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Labour clears up ‘confusion’ – democracy restored in Birmingham

Labour clears up ‘confusion’ – democracy restored in Birmingham

🕔09.Nov 2015

Birmingham Labour party has moved to clear up what it says was “confusion” surrounding the election of a new city council leader by agreeing that candidates are free to take part in public hustings if they wish.

Labour councillors attracted severe criticism when they backed a recommendation which many interpreted as blocking hustings at a meeting on November 2.

The decision left the party facing accusations of a high-handed anti-democratic attitude.

But urgent talks involving Labour’s West Midlands regional organiser Ian Reilly, national party official John Stolliday and Erdington MP Jack Dromey have resulted in a note of clarification being issued.

The party is insisting it only ever meant to ban hustings up until November 9, when nominations close for leadership candidates to enter the race. There are no restrictions after that date.

There will, however, be two official hustings.

One, for Labour councillors and members only, will be held on November 23, the day of the election for a new group and council leader to replace Sir Albert Bore.

The second, on a date to be confirmed, will be attended by the public and is to be organised by the Birmingham Post and Mail and publisher of the Chamberlain Files, RJF Public Affairs. It is hoped that extracts from the event will feature in coverage of the election by BBC regional programmes with regional political editor Patrick Burns.

Labour group acting Secretary Sharon Thompson issued a statement on Saturday November 7 setting out the hustings rules.

Here is an edited version:

Dear Colleagues,

Clarity on Group Executive Decision – Monday 2nd November.

It is clear there was some confusion on regarding the details of the recommendations made by the Group Executive, therefore the Group Executive would like to provide you all with some clarity.

The recommendations of the Group Executive on Monday evening was no hustings would be permitted to take place before the close of nominations. The draft minutes of the meeting have been checked and read to those present this morning.

All of those who were present at the Group Executive meeting on Monday feel this was accurate. Therefore, there is no restrictions on candidates taking place in hustings following the close of nominations on Monday 9th November.

It was also felt necessary to clarify that at the Group Executive meeting held on Monday 2nd November, Ian Ward requested it minuted he would not be participating in the Group Executive discussion surrounding public engagement in the Leadership Election.

Regional Office Feedback

Ian Reilly confirmed he had received a number of emails from members of the Labour Group outlining their views for and against public hustings. As requested by Group Officers, Ian sought advice from the Labour Party’s Constitutional Office.

Ian reported that due to the current environment; and after consultation with the Group Officers, he had sought advice on this matter from the Labour Party’s Head of the Consitutional Office, John Stolliday.

John Stolliday subsequently sent advice to the Labour Group Officers on Wednesday 4th November. The recommendation made to Group Officers was that the Labour Group should hold two events – one organised hustings for Labour Councillors only, as planned for 23rd November.

The other to be an outward looking event, involving an audience of Labour Councillors, Labour Party members and members of the public. This event would be held with the assistance of the Birmingham Post and Mail.

Conclusion of Group Executive Meeting – Saturday 7th November.

At the end of the Group Executive meeting the following was agreed:

The Group Executive confirmed the recommendation, that no hustings events should take place prior to the close of nominations.

In the light of the welcome advice from the Labour Party’s Constitutional Office (John Stolliday), the Group Executive agreed to hold two events.

The final Hustings event for Labour councillors on 23 November. A public-facing event held prior to 23 November. This to be in conjunction with the Birmingham Post/Mail.

The Group Officers will now meet to determine the details of how this decision will be put in to effect. They will do this in consultation with Ian Reilly and John Stolliday.

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