Our Vice-Chair Membership Officer, Micheline Mason, has put together this extensive guide for new (and existing!) members:
How Tooting Labour Party Works: A Beginner's Guide
Your local party
Joining a political party can be very daunting for some of us. Everyone seems to know the rules and understand strange new words and abbreviations. Working out how to be an effective member can take a long time without some help and guidance. This is a document I wrote because I was in need of answers myself. I discovered that I was not alone in my confusion, so hopefully my discoveries will help you also. Please let us know if it is useful or not, and if you have more questions we could be answering.
What is the Constituency Labour Party (CLP)?
Everyone who joins the national Labour Party is also automatically granted membership to their local Labour Party, called the ‘Constituency Labour Party’ (CLP). A CLP is based on the electoral district for a MP. The constituency boundaries are drawn up on the basis of adult population numbers by the Boundaries Commission, an independent and impartial advisory public body.
Some CLPs function as one group and hold meetings that are open to all members, known as ‘All Member Meetings’ (AMMs), whereas other CLPs are divided into branches or wards and elect delegates to a General Management Committee. Tooting CLP has monthly AMMs. For details of the next AMM, check our Events page or contact the CLP at email@example.com.
What is a Ward?
A ward is a local area which elects local councillors who are responsible for representing the views of electors on the local Council. They often have names which relate to the immediate area. Some of the wards in Tooting hold their own meetings and social events, so you may be invited to ward meetings as well as to AMMs. There are seven wards in Tooting:
- Wandsworth Common
In some wards, ward-based action groups are being established. You can find out which ward you live in by looking at the Ward map on the website of our local authority (Wandsworth Borough Council): https://maps.wandsworth.gov.uk
What happens at local CLP meetings?
Local meetings try to be friendly and welcoming, especially to new members. They follow very traditional forms used in most voluntary organisations. There is a Chair, a Secretary and a local Treasurer plus other representatives, e.g. for women, young people, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation and inclusion. CLPs should send out notices at least one week in advance of the meeting date, and there might also be a calendar on a local Labour Party Website or Facebook Page setting out regular dates, times and venues. In Tooting our AMMs are shown on our Events page. On your membership card, you will have the email address of your local Secretary, who you can contact for any enquiries. Alternatively you can contact Tooting CLP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meetings have agendas and are followed with minutes of any decisions taken. Depending on the size and membership of your particular party, either all members can attend and contribute (as in Tooting) or, in areas with a branch/ward structure, elected delegates from branches or ward meetings can come, join in discussions and vote on any motions put forward. Members can propose a motion on a suitable subject to be put on the agenda for discussion and a vote. These should be sent two weeks in advance of the AMM by email to the Secretary. Some meetings may have invited speakers and/or interesting subjects tabled for discussion. Local Councillors and the local MP may also attend these meetings.
Who runs the CLP?
The CLP is run by the Officers elected each year by local members at their Annual General Meeting (AGM). The principal Officers are the:
- Vice-Chair Campaigns
- Vice-Chair Membership
- Women's Officer
These Officers form part of an Executive Committee (EC) who, together with elected co-ordinators, put any decisions taken into action, create a programme of activities, solve problems and divide up the work. The EC is accountable to the CLP.
How is our CLP funded?
This is in four main ways – a percentage of local member’s subscriptions refunded from the national Party; local fundraising events; standing orders and donations from members, the affiliation fees of local branches of affiliated Trade Unions and recognised socialist societies, including the Co-operative Party; and modest donations from local Labour councillors from their councillor's annual salaries.
The Labour Party Rules require a minimum guarantee of £1.50 per member per year plus other local costs such as insurance to every CLP (see Appendix 8 of the Labour Party Rule Book that can be accessed through the Labour Party Membersnet). As of June 2017 we have nearly 2000 members!
Tooting Labour Party uses our fundraising events to also raise awareness of relevant issues and campaigns, and to create welcoming meeting spaces for members where we can relax and get to know each other.
Other Wandsworth Labour Party organisations
Wandsworth Young Labour
All members of the Labour Party aged between 14 and 26 are automatically members of Young Labour too. Being part of Young Labour is a great way to get involved in politics and meet like minded people who share your values. Young members living in Wandsworth have their own officers and forum, organising their own discussions and events. They can be contacted through the local office: email@example.com.
Wandsworth Labour Women’s Forum
Wandsworth Labour Women's Forum exists to maximise the representation of Labour women and to ensure the interests and concerns of women are listened to and acted upon in order to advance the cause of gender equality. They can also be contacted through the local office.
An introduction to the democratic structure of the UK
Local Councillors and Local Government
A Local Authority is the area of jurisdiction of Local Government that is elected by residents within that geographical area. Local government does not have MPs, but local councillors. Councillors stand for election as representatives of all the main Parties, or as Independents, and, like the national government, the Party that secures the most councillors will form the ruling body, following the general policies of their national Party although they will usually also have policies that are specific to their local community / borough. This majority may or may not be the same as the current Government in Westminster. Nationally, there are 6,885 Labour councillors out of a total of 20,565 local councillors. Currently Wandsworth is a Conservative-led Authority.
Tooting CLP is located in the London Borough of Wandsworth, which also includes Battersea CLP and Putney CLP. Wandsworth Council has 20 wards, each with three councillors, so there are 60 councillors in total, of whom 19 are currently (February 2017) Labour, 39 Conservative and two Independent. Labour members who are part of the local council are formed into a Labour Group (LG) of Councillors who will meet to decide policy and reach decisions on how to vote at Council meetings and sub-committees.
All three Wandsworth CLPs elect delegates to a Local Campaign Forum (LCF) which is responsible for organising the Labour Party’s campaign for Council Elections. Senior Councillors will also attend these meetings. They work closely with the Ward Action Groups.
Our councillors publish very informative online newsletters detailing all the local concerns and campaigns with which they are involved on our behalf: https://labourinwandsworth.wordpress.com
The local Council has responsibility for many services including schools, social services, refuse collection, street cleaning, parks, playgrounds and leisure amenities, licensing of retail premises, planning permission and much else.
The local Council is funded by Central Government grants, a charge placed upon local businesses and a local Council Tax paid by householders.
The Association of Labour Councillors is a national Labour Party affiliated organisation with the aim of enabling Labour in local government to speak with one unified voice and to effectively lobby and input into the national Labour Party structure.
Once you have been a member of the Labour Party for six months you are eligible to help choose candidates to be councillors in your CLP wards. After 12 months, you may also stand as a potential councillor.
The next Borough Council election is scheduled for May 2018. Ward meetings to select candidates to stand in the elections will take place in 2017.
Local Mayors and their relationship to the Party.
There are three different types of Mayor with different roles and powers:
- Ceremonial Mayors
- Directly Elected Local Mayors
- City-wide Mayors
Ceremonial Mayors are traditional civic appointees elected by local councillors. They have no powers. The Mayor for Wandsworth 2016/17 is Cllr Richard Field.
Under the Local Government Act 2000, Directly Elected Mayors can be elected by local people to replace and take on the powers of the Leader of the Council if the local council chooses to do this. In 2015 there were 16 such Mayors nationally of whom 11 were Labour representatives. Wandsworth did not choose this option.
The position of the elected Mayor of London is a strategic regional one, and quite different from that of local authority mayors. The work of the Mayor of London is scrutinised by the London Assembly, a unique arrangement in the English local government system. Sadiq Kahn, former Labour MP for Tooting is the current Mayor of London. The role brings considerable powers and scope for initiatives.
Our local Assembly Member is Leonie Cooper, a Tooting CLP member representing Wandsworth and Merton.
Local Members of Parliament (MPs)
When a local seat becomes vacant, e.g. the sitting MP retires, resigns or dies, a new candidate to be the local Member of Parliament (MP) is chosen by their party, and then elected locally. Anyone who has been a member of the Labour Party for 12 months can put themselves forward to be considered as a candidate.
Potential candidates will be made into a shortlist by the Executive Committee of the CLP in conjunction with the Regional Office, and then voted on by eligible local party members. Once the person has been elected to be the local candidate, then it is up to the local party to campaign to secure their election to office, usually by canvassing electors in their households.
Tooting CLP has a Labour MP, Dr Rosena Allin Khan. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. first elected in June 2016 to replace Sadiq Khan, who had been elected London Mayor and re-elected with a 15,500 majority in the June 2017 election.
Conference and Regional Office
Attending the Labour Party Conference
The Annual Conference of the Labour Party is the place where rules and policies are made or changed. Each CLP is allowed an allocated number of delegates based on their membership numbers. Half the delegates must be women. The Tooting CLP under current membership would be allowed six places. Delegates must have been individual members of the Party for at least 12 months at the closing date set for the receipt of names of delegates, and they need to get a nomination from at least one member of their CLP. The CLP may choose to cover the membership fees, travel and subsistence costs of their delegates.
The Labour Party Rule book (accessed through Labour Party Membersnet) states (Appendix 8) that one delegate fee per CLP will be free (paid by Central Office) to help less well resourced CLPs to be represented.
Voting at the Conference is on a show of hands or a card vote. When a card vote is taken each delegate from the CLP has their vote weighted according to the number of paid-up members in the CLP divided by the number of delegates e.g if the CLP had 500 members and two delegates, each delegate’s ‘voting card’ would count as 250 votes. If they had five delegates, each card would count as 100 votes. It is expected that the delegates from a CLP would come to an agreement beforehand to vote together on issues in accordance with the known policies of their CLP.
Each CLP can put forward one ‘contemporary’ motion, or one constitutional motion into a draw at the beginning of the Conference. The Conference Committee decides the final selection for debate and voting. Similar rules apply to Trade Unions and affiliated socialist societies.
The Conference in 2017 is to be held at the end of September in Brighton.
Labour Regional Office for London
The main function of this office is to co-ordinate campaigns and activities within Greater London and to help support CLPs to be well organised and to keep up with the overall direction of the national party, especially in times of local and national elections. They deal with complaints about local members, legal matters and a whole range of issues relating to the organisation and functioning of CLPs.
Amongst their key stakeholders are the elected Labour members of the London Assembly and a Regional Board of lay members elected at an annual Regional Conference.
Campaign leaflets and other materials are produced and ordered by CLPs from this Office. All Regional Offices are accountable to the General Secretary and the NEC.
For further information please access Labour Party Membersnet, a resource for all Labour Party members to access for information on Labour Party Rules and procedures and national and local activities.
The Labour Party is getting its digital act together, and as long as you are online yourself, here is a quick guide to what is on offer:
The main Party website, available to all.
The local website for Tooting Constituency Labour Party (CLP)
Labour Party official Facebook page
Labour official twitter account
Buy copies of the latest manifesto, mugs, badges tea towels and posters.
If you are an Officer of a CLP you can buy your campaign materials here for local and national elections.
For Members only
Available to all members once registered with a password accessed via the main website. Has information about briefings, events, campaigns, and articles which might be of interest to you.
Members can log-in, update their own details, and get access to meeting details and lots of training and campaign resources. Some elected CLP officers will have access to the whole local membership database via this site.
A self organising tool for meetings using online devices such as phones, tablets and PCs. Accessed via Membersnet.
Campaign Creator is the party’s new campaign platform that allows you to produce high quality print, email and SMS communications from a single integrated system. The new platform is compatible with all major browsers and allows you to import information direct from Contact Creator, to speed up personalised communications with your constituents.
(to use some of this data/training your computer may need to be running Windows 7 or newer)
Tooting and Wandsworth
Tooting Labour Party Official Facebook Page
Keep up-to-date with local news
Tooting Labour Party - Members-Only Facebook Group
A closed, moderated group for members of Tooting Labour party. Events, pictures, news and discussion by local members. Look for it on Facebook.
Tooting Labour Party's official twitter account.
Written by Micheline Mason
Tooting Labour Membership Officer
Glossary of Commonly Used Terms and Abbreviations in Politics
Act - is a new Law, enforceable in the courts once it has been passed by a vote in the Houses of Commons and Lords and received the Royal Assent.
Bill – a proposed Act of Parliament before it has gone through all the stages it needs to before it becomes Law (first reading, committee stage, second reading etc)
BLP- Branch Labour Party
Branch - a sub-division of the CLP usually along the boundaries of local Wards
CLP – Constituency Labour Party (local labour party)
Composite motion – an overarching motion that brings together several similar motions into one and which encompasses the main points.
Compositor – a person tasked with drafting composite motions
Division – When MPs divide up to vote in the House of Commons.
Government Funded Charities – Independent not-for-profit businesses funded by the Government to fulfil certain social responsibilities. Motability and the National Lotteries Board come under this category.
Green Paper – a consultative document which sets out the governments’ ideas on a particular change in the law.
LG - Local Labour Group – organisation of members of the Labour Party who have been elected to the local Council.
LCF – Local Campaigns Forum – A forum of all CLPs within a borough organising and funding a local campaign to secure the (re) election of local candidates to the Council.
Membersnet - a resource for all Labour Party members to access for information on Labour Party Rules and procedures and national and local activities.
Motion - a carefully worded proposal which proposes action to be agreed or
undertaken. Motions should be seconded by another member and are put to the vote at meetings after speakers for and against. If an amendment is proposed they have to follow the same procedure as for motions. If passed, the amended version is put to the vote and is either passed or rejected on a simple majority.
NEC – National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
Private Sector - Organisations and businesses which are owned by private individuals, or Share Holders for the purpose of making a profit for those individuals.
Public Sector - is usually comprised of organisations that are owned and operated by the government and exist to provide services for its citizens. Organisations in the public sector do not seek to generate a profit. If they do generate a surplus it is re-invested by the Government to develop services. They are funded by, and are ultimately accountable to the public. (Many ‘public’ services are outsourced by National and Local Government to private ‘providers’ such as Virgin Care, and G4S, who consequently profit from our taxes)
Standing Orders – rules which govern procedures and behaviours at meetings.
Teller – a person who counts votes, especially those by a show of hands at a meeting.
Voluntary Sector - sometimes called the ‘Third Sector’ it consists of organisations which raise funds from public or private sources, but which do not make a profit. For this reason they have to rely on constant fundraising. They are usually answerable to a board of Trustees and must follow charity law.
Ward – a geographical area denoting the area of responsibility for local councillors. There will be several Wards in a CLP.
White Paper – a document setting out detailed proposals on a particular change to the law. This is still of a consultative nature.