Report from a member of Hallam CLP
On Thursday 26 November Sheffield Hallam CLP members not only witnessed first-hand the very real and very damaging consequences of the new authoritarian style of the Starmer leadership but also experienced the impoverishment of the fundamental democratic principles on which the party should stand.
It quickly became obvious that members had turned out in high numbers for the CLP meeting because of concerns and contentions regarding the fundamental rights of free speech and debate within their party. The majority were clearly wanting to discuss the existential crisis currently at play within their party and the motions gave some opportunity for this.
The initial mood was comradely and polite but expectant and focused. Initially members were met with topics which should have been re-scheduled given the gravity of the current situation. One has to wonder why they weren’t.
Finally, after nearly 2 hours, the meeting managed to arrive at the main focus of the evening ie: the motions. Of the six, like the play Macbeth, three were deemed to be ‘those that shall not be named’ and were ‘temporarily’ bypassed ‘for later’.
However, three were deemed uncontentious enough to be allowed to be heard. Surprisingly, given the crux of all the current tensions, one was in support the TUC Resolution on Palestine and one was to call for a vote of no confidence in David Evans, the man who had, merely hours before, dictated what could and couldn’t be discussed in the meeting.
Despite the diktat from above these three motions passed with clear majorities, indicating the political temperature of the room, the strength of feelings of the membership and their stoic resolve to openly challenge the Kafkaesque attempt to block freedom of thought and speech.
Throughout the meeting time was either lost or stolen from the main items on the agenda and contributing to this loss, ironically, was the mismanagement of votes cast asking for time extensions. Filibustering tactics by a minority, which the chair too frequently allowed, and naivety from some on the left, caused frustrations to grow and the spectacle reached its crescendo with claims that the meeting was over time, despite members having voted 55 to 19 to hear the other three motions. This action brought demands from the members for the chair to hear the shelved ‘banned’ motions. The host (who clearly opposed hearing the motions) then begin to mute all members as they spoke and the chair simultaneously declared the meeting over and ejected everyone by having the host shut down the virtual room.
Members in the meeting openly declared that already their membership “hung by a thread” or that having voted for the new leadership, they now were worried and dismayed by the current actions and the effects these actions were having on the party.