Gareth Murphy’s Speech – Chair

We decided to stand candidates for all posts. We would state our arguments for why we suited the post in our statements, but would use our speeches to give voice to the factionalism in our CLP. For the first time in a while we could say how we felt without being silenced.

Our speeches would be an opportunity for the left to articulate the experience of being in Holborn & St Pancras CLP, controlled by a right-wing anti-Corbyn faction endorsed by Keir Starmer.

Gareth is a well known and respected activist of Holborn. He is an officer in Camden Unite Community and is often seen on picket lines and demos, supporting causes around the Constituency. He stood as Chair at the recent CLP AGM. Here is his speech.

The election results were obviously terrible. The campaign itself was good and bad. One big positive was large numbers of young people got involved, inspired by exciting policies such as Green New Deal, £10 minimum wage, and the hope of a home. Big ambitious answers to the questions people, especially the young are facing.

But, to be effective, our CLP needs to reflect and empower the diversity of our borough more. Brilliant as our EC and GC are, we might not be the best people to understand the issues large sections are facing.

Looking around, majority of us are not young and facing perpetual housing issues, low wages, precarious work, against a background of austerity, debt and climate change, so how would we know without asking them? You can add to that list, worried about mental health issues, and worried if the services will be there to help them if needed.

We need to hear from these people and groups in our meetings. Real experts, workers, the young, people from trade unions, disability groups, tenants associations, and so on.

Why the focus on the young? If only the under-25s voted, the map would be red. We have to welcome these young people, who come from all parts of the community, and we are the only party to address the problems they’ll face. (Gareth ran out of time at this point so could not complete the rest of his speech)

Our officers and committees need to work towards creating an environment where members from all backgrounds feel welcome, where bullying and abuse by any member is not tolerated, and to focus on serving and facilitating, rather than frustrating the members.

We must be a member led, bottom up organisation, and always work to reach more sections of our community. That way, we will increase our strength and relevance in the community.

Gareth lost the election. All officers standing on the left slate got almost the same number of votes for and against. Voting was based on the politics of the candidate, not their suitability to the post.

Keir Starmer at the Roundhouse

16 Feb 2020: Written by Gareth Murphy, an Activist, member of Unite Community Camden and GC delegate to Holborn & St Pancras.

Keir Starmer was on at The Roundhouse on Sunday afternoon. I live locally, so booked a ticket.
The event was advertised for 4pm, I’d heard it was actually going to start at 5, so got there just before that.

There was a good size crowd when I arrived, which grew steadily. They’d had to open some of the upstairs area as some people weren’t able to cope with a standing only venue. At the height, maybe there were 800 people, which isn’t bad for a Sunday afternoon.

The people that were there seemed to be enjoying themselves. The bar was open, and people were in a good mood. I was surprised alcohol was being served, as I’m not used to that at political events, certainly not during them, but I suppose the organisers knew their audience.

The audience themselves weren’t very diverse, a bit like a People’s Vote march crowd. All very nice, if you like that sort of thing.

The event was introduced and compered by Sally Phillips the TV and film actor who was in Bridget Jones. She made a joke about Keir being Mark Darcy, which got a good laugh. It was very good humoured, and she was funny. To her credit, when one person shouted out ‘Thank God that Corbyn’s gone’, she didn’t rise to it, but said ‘I didn’t hear that’, and just carried on with what she was saying. Political was the one thing it absolutely wasn’t. I just remembered, I think she said ‘Keirfest’ as well, so she loses some credit for that.

Local council leader Georgia Gould was next. She spoke of how closely they’d worked, how he was a good local MP, and how he’d been involved in all the local efforts to address knife crime, and played a full part in answering to and supporting bereaved families.

As Georgia decided to mention that Keir had stood up against anti-semitism in Camden, to large cheers from a section of the crowd, it’s only fair to say that she didn’t mention how closely they’d worked on the People’s Vote campaign that was ultimately so ruinous.

Aneira Thomas, the first baby born under the NHS was on next. I’ve seen her speak before at NHS events, and she was good. She said she was supporting Keir, he was the man to take things forward, but didn’t really give any reasons why.

One of the local Youth Ambassadors spoke of how Keir was involved in the local community, which is good, but not really something to distinguish him from the other candidates.

Doreen Lawrence spoke, and it was easy to see the affection, gratitude and respect she feels towards Keir.

So then we were all set up for Keir. They got us to watch a short film of why people are phonebanking, ‘Calling For Keir’. David Lammy got the biggest cheer from the audience when his face appeared, because of his involvement in Remain campaigns I’m guessing.
So eventually Keir came out. The event was supposed to finish at 6, but he only started about 10 before that. The Roundhouse had built a special catwalk into the crowd and Keir stood at the end of that, and spoke. He spoke about social care I think, and I’m not really sure what else. It was so bland and meaningless most of it just didn’t register. His audience lapped it up, but there will be much more difficult ones if he becomes leader. Altogether he spoke for less than 15 minutes. One reason for this is his fence sitting, and way of using a lot of words to say nothing, and another is another of his problems, which is that he’s quite boring, which even his allies admit. He’s quite difficult to listen to, as he doesn’t say anything, and it isn’t like he’s passionate or anything.

Thinking about it, the setup is quite presidential, maybe a bit like Obama. People were waving 2 different placards, one said ‘unity’, the other ‘leadership’, and people from Keir’s campaign were coordinating and telling people when to wave them and hold them up. Am I the first person to call them Keirleaders?

The Obama comparison is a good one I think. Say nothing, have a couple of catchphrases or slogans, and be all things to all people. He’s a bloke in a suit, and does have good hair, so subconsciously, to a lot of people this does mean electability. If there was any political analysis today of the reasons for the election defeat I missed it. On policy, he’s a blank slate, a space where his various backers and supporters can project their own fantasies. This worked for Obama, and David Cameron, so why shouldn’t it work for Starmer?

One of the big things Starmer is being sold on is ‘electability’. Just examining this notion for one minute shows how foolish it is. A common theme from anti-Corbyn MPs after the election was the need to ‘listen to the voters’. So why doesn’t anyone listen to the redwall voters and ask them why Labour lost their vote? Fair enough if Starmer owned the 2nd ref/People’s Vote policy and the consequences of it in the 60+ leave-voting seats that Labour lost, but nobody is even asking what his strategy is to regain these voters, beyond a couple of slogans. They just ignore it. It’s almost as if his team thinks that if they say electablilty and unity enough times, they will become true.

Starmer has to remain a policy free zone as much as he can so as not to alienate any of the contradictory components in the unstable coalition that he hopes will see him elected as leader. His support ranges from misguided supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who believe what he says about retaining the 2019 manifesto policies, to people joining to push to rejoin the EU, to people like Progress and Labour First on the right of the Labour Party, deeply dedicated to top down rule, where members are essentially a PLP fan club.

Any bold policy will alienate the PLP component of this coalition. He agreed with the Nationalisation pledges a day after the other candidates, but no way would his PLP backers allow him to support Open Selection. There are the Remainers who joined to vote for him, acting as sleeper agents, planning to elect him, and dictate policy. And then there are the right of the Labour Party, who see in him somebody who will purge the left, and return ‘their party’ to them.

So his event and the blandness of it reflected the man and his policy very well. It made a lot of noise and said nothing. If he becomes leader, his electoral coalition will immediately collapse, as he won’t be needing the members any longer. Right wing commentators like Ayesha Hazarika speak openly of this being Starmer’s strategy.

The similarities to the People’s Vote campaign scream out, not surprising as some of the same people are probably involved. People’s Vote mobilised well meaning people who wanted to stay in the EU, with the real, unspoken aim of damaging Corbyn and Labour. Starmer’s campaign can’t work without him taking in similar well meaning people who think Starmer’s goal is beating the Tories, when actually it’s beating the Left.

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Holborn & St Pancras CLP – Unity?

Over the last three years, Corbyn supporting left wing members have been attacked and side-lined, all under Sir Keir Starmer’s watch.

In the 2015 leadership election, Keir Starmer supported Andy Burnham but at the All Member Meeting, we overwhelmingly nominated Corbyn. The membership had more than doubled with many more grassroots activists and trade unionists. Jeremy became leader. This change in leadership was not welcomed by the establishment CLP. Corbyn supporters were not included or made to feel welcome. We were publicly labelled in GC meetings as ‘The Loony Left’ and other derogatory terms. Keir and supporters in the CLP supported the coup in 2016 and publicly endorsed Owen Smith. Yet again, the All Member Meeting nominated Jeremy Corbyn. After the positive election results of 2017, there was talk of unity but sadly this was just talk.

A street stall during the 2017 General Election

At our Branch AGMs in 2017 we assumed that after the General Election, the CLP would now be united and we could all work together for a Labour Party Victory. We were in for a surprise. Almost all branch meetings were packed and many of our GC delegates, and branch officers were voted out. Some of them had been active in posts for years and had been on good terms with their right-wing branch members, who were suddenly verbally attacking them and being quite nasty. My branch had a very well organised left group set up so we lost a few GC delegates, but on the whole didn’t do too badly. In other branches, the few ‘left’ members were treated so badly many of them stopped engaging with branch politics altogether. Sir Keir turned up, with his family, participated in packing a branch meeting to elect his prefered candidate – they came, they voted, they left. Packing is when a huge number of people are summoned to meetings. They only turn up once or twice a year to vote for people they are told to vote for and do nothing to help the party to spread it’s message. Access to membership list is restricted to those already in office which means, overwhelmingly, right wing people. And it is these people who can pack meetings with their fellow right wingers. In contrast, when left wing members have access to the membership list, we tend to use it for the purpose of spreading the message of the Labour Party and it’s policies.

Holborn & St Pancras lefties at the ARISE Festival 2019 with Richard Burgon

We now had much fewer branch delegates but we still hadn’t recognised the extent of the split in the CLP, we stood members for Officer posts at the 2017 AGM, expecting some of us to get in on merit as that is how it had worked in previous years. But this time it was different, we lost every seat. A highly ranking civil servant who extensive work with our Council and MP stood for Women’s Officer but wasn’t voted in solely due to her politics. Some people who were re-standing, and had done a really good job, were replaced by clearly less competent opponents. The TULO was one of these. The voting was based solely on the politics of the candidate, not on their suitability to the post. CLP meetings became much more factional, and chairing was getting more and more biased but the Chair still knew and supported the Labour Party Rule Book so we were able to refer to that to make our point sometimes. During the year, the post of Disability Officer came up. The only candidate was left-wing, so got the post. We still were able to win votes in motions, for conference and during nominations. Delegates to London Conference and LP Annual Conference were a mix of left-wing and right-wing with left wing being in majority for both. Left members were nominated to the NEC. However, we were regularly called ‘Trotskyites’, ‘Stalinists’, ‘the loony left’.

and with Laura Pidcock

By the 2018 Branch AGM, branch members seen to be on the left had been verbally attacked and made to feel so unwelcome that branch participation and morale was very low. This time we lost even more branch GC delegates, we were in the minority and morale was low. Despite requests, the new TULO did not call meetings that year and so new TU EC Reps were not elected before the 2018 AGM. Then, the Conference rule change offered us hope in the form of having a voice through All Member Meetings. We organised and got through the procedure to change our CLP structure from GC Delegate to All Member Meetings. This was the CLP AGM too. The meeting was packed with over 600 members, the rumour was that a group was trying to replace Keir Starmer. This untruth has been used repeatedly, our only motive was to try to have a fair voice in our CLP meetings. The Chair was very organised and clever in choosing speakers and we lost. At the AGM, we lost every single post. There was a clear pattern to the voting numbers for and against each slate. The new officers voted in were young and ethnically diverse but had the same politics, were all strong Starmer supporters and didn’t support Corbyn. The TULO was re-elected the new Chair had little knowledge or understanding of the Labour Party Rulebook. The meetings became disruptive and even more openly factional, very unpleasant to attend and many left-wing delegates stopped attending them. General bullying was rife, after every meeting (and sometimes during meetings) twitter posts are made by members on the right which misrepresented and insulted members on the left. Speakers invited to the CLP have posted belittling and inaccurate comments about the ‘hard left’. During the year, my daughter, an active member and GC delegate for 3 years, was elected Women’s Officer/ Vice Chair of London Young Labour, not only wasn’t she congratulated (which she would have been if she hadn’t been on the left) but when my husband suggested that that was an oversight there was general jeering and someone shouting that it was deliberate that she hadn’t been congratulated.

Soon after the AGM, the TULO called a meeting to elect TU EC Reps. At the meeting he agreed to demands that he call TU meetings every 3 months, and if he didn’t do so they would have a ‘no confidence in the TULO’. No further meetings were called that year. Despite repeated requests from members and intervention for London Region, we were not provided with a list of TU or affiliate delegates until the 2020 AGM, when they were out-dated. This year all delegates to London Conference and Annual LP Conference were right-wing, mainly Officers of the CLP or various branches. The main organisers in our CLP, part of Sir Keir’s inner circle now referred to us as ‘The Disruptors’ or ‘less desirable elements’ in CLP officer meetings and their internal emails (that they accidentally forwarded to one of us) and in tweets have referred to us as ‘antisemitic’.

Our speeches would be an opportunity for the left to articulate the experience of being in Holborn & St Pancras CLP, controlled by a right-wing anti-Corbyn faction endorsed by Keir Starmer.

Holborn Left

In the 2019 Branch AGMs, the number of Left delegates reduced even further. We knew we had no chance of winning any seats at the 2019 AGM (postponed to 2020 due to GE). Though some of our more optimistic members thought that now that Starmer was standing for leader, in the spirit of ‘Unity’ that he was championing, we may be allowed some posts. We decided to stand candidates for all posts. We would state our arguments for why we suited the post in our statements, but would use our speeches to give voice to the factionalism in our CLP. We wrote our speeches and on the night we spoke up, some of us ran out of time, and didn’t get to say what we wanted, but on the whole, for the first time we could say how we felt without being silenced. I will be sharing some of these speeches here.

Chair – Gareth Murphy

Secretary – Diane Pearson

Vice-Chair Membership – Pete Bond

Vice-Chair Campaigns – Harriet Evans

Treasurer – Paul Renny

Women’s Officer – Una Doyle

BAME Officer – Shezan Renny

TULO – Sarah Friday

Disability Officer – Ruth Appleton


Needless to say, we lost every seat year again. The votes were consistent regardless of suitability to the post or what we had said. At the end a member who is not part of the left commented on how he could have predicted how every vote would go before it happened. He had listened to us and taken on board what we said. Only time will tell whether others have too.

All views in this article are personal experiences and are stated in our capacity as ordinary Holborn & St Pancras Labour Party Members. Any errors in dates are unintended.

Related links

SEA Motion to Conference

The SEA’s basic aim has always been to promote a comprehensive, non-selective education service, based on equality of opportunity and life-long access to excellent provision, within which compulsory education is free, well resourced and organised within a local democratic framework. The SEA is committed to developing policy which is based on research and evidence of what works in the UK and abroad. Like the NHS, locally accountable community comprehensive schools – both primary and secondary – are successful and popular expressions of our values and we  champion them.

The SEA is the only educational organisation affiliated to the Labour Party and can be described as its critical friend.  It participates in the National Policy Forum and Labour’s Annual Conference and has access to members of the Shadow Education Front Bench. We also have a Parliamentary branch which includes Labour members of the Education Select Committee.

Membership of the SEA is open to all members of the Labour Party and to other supporters of our educational objectives, the only proviso being that SEA members should not belong to another political party. The SEA welcomes affiliation by CLPs, trade unions and trade union branches.

SEA is affiliated to Holborn & St Pancras CLP.

SEA Motion to Conference 2019

At the 2018 Party Conference, a major step forward was taken with the commitment to end the academies programme and establish an integrated and locally accountable school system.

Since then, SEA, working with academic and legal experts, has developed a strategy for achieving this goal which the party could begin to put into effect on day 1 of a Labour government.

It is vital however that Conference makes a clear decision as to how to take forward what was agreed in principle last year. SEA’s conference motion will seek to press this point and we urge SEA members and affiliates to promote similar resolutions and to encourage CLPs and affiliates to support it at conference.

The motion can be read at https://socialisteducationalassociation.org/sea-documents-3/

On that page you can also see the full SEA policy document “Restoring a democratically accountable school system” and our response to the party consultation “Local Accountability in the National Education Service”

Source: Socialist Education Association website