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Andrew Price

Cardiff South East

A Travesty of Democracy

(August 1981)

From Militant, No. 564, 7 August 1981, p. 2.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At a recent meeting Cardiff South East CLP nominated Denis Healey for the position of deputy leader of the Party.

Nothing surprising about that you might say coming from one of the most right-wing CLPs in Britain. But the way in which this decision was reached should be of concern to every activist in the Party.

When GMC members received their notice of the meeting, they also received without any explanation at all a piece of paper on which they had to write the name of the candidate they supported for Party leader, deputy leader, and treasurer. At the meeting Lord Brooks, the CLP secretary and national organiser for ‘Solidarity’ explained that this ‘democratic’ procedure would allow everybody to have their say. Yes indeed! At least one ballot paper went to somebody living outside the constituency!

Brooks refused to give any explanation as to how many ballot papers had been sent out, how many had been sent back, and after the count no figures were given on the votes cast for each candidate. In addition Brooks was quite prepared to dish out ballot papers at the GMC meeting on request, so as far as the GMC knew nothing could have prevented a delegate posting his ballot paper in and then claiming another one at the meeting.

During the protests that were going on about this appalling travesty of the basic principles of electoral procedure one delegate asked Brooks if he would read out the letters that had been sent to each CLP from Tony Benn and John Silkin. Brooks replied that he had read the letters and they were rubbish so he had left them at home.

Any active trade unionist would literally cringe at the idea of a secretary having the right to arbitrarily decide which correspondence should be reported to a meeting. There have already been disputes over correspondence. Brooks left a YS resolution off the GMC agenda, claiming he had not received it, yet two YS members said they had taken the trouble of personally delivering it to Brooks.

The way in which Cardiff South East CLP is run has important lessons for the movement. Having been an active member of this party for over 10 years, I cannot recall many GMCs in the last few years where the sort of attacks one reads in the Daily Express about the Militant and the left in general are not made.

Practically always these attacks are spearheaded by Brooks and local MP Jim Callaghan. They are supported by a small vociferous clique of right-wingers who resort to terrible personal abuse when their position is challenged. When you next hear Denis Healey attacking the ‘intolerance’ of the left, remember that it is people like these who desperately want him to win.

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