for the third Monday of January to have a short meeting to select our candidate, with it being held over the whole of Staffordshire and Stoke it was obvious the candidate would need to be known well locally and be willing to travel around to canvass and support their campaign. Michael soon confirmed to me that he would standing, and he needed my help, and so started the most diplomatic no’s in history and one that lasted a while, because it all started with him needing the list of officers from every CLP locally to email and send his leaflet too. This was loosely against the rules, but I tried none the less and emailed two officers I knew on a very weak excuse that I needed their details for future regional campaigning and the upcoming County Party meetings. A while later, I got one reply back telling me the names and so I forwarded to Michael, but only the Chairman details so it wouldn’t look like I

Whilst it was still early I put on the Agenda and spoke at Branch Level the County Council elections in 2017; the County Party wanted all candidates confirmed by summer 2016, to give us a year to campaign – little did they know what would happen to the country, our national leadership and the suspension of meetings that would soon happen. As the man who led this, partially to give me something to do and to push through women and young candidates to put themselves forward, it was something I quickly become passionately about; unsurprisingly I put my name forward for my home seat. Quickly a rough slate of candidates appeared, and dates and times for interviews by the County Party were set, once I got interviewed I could stand in any seat so if I got moved I wouldn’t need another interview for the seat. Once a train journey got booked and I started walking to the area, so started a long expedition to try and find the Union building that had no sign on and no obvious entrance, little did I know that I had forgot to write the actual number down, all I had to go on was a postcode. After a number of directions asked, included from a BMW garage, that had no idea where it was, I arrived, actually still early. I greeted the party officials there and sat down waiting for my interview, as I was standing in an unwinnable seat, as Secretary I was responsible for the candidate list for my area so I couldn’t not stand in 2017 anyway. A few people who were clearly standing in target seats were remembering notes and stressing over their answers, maybe the experience of doing this off the top of my head will help in future selection meetings.

As Christmas drew near I was starting to feel comfortable in my role, at a CLP level but also at Branch level where I was starting to orchestrate changes there as well, it was at this time I made plans for 2016 to be the year of change, reforms and greater branch dialogue was a must, all of these initiatives along with greater engagement for members was not just to increase membership and voters to the party, but was for me to build contacts, get friendly with every branch, this would see me run one the following year and appoint my allies as officers – this was all for the ultimate goal, but one that only loosely got discussed, until a chance drinks on Christmas Eve when Michael was free and we were officially summing up the year and the challenges ahead. I asked James down as well after Michael asked me to, we met in a quiet country pub and immediately discussed Michael’s plans for the PCC, it was clear early on much to the surprise of me and James how much he thought he could actually win the selection, and his plans on the actual election next year, he was true the policies and the leaflet was well made and professional. It soon would become clear that this would make no different anyway as once there were only two candidates selected, it was decided they would only send their biographies and polices to the meeting. Michael also confirmed another rumour that he was in the process of moving to North Wales, as a precursor to his own retirement and so would transfer his membership to their in preparation for next year’s Welsh Assembly elections, I would only see him a few times again. After a broad discussion on the national situation, he asked me where I was thinking of being the next parliamentary candidate, I had never been asked straight up before and thus asked maybe I was thinking about it in the future, it wouldn’t be the last time that I would be asked that question, and as the active membership actually decreased over the following year anyone I saw as a rival quietly stopped coming to meetings or were already overawed by the responsibility they already had.

The truth I had thought about the future, when I became Secretary soon after the 2015 General Election, I saw my role as a 5 year plan (not a Star Trek reference) not as a quick fix and one that would be rewarded by standing or running the future parliamentary campaign that was still projected to occur in 2020, alongside standing in every election over this time that I was able to do. The later of these would become apparent very soon after the meeting, when on a local Facebook message board I read rumours of two parish Councillors walking out over a disagreement with the budget, a few clicks later it was confirmed on the council website that this was indeed true, and there were two parish by-elections for the same day, assuming they would be called, like other elections this would require 10 names from the ward to call the election and then a more straightforward proposer and seconder once the election was called, with the fact I would stand for Labour this would be fairly straight forward. Over the Christmas break I choose the seat that had the greatest Labour members in and made preparations to call, stand, run and act as Agent in this election – the first time as Secretary I could truly say I had orchestrated the election, it would be my first time standing in a Parish election, and Labours fist time contesting one in this area in well over twenty years.

Chapter 3 – 1950:

Tip – It would be wiser to stand as an Independent in a Parish council election, and then if you can win you can promote Labour’s policies on the council, instead of loosing heavily due to a party problem

I had printed out the list of Labour members in one of the two wards that had the most members and most active supporters, along with the council’s own form to ‘call an election’, so I begun to knock on doors in the middle of a cold January and ask for signatures, I promised every member that signed it that Labour would put up a candidate, little did they know I was the only one interested in doing it and was basically calling this election for my own career and local party aims, it was certainly not to win or even campaign in. I did ask myself quite a few times when I was doing this, was I just helping a Conservative win an election, but the truth is along with many people across the country, if you don’t call an election it becomes a casual vacancy and then the local council which is usually majority of one political party votes on the new councillor, so in a way I was supporting democracy with this act. Once the names got filled out, it was clear no one else was collecting names, so all look positive when I anonymously walked to the council offices and dropped the form off in a unmarked brown envelope, ready for the Electoral Services staff to see. A week later, the election got officially called in both seats, so someone else had called one in the other, there does seem to be interest.

This fight in the by-election was part of a key step change in my role as CLP Secretary, not only did I start to sign myself with the newly created title of Branches Co-ordinator but I started to demand more contact from all of the branch officers, with a greater engagement and contact with members not to mention branch officers, I started to see Branches as a key barometer of feeling from a CLP level and regular meetings and contact, not to mention a attendance list helped me to identify regular members and members who don’t got to CLP meetings but are still active locally. This would inevitably lead to the problem of the fourth branch – the one that never met, and then did but with no contact from me, a year later the fifth branch would also cause problems, but that’s for another chapter. By the run up to the 2015 General Election, this branch had all but stop meeting and was simply using its members as volunteers to get out leaflets and campaign material, the two candidates for the District Election were paper candidates and in my time campaigning forgot that we were in the same Council, so was the rural nature of our constituency. Once I got in contact with the former chair in early 2016 she acknowledged to me that a number of regular members had left and they had struggled to restart the branch, as I had the members list, I saw my only option was to restart the branch myself.

It was certainly a busy time doing a number of different tasks at the same time, my first attempt to get the two names to officially stand as a Labour candidate had failed. I had got the signature of my branch chairman to stand and as both seats would have an election on the same day. I quickly got my Branch Chairman to sign the forms to confirm me as a Labour candidate, I walked over to the ward where I had collected the previous ten signatures, and started a long process of collecting only two signatures, the pain. This along with the names confirmed on who would be standing where, only one Independent would stand, in the ward I had collected signatures for, so to stop Conservatives from having a easy run in the seat I had made a late decision to stand in the neighbouring seat, and a easier chance to collect the two names to stand. Once my papers in, I put in my diary 5 weeks time the election would happen.

Once this had been completed I prepared for the Police and Crime Commission Elections and the quickly arranged meeting we had organised for the vote. After a number of emails exchanged it emerged due to the fact that the two candidates couldn’t make some meetings due to work, it was agreed that no candidate could attend any of the meetings to promote neutrality. At our meeting we were happy to receive the Deputy Director of the Regional Party who was the independent person watching the vote as of course Michael was still a member of this CLP. Whilst I was handing out the quickly printed out voting slips, he was having to answer questions on the failings of the party, only six months after losing the election and now finding itself under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn it was testing times for everyone who cared about the party. Im sure this was only one of a number inquests into why we lost that he had attended, sadly Milliband was usually heralded as the reasons I believe at the time and still do that is an easy answer but widely misjudges the views of those who did vote Labour and for does that didn’t why they didn’t. And then the voting happened, the press release was prepared, the new crews were outside waiting for every rumour coming out and all phones were confiscated – well no that might have been in my imagination, in fact most of the words discussed was who was the other candidate, and what is the role of the PCC anyway, I’m sure for another meeting. Once a double check of the result was confirmed, Michael won unanimously, it would be more surprising it someone had not voted for him. It became clear and was eventually confirmed by Regional Party that this was the only CLP that he had won and with the fact two CLP’s couldn’t meet he won by a nine majority, a clear majority.

We still haven’t had another meeting in January, and that is something I am very happy about, but after this meeting came the issue of the Branch I was trying to resurrect. I noticed that the most of the new members that had joined were from this branch and so the strategy was to get one of these passionate embers to become Chair and help me to run it. Due to the fact that It became clear that I would be chairing the meeting was Chris unable to make it, I made it in the most suitable location and time for me, and so Saturday at 1pm was found, at the local library, why not a public building, well we are certainly not meeting in a private club are we. I had a few people who had emailed me regularly who were happy to attend, and so I earmarked a Saturday in March to meet and so be the first meeting I would chair, for moral support I asked my vice chairman to attend, and take notes. Once the meeting was paid for and I had contacted Regional Office if they had any speakers for any CLP meetings and this upcoming meeting, no reply, well I’m sure once I see him again he will have a list of prospective speakers for future meetings. We both arrived much earlier to get the room set up, not the first time more chairs were set out than arrived, sheets were printed out and a slow movement of people came to the room for the first meeting in nearly two years.

Amongst the people arriving, I had to take a double check as the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner arrived and introduced himself, he is also the leader of a District Council near to us. Immediately the Agenda had to be rewrote and I was happy to let him speak for as long as he wished to, the less I had to speak the better, due to my poor knowledge of the area. Once the speech was completed, I moved over to restarting the branch, which of course held more advantage to me on a CLP level than the people present at the meeting. A number of new members attended which gave me confidence that setting up the meeting was a good move, happily one of them offered an interest in the chairmanship which I said would be great, the former Chair offered to be the Secretary, I even had chance to discuss candidates for next year’s elections. The meeting finished a bit late than I had expected, and another meeting in a few months was set up at the same time and location.

My positive energy now carried over to the Parish by-elections; sadly by the time I found time to contest it, only a week before the Postal vote was due to be delivered. I had a lack of time and resources, with no other support from anyone I wrote and printed out ten sheets enticing people to vote for me, no policies or messages were put on the papers, only my name and the parties badge, and it was specifically delivered to Labour members in the seat. Naturally a rain drenched evening for the delivery drop occurred, but all ten were delivered, and I waited for the Election Day the following Thursday. Soon the day came, I walked round the village on the day and there was very little activity, I was sure especially in this rural seat that the postal vote would have been the key winner, and who ever had won this would have been secure in their victory, as Agent something I would note in future campaigns.

As usual the election count would start at 10 pm, this time at the local school instead of the parish hall, had they already anticipated a low turnout? Sadly my experience now got in the way, as I started walking at 10 to get their once the vote had actually started instead of watching the Verification of votes happen; it was only after the event that I learnt that if it is a very low turnout the Returning Office could declare the Verification of votes counted before 10 to allow the actual vote to start dead on 10 pm, getting their just before half-past was clearly a mistake. Once we got into the building after finding the correct door to enter, and signed in, it was clear that an announcement had already been made as people started to walk towards us and out of the room. I made my way to the front and approached the Returning Office who I had saw at previous events, it became clear nearly all of the losing candidates had not attended and as the only one there I was given the chance to read off the form and 15 votes to my name the lowest of all the candidates, I was though given a staggering 10% of the vote with that support, giving you a idea of the numbers involved. I thanked the staff their and walked out casually into the cold February evening, the first Labour candidate to stand in this Parish election and ten percent, UKIP also stood for the first time in this seat and got 20 more votes than me, within a few months of this election I would see how they could do no work locally but still get support, ‘Bring back control’ would become a international recognised slogan.

Once I had recovered from the loss, and realised it was also the first time I had been an Agent for an election before I moved onto another important factor in play at this period was the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner Elections, an election nearly all members look disinterested in, and even when speaking about it conceded that as a principal I don’t support politics coming into policing, but the chance to remove the Conservative guy already holding the office was to me at least the chance to get a labour guy in office in my area for the first time in many years. With the candidate already speaking in an event in the constituency where I offered him all our support I was confident it getting a few leaflets out in all the branches. The election took on a new importance with two different announcements, the first that there will be an EU Referendum sometime in June or July of the same year, meaning I could use the volunteers and the streets they delivered in this PCC election for the next election. The second announcement came in the form of an email where without any warning or confirmation I was made Sub-Agent for my area on behalf of the Regional Director who was the Regional Agent; this meant that I was now co-ordinating the wider campaign for my local area, and was passionate about being

I was surprised how many leaflets I got for the campaign, a highly impressive photo of the candidate and some well meaning policies were produced on all sides of the leaflet; in a beautiful red background it made it obvious that this was a Labour campaign. For the first time since my time as Campaign Co-coordinator, I had already been made the EU Referendum Champion but this would only start once this election happened, so I had the chance to use the four branches I had helped to nurture, and improve their communication during my year in office, it would also help to start a list of regular volunteers. With the lack of transport, my Vice-Chair who was working with Regional Office in this election was a key help in getting the leaflets too me, and once they got printed off they were delivered to my door on Friday night. In many ways my dreams had all come true, four boxes of Labour Party leaflets packed full were in my house, and I was responsible for the whole campaign locally, getting them out, not leafleting the same streets and getting Labour’s message out. Admittedly my mum wasn’t best pleased with the boxes, it would be the start for

Through my work rebuilding the East Ham Branch and keeping strong contacts with the other Branches I was able to get a lot of leaflets out. I started to build up contacts not only with each Branch Officer but with each village, as one Branch could represent a number of villages that are all important to the party’s progress in electoral seats. As Sub-Agent I was responsible to attend the Postal vote, the verification of counts and the actual election count at the Council Offices, it also brought me in contact with rival political camps, especially in our area where Liberal Democrats and Greens are all but nonexistent. I attended the Verification of the votes at the Council Offices on the night of the election, and in the meeting hall came across two older looking people sitting in seats; it became clear whilst they were chatting that they were councillors and almost certainly Conservative. Once I sat down so started a first entry to what would become a long running awkward and strained relations with the rival Conservative team, certain stereotypes from both sides led to . As the night went by us three were the only ones to attend the verification, I only stayed for an hour and another walk back home with us in a strong second, but still a second in the end. I didn’t attend the actual vote the next day, and had no offer from anyone else in Labour to attend, so I saw it on Twitter the next day and texted Regional Office the situation based on that, not the first time social media announcements would allow me to pretend I was there.

Chapter 4 – 1964:

Quote –

Second year as CLP Secretary and Campaign Coordinator

EU Referendum

Chapter 5 – 1966

Tip – Always chase up the Electoral Roll in elections, especially in those seats with first time candidates

By the time the New Year had passed, serious discussions of the leaflet designs and a strategy were planned, so I organised a candidate briefing session to get all the candidates in the same room and discuss how much each candidate wanted to distribute. We had three first time County Council candidates, with two of them standing for election for the very first time, it would be the boring stuff like Nomination Forms, the election period, purdah and spending that would need to be covered, I would be liaising with these new candidates to make sure everything would go smoothly. Like in all of these meetings, the ones that don’t come are those where there is most worry about, usually the paper candidates who don’t seem to have any recognition of deadlines and the wider strategy. The meeting itself was positive, photos were took, biographies finally wrote down with an agreed general leaflet .

One note to watch out for as CLP Secretary is when a crucial members goes quiet, they have lost interest and won’t organise everything or just as bad they decide not to be part of the campaign, it would be the latter that would hit me a few days after the meeting. The candidate for our target seat sent me an email out of the blue saying for personal reasons he would not be able to stand as a candidate, I would see him at future meetings and whilst the topic was never discussed again, his decision would always confuse me; although as it’s a target seat the advantage of having other candidates lined up would make the issue forgotten in the large run of things.

In the previous selection meeting in the branch, there were three candidates, with the winner now not contesting the seat; I contacted the Branch to see if the two candidates in the last selection were up for running again. The Regional Party conformed that if more than one candidate offers to stand in the seat then the Branch has the power to select the second place member without having to call another selection meeting, this was especially important as the next Branch meeting they had planned was a Campaign meeting so they couldn’t select . By the time the emails were exchanged it emerged the second placed candidate was preparing for her new job role and couldn’t make the time to stand as a candidate, so with no one else the third placed candidate was appointed, surprisingly for a third place candidate he was already the Parish Councillor for the area and sat on a number of independent and crucial local groups, so he was a well known local resident.

As Agent and Campaign Co-ordination for the election, the election being viewed as successful would determine on the target seat and the other two seats that were previously target but are now at best seen as swing. I used the excuse of the upcoming National Action Campaign Day on the NHS and the free 2,000 leaflets to start our campaign a bit early, at the previous candidate day we had agreed on Saturday at 10 am as a set campaign day for all elections – that way members would now when the campaigning was happening. Sadly only five appeared on the first day but as it was a cold January Saturday morning I saw that as a good start, with Andrew now our candidate he led us to where he wanted us to stand in the town centre and for an hour or so we handed out the brightly colour red NHS leaflets. The leaflets was more helpful in the previous Action Days as one the back it had more Labour’s policies on Housing, schools and tax – which would affect the local area than the NHS. By the time the first introductory leaflets had been printed with the candidates and photos included we met up another Saturday this time in February – and much brighter may I add to deliver the leaflets. A good eight attended the location point included a young member who was on his first campaign day, as someone who only a few years ago was in his position going on my first campaign it was a nice full circle for me. We used our knowledge of the previous campaign day and the streets we had gone down, and so the morning went well and we were able to distribute the leaflets quickly, a staggering 600 in the hour and a half was a good days work, and helps the Branch in its later leafleting.

The last CLP meeting held in March before the elections and before the AGM was largely a confirmation meeting to check what we have achieved so far, and the leaflets we would hand out during the election period, a proposal from the Executive to spend a fair bit of money on leaflets for the target seat and the nearby swing seats was approved; and all that was left to discuss was getting them out in the seats that had offered to get some out, I was given 200 straight up before the election was called and the possibility of further leaflets during the election period. As the meeting made its way through the Agenda points and a good response for Delegates to the Annual Labour Party and National Women’s Conference, this year for the first time there would need to specific Delegate’s to the Women’s Conference due to the passing of last year’s Conference which stipulated they would now be able to debate and pass policy’s. Two of the newer candidates (one had rejoined after a 20 year hiatus) offered themselves to go to Brighton and over the next few days through email correspondence they would become our Delegate’s; a relieve for me as I would have had to attend the week on behalf of the CLP as I had broadly offered at a previous meeting, the chance to only spend the Saturday at Conference as a Youth Rep helped me to to spend too much money and time in Brighton – which is a long way from home!

As I was preparing myself with dates and times for the County Council elections, a look on the council’s website to confirm these dates, allowed me quite fortuitously to discover that a District Councillor had resigned the day before, gave me a headache of knowing we would be expected to fight it but what the process should be. During the election period no meetings are allowed to take place, except campaign meetings which are specifically aimed at preparing and confirming details of the campaign. With this in mind I saw very quickly that a decision would need to be made largely within a small circular of Officers, and from this hopefully a candidate will be chose. The seat itself was within the target seat in the County Council elections so the chance to get a respectable result was likely, only increased by the unique nature of by-elections. By my predictions the Council would want the election to be held on the same day as the County Council elections due to cost and time reasons, this would prove to be correct. I immediately proposed to my Chairman that the current candidate for the County seat should also be selected as the District seat, this would mean we wouldn’t need to create a new leaflet and members of the public could vote for Labour in both elections with the same candidate. He agreed and after a while later receiving reply’s from the local Branch, they also supported the decision, and he was selected as the candidate, a decisions that would only require signing two nomination forms – many of which I would expect would come from the same seat anyway.

With this decision taken largely in email correspondence, I notified the rest of the candidates the news and informed them of the candidates briefing at the council the following week that would allow us to receive the paper work and confirm the start of the election period. At the meeting there was just over half of the candidates there, and I was able to give them the Agents form that I had earlier printed off, showcasing my organisation skills and role as Agent. The meeting only lasted just over an hour and was highly informative and useful especially for new candidates; sadly the few who weren’t able to make it would become the ones who would cause us the most stress and worry about getting their Nomination Forms in on time.

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The Secret CLP Secretary diaries

This diaries chronicles the time working in a Labour Constituency Party in England as CLP Secretary, elected to this role in 2015 after the General Election of that year. It charts the pressures that are required in this role, the fortunes of the party, competing in a number of local and regional elections. During this time, we have seen the greatest amount of members join the party in its history, two leadership elections within the space of a year and a historic decline in the fortunes of the party. It will reflect on the EU Referendum, the strategy employed and the views of the membership and its effect on the party.

  • Author: Adam Jarvis
  • Published: 2017-03-30 17:35:12
  • Words: 9853
The Secret CLP Secretary diaries The Secret CLP Secretary diaries