Final district congress report

Report of the Midlands District Congress –  January 11th 2020

Contents

  • Report of Work (2018-2019) from the District Committee  p3
  • DC Standing Orders p14
  • The Challenge for Midlands Communists Tom 2022 p16
  • District Congress Congress motions p22
  • Branch Motions adopted   p29
  • Delegates to District Congress p30
  • The elected District Committee  p31

Midlands Report of Work 2018-19

The District Committee

The 2018 Midlands Congress elected a new Midlands District Committee of 14  comrades. As has been long-standing common practice in the district, no comrade who had accepted nomination was excluded from election to the committee at congress. 

Although two members resigned during the period (one from the Party itself), one member died, and one was subject to long-term health difficulties, the level of the committee’s collective activity rose considerably. 

None the less, reflecting the high level of commitment and activity of Communists, both political and personal, it has been always understood that a degree of authorised absence is to be expected. There were rarely less than 8 members present at any one time, with the effective size of the committee operating at 11 for large stretches of the period under review. However, the committee has increasingly insisted on correct apologies for non attendance being provided and for facility for attendance, part of the time. 

A newer development, as established members begin to move out of paid employment, is that younger members of the committee are more and more unable to commit to dates ahead. Not only is this due to the collapse of premium time payments for weekend working but line managers now tend to be inflexible and unresponsive about shift patterns, when workers have not given significant advance warning of dates they wish to have off. 

An additional complication is that we have had to insist on a right to reimbursement of reasonable travelling expenses. The level of earnings of younger comrades is such that more often than not, they need to claim these, whilst others have not always needed to do so. Inevitably, these factors stress the committee’s budget, whilst only a few of our branches contribute to district income. 

As time has moved forwards, we have found that bringing more workers on the D.C. generates more of these problems but the D.C. considers it is politically the right thing to do, however many awkward problems it makes for us. This whole thing is made more complex by the fact that the D.C. aims to follow the meetings of the Executive Committee, perhaps at a distance of a month or six weeks later, which tend not to be fixed longer than a year at best and this is often not done until part way through the year. 

Hence the D.C. has become more concerned to establish accountability of its members, whilst at the same time applying a significant degree of leniency. However, where significant and long standing failure to apply personal disciple arises, attendance has been raised and remedial action has ensued. To ensure effective and universal reporting back from D.C. meetings applies, it was also decided that branches may request a report back from a D.C. officer where they require this. The application of these various measures, which have been consciously built on across some years, does seem to have resulted in a better position in terms of the youthfulness and contemporary relevance if district committee deliberations. 

The D.C. has confirmed that all DC members may Skype in to its meetings, provided they confirm the request and provide their Skype name to the District Secretary before the meeting. It has also adopted a set of standing orders. (See appendices.) In a similar vein, the District Committee also submitted amendments to Party rules and Congress Standing Orders, which were subsequently remitted to the EC. 

The DC has sought to review written branch plans via a standard agenda item “Correspondence (incl. branch minutes/plans)”. Unfortunately, only three out of seven branches regularly supplied such material. Given that active members involved in all sorts of broad activities have useful information to pass on, the District Secretary’s post D.C. bulletin now includes all relevant information. 

The D.C. also reviewed its responsibilities with regard to the exigences of the General Data Protection Regulation, which the Party nationally has been very  to ensure was properly handled. 

Acting more efficiently has also meant meeting more regularly but spreading the load more effectively. The committee met twelve times across the period, a 50% increase in frequency over the previous period in a shorter time frame: 7th April 2018, 12 May 2018, 9 June 2018, 13 July 2018, 22 September 2018, 27 October 2018, 16 February 2019, 13 April 2019, 13 July 2019, 31 August 2019, 12 October 2019, 14 December 2019. Individual attendances and apologies of elected members of the committee follow. 

Following the sad and untimely death of the Chair, Laurence Platt, Andrew Maybury, the former Vice Chair was elected in February 2019 to fill the vacancy.  Support was given to Nottinghamshire Morning Star Readers and Supporters in organising a Laurence Platt commemorative event on 1 June 2019. 

Other officer roles are associated with ‘departments’ of Party work, which are returned to later in the report. 

District Committee attendance, apologies, resignations and deaths.

Bob Bonner Attended 6 meetings   4 apologies due to work shift clashes
Steve Bradfield Attended 3 meetings 5 apologies (2 personal, 2 family, 1 union. Resigned from D.C. September 2019. 
Andy Chaffer Attended 8 meetings  4 apologies (3 union, 1 personal)
Chris Chesworth Attended 6 meetings.  6 apologies ( all due to  work shift clashes)
Geoffrey Ferres Attended 10 meetings  2 apologies (family)
David Grove Attended 1 meeting.  11 Apologies received and accepted as a standard for all meetings from 12 May 2018 due to ill-health and travel difficulties. 
Andrew Maybury  Attended 9 meetings 3 apologies (personal or health)
Laurence Platt Attended 1 meeting Unable to attend any meetings from 12 May 2018, apologies for non-attendance due to ill-health thereafter until his death in January 2019.
Dave Stavris  Attended 6 meetings 6 apologies, all for political responsibilities elsewhere  
Graham Stevenson Attended 12 meetings     
Joanne Stevenson Attended 11 meetings  1 apology for ill-health
Phil StreetAttended 10 meetings2 apologies (family)
Matt WiddowsonAttended 2 meetings  Resigned from the Party –  July 2018 (NB: but  subsequently rejoined)
Robert Wilkinson Attended 10 meetings2 apologies for other political responsibilities.

Mobilising the Midlands Party in public work

The Midlands Committee has a responsibility to encourage branches and individual comrades to support the work of the Party. One example of district wide activity was when the Tory Party Conference returned to Birmingham from 30th September to 3rd October 2018 at the International Convention Centre.  The Midlands TUC sponsored an anti-cuts demonstration and the District 

  • Assisted with mass distribution of the Morning Star
  • Ensured an Anti-Tory Midlands Unity! produced and distributed 
  • Placed a gazebo at the end of the demonstration

In considering the Party’s impact at May Day and other forthcoming events, it was agreed that the Midlands Party produce a Midlands Unity! for the Women Chain Makers’ Festival. There was a significant Party presence in both summers. Although the District advertised Chainmakers’ Festival, perhaps understandably, only Birmingham & District Plus mobilised significant numbers of comrades, who were effectively scattered across many stalls and delegations. Although the Leicester & District branch secretary also visited and helped in 2019. The new location at Mary MacArthur Gardens, Lower High Street, that year was reasonably beneficial from the point of view of stall holders. 

The District Committee is actively represented in a campaign to memorialise in some official way the events at Saltley Gate in 1972.  In February 2019, the 47th anniversary of the Saltley Gate picket, a successful event was held in Birmingham involving Arthur Scargill as main speaker, with the President of Birmingham TUC and our District Secretary speaking for the CPB.  Subsequent to the meeting a response was received from Birmingham City Council with regard to displaying the mural both permanently and during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Questions about dimensions, artist, ownership etc as being pursued. 

Acting to maintain branch life

Of course, since this is the District Committee’s report of work to district congress and not an aggregate report of the independent Party life of each branch, the following represents the work of the D.C. in building the Party. 

It is Rule 6c that governs this role: “The District Committee shall constitute Party Branches based on a place of work or a locality or an industry or a party collective, and shall ensure that each Party Branch shall hold an Annual General Meeting which shall elect a Branch Committee.”

The D.C. has taken the view that it is ready to reconstitute branches  urgently based on whole counties, even multiple counties, based on more local and smaller collectives that are built into functioning branches by a combination of work carried out by the D.C. and by constituted branches. We are ready to engage in such developments anywhere and anytime. The reverse must however be the case; where branches are unable to function it is proper to merge them with functioning branches if, after a lengthy period of time, it proves impossible with current cadreship  levels to maintain a Party organisation then reorganisation will take place after appropriate discussions.

Regrettably, in the period, it finally became clear that neither North Staffordshire (except East Staffs), nor Wolverhampton, nor the Black Country, would function as an independent Party organisation, despite the very significant labour movement activity of a number of active comrades in these areas. (Historically, since re-establishment, South Staffordshire has been covered by the Birmingham branch.)  Accordingly, it was determined that Birmingham, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire branch be designated Birmingham and District Plus, covering the West Midlands (minus Coventry), Staffordshire, the Black Country, Wolverhampton, Hertfordshire, and Worcestershire. (Earlier attempts to revive the latter two counties came to little.)

Also during the period since last District Congress, challenges to the maintenance of Party life in both the Leicestershire & District branch and the Nottinghamshire and North Lincolnshire branch arose. Some of this was related to ageing of the membership and some to instability of younger members joining and leaving with bewildering rapidity. A particular concern has been a drift to the Labour Party. 

Three comrades, two from Leicester & District and one from Nottinghamshire and North Lincolnshire branches, were issued with standing invitations to attend the D.C. until district congress. These comrades attended meetings as they could but also maintained closer contact with the district leadership as a result. Work is ongoing to continue direct assistance in maintaining self-reliant units of Party operations, with an increasing sense of confidence and outreach activity in both areas becoming evident. The district committee recently reiterated its view that all efforts need to be focused on rebuilding local activity in the catchment areas of these constituted branches.

Early in 2019, the D.C. took the view that it could be relatively easily done to ensure meetings of some of the comrades take place in Leicester and this proved to be the case. The District Secretary met with Arvinder Singh Kandola to ensure both social media and basic branch administration was kept up with and subsequently he and he and Pierre Marshall (twice) attended District Committee meetings as invited visitors. 

In Nottinghamshire, after Laurence’s death, the District Committee urged a rejoining comrade, Oliver Dodds, who has attended D.C. meetings as a visitor when able, to work with the small number of local members to seek a revived branch via the medium of a Morning Star Readers & Supporters Group, which had been Laurence’s own plan had he lived.  A number of Labour and Trade Union activists in the area have shown considerable interest, following the successful memorial event for Laurence and subsequently the editor of the paper, Ben Chacko visited for a meeting. Active plans for a meeting of the Party branch in early 2020 are under way. The District Secretary has offered to visit Nottingham to meet with members whenever required. 

The serious problem arising from the decision of the Shropshire branch secretary to formally leave the Party in order to accept an invitation to enter the Labour Party on a fast track system to significant personal involvement was discussed by him and his branch committee. Given the relevant personal circumstances discussed at length by the local committee with the comrade in question, it was decided by the branch leadership to accept the position and report to the District Secretary on possibilities arising for a further strengthening of already developing links going wider than Shropshire. In that context, several meetings were held on a West Midlands basis to discuss these developments, which are outside the scope of this report.

Whilst such losses are always disappointing, on the positive side, a very effective Shropshire MSR&G, involving both Labour and Communist Party members to a substantial level, continues, with the District Secretary addressing one of its meetings in the run up to the general election in Shrewsbury . 

A report on District Committee activity in specific areas follows: 

Membership

Every branch secretary was contacted with a list of currently recorded members as at 24 May 2018, whilst a review of previous lapsed, deceased, and resigned members was undertaken. This resulted in 123 members being declared, including 24 Female members (19.5% of the total – a considerable drop from the position in the District only 2 years before); 4 BME (a considerable improvement); and 22 under 40 years of age, (also an improvement). A review of the process for managing applications for membership was undertaken to ensure that none were lost.

In point of fact, on the analysis conducted in 2018, Midlands membership levels for a population of 11.3 million compared very well to surrounding economically similar English districts. A great deal of work in the early part of 2019 was undertaken with Party centre and the outgoing National Treasurer to ensure that, on the one hand elderly party members, some of whom may not be in a fit enough state any more to personally maintain payment of dues, are not unduly lapsed. But, on the other, that failure to ensure membership growth does not rest on imprecise figures. 

On this basis, at 4 January, membership recorded by Party Centre for the Midlands is 130, though, in the latter part of 2019, dues arrears have risen considerably, meaning some 20 or so of these members are currently technically not in compliance. 

Political Education

Political discussions on key topics are general for district committee meetings and several intensive political/theoretical discussions were held, details of which follow:#  

Britain’s Road to Socialism

One was on Britain’s Road to Socialism in June 2018. The District Committee agreed after lengthy discussion on a formal response to the issuing by the PC of a draft rewrite of Britain’s Road to Socialism. Accepting that the draft was intended to refine the previous editions based on previously accepted new policy, comrades appreciated that producing a revision so near to a congress could be problematic. However, it was unclear to them why this draft had not been before the Party a year before. The following was the outcome in summary of the D.C. discussion. 

The Labour Party and government – there was concern about the document’s weaknesses here, especially on a strategy with dealing with internal resistance to Labour’s continuing movement to the left and our role in that.

Recognition is needed that many new members of Labour are new to politics and their understanding of labour movement structures and culture is shallow, whilst Momentum’s links to trade unions are very weak. Some work has been done in our district in this regard, but we are not aware of much other consistent and strategic delivery. 

Reference to .”Criminal gangs” was perhaps intended to apply to a developed socialist society, but the D.C. felt that the phrase was insensitive to the situation in inner city areas.

The  text could be considerably strengthened by recognising the realities of life for Millennials more specifically. 

Finally, on Implementing the BRS in the Midlands, in anticipation of the need for the D.C. to place before district congress a theoretically based judgement on interpreting Britain’s Road to Socialism in the Midlands, it held an extensive discussion on the basis for this, introduced by re District Secretary (see Appendix)

The politics of equality

The Equality Organiser opened a special discussion at another D.C. Sketching out the generality of the way in which austerity had borne hard on women, A range of political, social, and economic issues of concern to women were addressed. Although there were signs that in the trade union movement and in the Labour and progressive movements, the involvement of women was at a high level, there had been significant problems of development over the past decade as far as party work was concerned.

Looking at disability, the district had made a special feature of this work, but a problem was that, by definition, the disabled were disadvantaged in managing organisational tasks unless, as with disability rights groups and unions there were skilled professionals assisting. 

The Party has a dearth of BAME members and few activists. Yet, in the East Midlands, Asians form some 6.5% across the whole region, with self-defined Blacks at 1.8% and 1.9% as `mixed’, over a tenth of the population. In the West Midlands, Asians constitute 10.5% of the whole population with Blacks at 3.3% and `Mixed’ at 2.4%, a total of 16.5% of the population.  

 As far as Party work among women goes, there are still not enough areas where collective work had been developed but the report of the women’s commission was very encouraging.  Issues of representation, especially seeing women in key roles was important. But their absence sometimes in materials and information was notable. The question women would ask themselves is: “Does this party represent me?” Sometimes communications, our very vocabulary, and even how meetings are run needed attention to remove barriers to women’s involvement. It was noticeable how caring responsibilities were now affecting women of all ages, especially with the elderly, which would have a consequent effect on involvement. 

There are not enough women to recruit enough women. Practical work interested women. It was noticeable that a campaign to collect signatures on the street had seen only women in the branch volunteer – three had offered to turn out but one was prevented by illness. 

A campaign Birmingham Plus comrades had taken up, WASPI, was proving to be of interest as was period poverty but the very culture of branch work was also constantly under review. Whilst it is true of most people, women especially need the space to `say the difficult’. Other comrades reported success in contacting women who might be allies through broad campaigns. 

Anti-racism and anti-fascism

The D.C. held a political discussion on anti-racist and anti-fascist work, led by the ARAF convenor. This focused on the fact that fighting racism and fascism is not just about fighting with racists and fascists. The real problem of racism is the deliberate development of ethnic and cultural division by the leaders of the economic and political system in which we live, a system of imperialism with all the history of demonisation of other ethnic groups and cultures. 

It is a class issue, generated to undermine any developing unity against wealth and power. Racist racist ideas prosper through “populist” misinformation about the causes of poverty, lack of proper jobs, housing problems, decline in services etc – fostered through establishment politicians and media. They cannot be defeated without a struggle deeply rooted in working class communities, taking up the issues that racists use to mislead workers – unemployment, “precarious” work, housing, poverty, injustice, state contempt for working people etc etc. it is our work on these issues, building a broad movement, strong trades unions, people’s assemblies, an anti-monopoly alliance etc that will provide the class foundations for defeating racists and fascists… relatively insignificant as they are compared to the current establishment class enemy.

Without that mass movement some activists look for “quick fixes”, fall back on stunts, leftist demos, wishful thinking, happy-clappy huggy events, etc. others in frustration turn to sporadic acts of “self-defence” violence. Neither can defeat racism and/or fascism. in fact, under certain circumstances, they achieve the opposite of what they say they want.  We need to be showing

•           that problems – housing, money, jobs, etc – are caused by the billionaires, their pet politicians, and their ruthless dog-eat-dog crisis ridden system

•           they import and export workers from around the world as easily as they sell or move your job to countries where there is cheap labour

•           they super exploit immigrants, and ask you to blame the immigrants for low pay

•           the ruling class will go on being your problem for as long as you let them. 

•           get organised in unions, tenants, people’s assemblies and community organisations 

•           Fascists would take away all your rights as workers in the name of “The Nation”

•           No-one can build a better world for you – you have to do it yourselves working together. 

Racism, a sustained divisive presence in capitalist society should not be confused with fascism, though clearly it is weapon used by fascists. Fascism is not about a few drunks with swastika tattoos. The term is used too casually and too widely. 

Fascism is about a ruling capitalist class, so threatened at a time of economic and political collapse and opposition, that it increasingly abandons pretence of democracy and uses the full force of the state in all round totalitarian oppression of those by whom they feel threatened. 

It is at such pivotal times – when the ruling class cannot rule in the old way and workers refuse to be ruled in the old way that a revolutionaty situation can develop. it is when the ruling class feel threatened with losing their power that they reveal the full extent of the oppressive nature of the capitalist state and we see the emergence of real fascism.  It is not a matter of choice or even of “morals”. it is a matter of the development of class forces, and the consequences of the class struggle over power.

Local and general elections

On considering the local elections of May 2018, the district committee noted the disparity between the mass media line that Labour had done badly and the reality in local areas where the actuality was quite different. The Birmingham & District Plus branch, having consulted widely, including publicly, amongst left forces, had made a conscious decision to support Labour candidates very publicly and actively. The view was that, as right-wing control was still very strong in the West Midlands at that point, albeit weakening by the day, given its tactic of red baiting the strengthening unity of the left in unions with the left in the Labour Party, it would not be politic for a strongly independent presence at this stage. Whilst the situation with regard to replaced councillors and how they would perform was as yet still very unclear.

Finally, given the copycat notion of the CPGB (ML) to widely contest in the city (it stood in three wards with mixed results) for the first time ever it was felt that CPB contests would add to confusion. Emphatically, a no contest decision was not a cover for feeling unable to contest.

Labour were in control of Birmingham with 67, the Conservatives on 25, Lib Dems with 8, and Greens with their first seat in the city.

The Conservatives made gains in Dudley and Walsall (although this was NOC) from UKIP, which lost all six of their seats up for contest Dudley MBC.  Labour made gains in the already solid areas of Wolverhampton and Sandwell. Wolverhampton & Bilston TUC indoor May Day event was as excellent as ever and. GF had been the Party speaker this year; congratulations were due to Nick Kelleher. 

Labour maintained a slim majority on Cannock Chase Council. The Green Party won seats for two more councillors and now have three. The Tories remain dominant in Tamworth. 

There were no elections in Herefordshire but, in Worcester, the Mayor lost his council seat, with no overall control still, with two Green councillors.

Elections were held in Coventry, Nuneaton and Bedworth, and Rugby. Coventry Tories tried to put a positive spin on the results, despite the Conservatives dropping from 14 seats to 13.

The Labour leader of Derby City Council lost his seat on the authority to UKIP, but Labour remained the largest group with 23 seats, albeit without an overall majority. The Conservatives won two new seats bringing their total to 20, while the Liberal Democrats remain on five and UKIP now on three.

The Conservatives lost a third of the seats they were defending in West Oxfordshire, including two to Labour and three to the Lib Dems.  Labour kept control of Oxford City Council winning two seats from the Greens.

Departments of Party Work:

Morning Star: 

In effect, the Party’s National MS Organiser, Andy Chaffer, acted as District MS Organiser. The D.C. has agreed that the Morning Star should be a separate agenda item at every one of its meetings and has urged branches to do the same, as well as formally appointing branch MS Organisers. An attempt to establish a district working group collective composed of comrades from each branch failed.. The aim was to lay the basis for a broader Midlands MS Organising Committee. Having obtained such names, a  training day was planned but was aborted as, sadly, only the Birmingham & District Plus Branch supplied names for attendance.  None the less, a positive development on establishing a Midlands Morning Star Circulation Campaign Committee was reportedly underway in that it was advised that the PPPS Chair was to write to the MTUC Secretary seeking shareholding in the paper. No further information has come through about this, however.

An audit of PPPS membership amongst Midlands CPB members was carried out. Of approximately 130 names about 45 indicated PPPS membership on their Party record. All members were advised and the records of about six have been updated to include PPPS membership. It was agreed that branches could be legitimately supplied with a list of those CP members we believe are not in PPPS. Noted Leicester & District branch were trying their own local audit with a view to improving not only PPPS membership but also MS readership.

Marxist Education:  Matt Widdowson, in conjunction with David Grove, agreed to take the role of Education Organiser, liaising together on a workable plan, which would be put to a future DC meeting. Unfortunately, due to David’s health and Matt joining the Labour Party little was done on this, it being thought that the feelings of District Congress on the matter should be sought, in particular, whether an Education Organiser who is not a D.C. member might be found, who could attend at least an occasional planning meeting in between congresses. 

Equalities

Joanne Stevenson was elected Equalities Organiser to steer the party’s work across a range of areas, women, BAME, disabilities, etc. A series of policy initiatives were undertaken and promotion of activities by the National Assembly of Women. Personal support and mentoring of women members was undertaken as and when called for. 

Trade Union: 

Laurence Platt agreed to continue in the role as Trade Union Organiser, liaising with Andrew Maybury on trade union councils work, and Andy Chaffer on Unison. The latter has subsequently been involved in a major NHS Trust dispute over outsourcing and gained significant positions within his union.  

Laurence and Graham Stevenson worked closely together on Unite matters. Since Laurence’s untimely death, the Chair and Secretary have managed all industrial  matters with AC. Significant advances in Unite activities were achieved across the West Midlands and valuable new links were made with the East Midlands Unite leadership, following Laurence’s demise.  

The Midlands District Committee is responsible for the Ea covered by the Midlands TUC region plus the Government’s Thames Valley sub-region (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire).

Communications: 

Annie Banham was District Communications Officer until late 2019, although not a member of the D.C., managing email communication and social media protocols.  In July 2018, the District Committee received a written report from Annie on the future use of communications, especially in the light of recent Data Protection legislation (GDPR). 

The District Communications Officer produced a plan for action on media and social media, endorsed by the D.C. The CPB Midlands Facebook page has attracted a very large and diverse audience. We now have a number of Midlands and National Party Facebook pages and Twitter accounts which are active and fulfil these functions:The following decisions were made:

1) To close the Midlands Communists Google Group. Many members of the group were added directly, without a consent process, and relying on an opt out. This was no longer acceptable for non-party members under GDPR. We are unable to maintain a database outside of the Party’s civi list, given the need for explicit consent.

2) To establish regular email communications with Midlands party members, via a district bulletin, to be distributed by civiCRM. Editions of this are routinely sent after D.C. meetings and periodically. 

3) To ensure members are aware of the various online platforms maintained by the district, such as Facebook and Twitter accounts, pages and groups. 

4) Members are also routinely contacted via post where no email exists (about 20:comrades).

The key focus is the engagement of all members, through whatever means agreed, to ensure all comrades are kept in touch with their branch and district. Branches maintain their own means to communicate locally.

Information Technology Committee: 

This is ad hoc group of Bob B, Pierre M, Oliver D, Chris C, James McL, Joanne S, and any YCLer recommended by the YCL Regional Organiser,  has been set up by the DC, with the District Secretary assisting

The ITC has been asked to provide briefings on the available range of platforms and their uses.

• Facebook – Midlands Communists page is to be continued to be handled by Oliver Dodds f

• Twitter: this is another key channel for the Party, now gaining traction, ITC to review.

• Postal mail: About 20 members not on email across the whole district; 

• Training and support: key comrades to offer assistance to others within branches 

A district website has been developed, linked to national Party site: https://wordpress.com/view/midlandscommunistparty.home.blog

Appendix 1

Standing Orders – Midlands District Committee 

Adopted 13 July 2019

  1. The Midlands District Committee will meet to conduct the business of the Midlands region.
  2. The first meeting of the Midlands District Committee following the Midlands Congress will, at minimum, elect a Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, which shall constitute the Secretariat, a subordinate committee of the DC.
  3. The Chair will rule on all questions of procedure but may be overruled by a majority of the Committee voting following a formal objection raised by any member.
  4. When the Chair is absent the meeting will elect a member to act as Chair in their absence.
  5. A tied vote will result in the status quo ante, that is to say, the position previously prevailing shall be maintained until such time as a clear majority has been recorded.
  6. Minutes of the previous meeting will be circulated by the Secretary no later than 10 days prior to the meeting.
  7. Any motions must be submitted to the Secretary no later than 5 days prior to the meeting and circulated to Committee members no later than 2 days prior to the meeting.
  8. Emergency motions must be submitted to the Chair and Secretary prior to the meeting, which shall determine whether it should be admitted onto the agenda.  
  9. The meeting shall first conduct the business stated on the agenda. Other business shall be admitted to the agenda with the agreement of the Chair.
  10. The meeting shall not normally exceed 3 hours.

Conduct within meetings of the Midlands District Committee

  1.  Agenda items and reports where no motion submitted
  2.  Opening statement on any agenda item or report (not formal motions) should not exceed 15 minutes.
  3.  Replies, comments or proposals to the agenda item or report should not exceed 7 minutes.
  4.  Where there are no replies, comments or proposals are made that challenge the agenda item or report, this will be deemed to be accepted by the Committee. Any challenges that are not accepted by the member raising the item or report will be put to the vote and carried by a simple majority and noted within the minutes.
  5.  Where a vote is taken, the result shall be recorded in the minutes.
  6.  Any member of the Committee may have their individual voting position recorded on request.

Motions

  1.  Movers of motions or amendments shall speak for up to 15 minutes.
  2.  Where the amendment is not accepted by the mover, a simple majority of members will determine whether the amendment is accepted and becomes the property of the member proposing the amendment. Where the amendment is accepted by the mover, the amended motion remains the property of the original mover.
  3.  Members contributing to the debate may speak for up to 5 minutes.
  4.  The mover of the motion, or the mover of a successful amendment have the right of reply which shall not exceed 5 minutes. Otherwise no member shall speak more than once during a debate, except with the permission of the Chair, or to raise a point of order, or to answer a question in response to a point of information.
  5.  The following points of order may be moved at any time without notice and shall be immediately voted upon by the meeting without debate: that the meeting proceed to the next business; that question be now put.
  6.  A motion shall be decided by a simple majority.
  7.  Any member of the Committee may have their individual voting position recorded on request.
  8.  Any item as stated in these standing orders may be temporarily suspended for the current meeting only, where 2/3 of the members vote for this.
  9.  Whilst it is well understood that members face competing and important demands on their time, membership of the DC implies a commitment to attend meetings, or at least to submit formal apologies with an explanation for non-attendance. 
  10.  The DC shall review attendance of its members. Any member who has not provided an apology for three successive scheduled and properly advised meetings shall be asked by all available communication methods if they wish to continue as a member or not. The DC has the power to remove a persistent non-attendee from membership of the committee.
  11.  The DC has the power to co-opt new members to the committee by majority vote but shall not exceed the size of DC agreed by the previous district congress.
  12.  These Standing Orders must be reviewed and considered by the first DC meeting after each district congress and may be amended by the committee. 

Appendix 2 

The Challenge for Midlands Communists 2020-22 –

laying the basis for the road to Socialism in the Midlands

STATEMENT TO THE DC BY GRAHAM STEVENSON

THE MIDLANDS MATTERS

It looks increasingly that, whatever the protests from both Remainers and Leavers over Johnson’s constitutional manoeuvrings that a general election will be declared and that, on 31 October, the UK will leave the EU. Any general election campaign is likely to be presented by the Tories as them going to the people for a mandate after having delivered Brexit.  Whilst a Johnson government is going to resist being ousted at all costs. Brexit is hardly the issue for him anymore, whether a cloudy, dressed up exit, or a full-blown shift to the right, by the time of our district congress, either neo liberalism will have been given a devastating body blow or some reactionary outcome will have happened. Either way will require the working class of Britain to unite around class politics and extra-parliamentary militant action linked to left forces inside Parliament.

Harry Pollitt once wrote that politics is not rhetoric, or revolutionary nostalgia. It is the essence of life. It’s all the things going on in peoples’ lives about work and study, housing and health, physical and mental, domestic and community. Whilst “years of bitter experience” showed that the working class “does not spontaneously develop a political, socialist consciousness out of separate struggles or campaigns”. (Challenge to Labour, p.42)

So, what are going to be the key issues for working people and their families in the Midlands in the two years from our district congress and how do these present themselves as challenges for a revolutionary party, like the Communist Party? Just as in 1917 in Russia, when decrees on basic issues, typified by the slogan `bread, peace, land’, were passed in the first few weeks of Soviet power, working people and their families today are concerned with the basics in life. Communists need to be able to demonstrate how the coupling of extra-parliamentary action with parliamentary processes can transform working peoples’ lives and how our party can play its part in impacting them in the Midlands?

• affordable and decent housing

• good and inexpensive food

• quality transport and environment 

• decent jobs, especially for their young

• fair and reasonable pensions

• equality of treatment for all

In the course of engagement in the politics of these matters, Midlands Communists can rely on a collective understanding born of generations of mass campaigning, especially the leadership of movements associated with working peoples’ struggles. We stand on the shoulders of giants. The beginnings of Midlands’ radicalism created the Pentrich Rising of 1817, the Birmingham Political Union of 1830-2, the Derby Turnout of 1833-4, the growth of trades unionism and strong centres of Chartism right across the Midlands in the decade from 1839. Whilst, after that, craft trades unionism persisted in the market towns of the Midlands, when general unionism developed, the region provided some of the earliest sustainable organisations.

Coventry provided one of the first and most extensive tenants’ strikes in history during and after the First World War, both Oxford and Birmingham initiated movements that would lead to the mass unionisation of working women and the latter also produced the biggest rent strike ever in 1939. In the mid-20th century Staffordshire produced several Communist councillors, and in the 1970s Walsall rivalled the famous Clay Cross council in its leadership against Tory housing finance legislation. Whilst the fifty years from the early 1930s to the early 1980s saw factory, mine and mill workers right across the Midlands led in the main by Communists, to the extent that few families and communities were untouched by our politics.

Yet all parts of the Midlands labour movement have long suffered under the tight control of the Labour Party – at least since the beginnings of the decades’ long employer offensive from the early 1980s saw closure after closure of many massive workplaces, often workplaces led by Communist shop stewards. The consequence has been that the local labour movement titled heavily to the right. The ideological fall out of this, oddly contrary to the real experience of workers elbowed out of work, was a rise in the belief that the state is a neutral body; that power can be won through government majorities without connection to the masses outside parliament other than occasional voting.

In the period of New Labour, less than a handful, if that, of the nearly 50 Labour MPs hailing from all parts of the Midlands had doubts about Blairism – and it they did it was because they were Brownites! The resultant discernible changes can be an important opportunity for Communists, if we build good links with trades unionists and Labour activists in the localities we operate in.

THE ROLE OF THE CP AND YCL

In his book, Challenge to Labour, Harry Pollitt also asked the movement to consider what the point of a Communist Party was. His answer was to provide the following key tests:

• to build socialist consciousness and understanding

• to provide leadership in all struggles

• to create an organisation for those working people who are capable of these two tasks.

Perhaps we manage the first reasonably well, through our branch activists in the main?  But we cannot claim leadership of those few truly mass struggles still taking place, strikes, rent action, occupations, and the like, let along ensuring a rising tide of struggle. 

Except for maybe four tiny peaks, a graph of working time lost due to labour disputes since the start of the Great Depression looks like a flat line set at the lowest level. The thin line continues to the present with a significant small blip is accounted for by the public sector dispute of 2011.

See: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/timeseries/bbfw/lms

Clearly, our district congress needs to make a frank and honest assessment of the state of both the labour movement forces in the West, East, South, and South East Midlands and our district and branch organisation and consider what need to be done. This will be a big task for us, for, unlike the caucus or sect, a Communist Party branch has wide ranging role, even so its main aim in the short term must be to reproduce itself, growing by means of spreading its geographical or employment contact. We aim to be a mass party, if not in terms of numbers but at least in terms of how we inter-relate to the class. As the rules of the International Workers’ Association, or First International, declared: “The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves”. The revolutionary party has task of giving back to the class the very consciousness which has come about through the experiences that the working class itself has lived through. It is through periods of intense crisis for capitalism when the class recognises in the principles and programme of revolutionaries its own historic interests.

It is not surprising that, when the class goes through periods of set-back, the revolutionary party will also do so.  one of the essential tasks of the party is to equip itself with operational instruments which can, in the most concrete way possible, return to the class the programme of working class emancipation, Communists distinguish themselves from the mass of workers by the fact that even while they fight alongside the whole class in its defensive struggles they denounce the limitations of these struggles and use them to propagandise the necessity for revolution. Communists must link the struggles of the class to a political strategy for attacking the bourgeois state. 

The party would be failing in its fundamental task if it did not move swiftly to work within the class and all its necessary instruments in the coming decisive political period.  Should a political situation become objectively favourable, we would be unprepared and isolated from the class. In turn that would lead to the class being disarmed and unprepared.

The last high spot of struggle, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the British Communist Party at the zenith of its vanguard role within the labour and trade union movement. But our membership was forty to fifty times larger than at present, with a YCL then very much larger than our Party currently is (34,000 in 1966).

When I began to call myself a Communist at the age of 14, there were many card-carrying Communists in the single city I lived in; the equivalent of about half of the entire national membership we have today. Any chance of restoring the CPB to prominence in class leadership, enabling anything like the concrete possibilities inherent from being armed to act like a revolutionary party, is closely linked to its role in developing the degree of maturation of the class struggle.

Marxism-Leninism distinguished between two vital aspects of socialist development, social and economic campaigns, especially strikes for increased wages and concessions at work, which always implies diffused plural leaderships; and political campaigns for socialist changes in society, in which we would expect decisive revolutionary leadership of the revolutionary party. Forty and fifty years ago, the Party’s main appeal to workers active in class struggle was to promote understanding that militancy was not enough. But this was done from within the struggle.

Now, we need to adopt different ways of connecting. The advent of social media and online polling enables a much wider involvement of all members in an area such as the Midlands in meaningful involvement in decision making.  

Interestingly, as the British Communist Party began to expand and broaden from the 1930s, Harry Pollitt was firmly set against those who wanted it to be “a small party of the elect … composed only of people we can rely on in a crisis”. The revolutionary snobbery behind this notion had created resistance, he wrote, to recruiting “raw workers”.

Not only should we reject the idea that there are people not good enough to be members, we need to accept that people joining us do not come as ready-made Communist cadres – it is our organisation’s job to train and develop them over time to become so.  Whilst we do need to be better organised and accept that each of us can do something, whilst appreciating that it is not the size of our branches or district that matters, it’s what we do with it!

A YOUNGER PARTY TO LIVE LONG!

A generational shift in our party is now desperately urgent.  We have twice the national average rate of 50+ year olds in our party, with few 40-year olds and even fewer 30- and 20-year olds.   At the last national congress, the outgoing EC had 14% of its members who were younger than 34, compared to a rate of that age band of 26.4% in the general population. 80% of the EC was over 60!  For our own District Committee, this must mean a determined effort to ensure that those who accept nomination, if at all possible, are mainly under 50 and are women and ethnic minorities.  If there is a notion that the DC should only include the most advanced, theoretically developed comrades, it is misplaced.  We need the most vigorous and dedicated of our younger activists, with a handful of the unpatronizing grey-haired to help them on their way.  

A TURN TO UNION BRANCH WORK  

Our own meetings should avoid talk at length that contains little of value. Our work must become not just practical and agitational, but we need to acquire the skills for mass leadership. This does not come automatically, or by planning it, or just from wanting it, or talking about it, or telling Party organisations and members they must look to themselves and do better. Leadership can only be won if it is deserved. Harry Pollitt again: “The leading role of the Communist Party does not come of itself; it has to be won in action.” [Britain Arise, page 32]

To do this, Communists need to be linked inseparably with the mass of working people.  Yet, after a long period of failing to renew our work in mass organisations, our Party’s connections to the world of work are now small and fast diminishing. Recruiting trades unionists is critical for our Party’s development. As the real Workers’ Party, we need to be developing workers as our best cadres. We all agree getting the young will be important but how?

We need to “Turn to the Workplace” with Party activists thinking about how they can connect with those in the workplaces of today. What union activists on union Regional Committees do we know? What workplaces do we know? Who do we have? Have we asked these people if they’ll join us?  Most unions now have constitutional provisions to prevent those not in work from determining policy and personnel over those who are.  Even Unite Community has restrictions, although much improved.  We need to be more focused on getting workers to join unions – any union.  Looking at the nature of disaggregated work is a key to developing organising strategies – Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise being the best example, thus far of how to build across unions and sectors in localities.

That doesn’t stop the two thirds of our members who are baby boomers contributing as magnificently as they currently do. But, as the real Workers’ Party, we need to be developing workers as our best cadres and to be truly effective these will be mostly those under 35 or so.   How do we even begin such a mammoth task? Surely, by focusing on our `bread, peace, land’. There must be many more recent experiences of connecting in a mass way. Why not write in with your own experiences, or those of you branch?

Motions adopted by District Congress

Motion 1:

The British Road to Socialism & Midlands 2020-2022

AFFORDABLE AND DECENT HOUSING IN THE MIDLANDS

1. The Midlands District Congress is aware of the housing crisis facing many individuals and families. Research estimates that over eight million people are affected by the housing crisis in England. This includes people living in overcrowded homes, unable to afford rents and mortgages, living in poor quality homes, being on ever increasing housing waiting lists and sleeping rough.  There are an estimated 1.7 million on social housing waiting lists in England alone – that’s one in 12 families. In Nottingham, the waiting list has soared to 8,000 people, with only half the level of housing stock held in the 1980s. The introduction of a market-style bidding system for a council use puts many off. 

2.  Housing building has collapsed, requests for planning permission declined, social housing waiting lists soared by 64% and numbers seeking homes increasing annually by over 25,000 in the Midlands. A house in Acocks Green recently had 214 bids put in by waiting listers. Only those earning upwards of £45,000 a year can now afford the typical mortgage, whilst the cost of renting privately now stands at well over £600 per month or more. There has been a massive shortfall of homes unbuilt.  

3. In Birmingham alone, the five-year deficit of homes needed stands at 18,000.  But 80,000 new homes are needed to accommodate a population growth of an estimated 150,000 extra people living in the city by 2031. Both those out of work and those who are part of the working poor are vulnerable to distress occasioned by housing need.

4. We need to:             

  • Contribute to highlighting the housing crisis and campaign for local authorities to build council housing and for the implementation of living rents in the private rented sector.
  • Produce a housing crisis fact sheet and guidance to branches on ways to engage in housing crisis action in their areas.
  • Encourage widespread local trades union branch involvement in the affiliated Labour Housing Group.
  • Work with the tenants’ union, Acorn, to build their branches and members in the localities we are active in.
  • Win the Midlands TUC to support an active development of social housing programme by all local authorities.
  • Work to make housing a main strand of activity in local People’s Assemblies and trades councils

TRANSPORT & THE ENVIRONMENT

5. The economic costs of air pollution are important; cutting it out would mean an economic boost of 4% of GDP every year but it would also mean avoiding 10,000 early deaths a year in the whole Midlands region. Nearly 6% of adult deaths in the West Midlands are down to air quality, 22 times more than those caused by car accidents. 

6. Many hundreds of schools in the Midlands are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution.  In the last three decades, bus use outside of London has drastically declined.  The Midlands, both in urban and in rural areas, needs to catch the bus!  

7. Buses are still heavily funded from the public purse, it’s effectively subsidy farming by big business. Yet fares are extortionate, while shareholders do supremely well out of their shared ownership. 

8. The public are strongly in favour of the municipalisation of bus services. Campaigning for opposition to the Bus Services Act, which prohibits a local authority from “forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service”, could be an important campaign.  

9. Yet cities like Birmingham have one of the most expensive bus services in the UK outside of London. Most of its services are run by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for 77% of all bus journeys. The cost of an adult annual pass and day ticket is £4.40 whilst an annual pass is £654.  

10. A new way to fund transport is Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy, which means that companies have to pay for the car parking spaces they supply – £417 per space per year to the council if they have 11 or more. The council in Nottingham used it to pay for a new tram, refurbish a station and introduce cycling schemes.  

11. We should be proud that this tax is based on one introduced by a Communist minister in the French left unity government of 1982. The French port of Dunkirk is just one of dozens around the globe that introduced free public transport for all, now a growing trend. There are well over a hundred entirely fare-free public transport networks around the world, including over 30 in France and 40 in the United States.

12. Freight transport in all modes of transport has also been deregulated. Road haulage is now dominated by either transnational contracting firms or by owner drivers, with little public sector role. The inefficiencies of the free market work against effective environmentalism. Integrating road, rail, water, and air transport to ensure minimal impact on global warming will become critical. 

13. We need to:

  • Build support for Labour’s Green New Deal (GND) campaign, which aims to nationalise the national grid and divert £13 billion of profits into renewable energy and decarbonisation, with more and better recycling 
  • Publicise the opportunity of geothermal heating through abandoned flooded coal mines, of which the Midlands has a large potential supple, that could see around 650,000 homes naturally heated 
  • Work with active trades unionists and local Labour members, including by advancing the argument for municipal ownership of sub-regional urban public transport in the Midlands. 
  • Work with organisations such as the Campaign for Better Transport and We Own It, as well as GND, which is open to non-LP members, establishing genuinely broad Morning Star Readers’ Groups may provide an effective structure for the development of local campaigns on public transport, especially on public ownership, particularly in areas receiving or projected to have combined authority status,
  • Campaign to reduce lengthy supply chains using road transport resulting in high social costs in terms of pollution and damage to road surfaces, bridges and culverts 
  • Campaign for locally sourced production for both industry and agriculture

REASONABLY PRICED AND HEALTHY FOOD 

14. Finding a means to develop public campaigning about the cost of living and especially the price of food could be a significant way of introducing political campaigning to working people and their families in the Midlands.

15. Increases in the price of basic food items and closures of local stores particularly affects the working class and those without access to transport. Disproportionate problems arise for single parents, those on benefits, the disabled, and the retired, the majority of whom are women.

16. Labour’s policy on developing city centre shopping could be useful if Local Authorities could work with start-ups and co-ops to develop aquaponics production and training centres for commercial food production that could work closely with many small providers.

17. Places like Nottingham and Birmingham, while big cities, are surrounded by agricultural land. Most of Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire are very rural.  Migrant labour has become dominant in many ‘picking’ industries in these areas. A restored Agricultural Wages Board or Food Sector Board needs to cover every sector of food production and have regional arms to it, massively raising wages and conditions. 

18. Fresh food is generally very expensive and cupboard food even more so, like pasta, staples with a high shelf life.  Of course, it’s cheaper to feed families an unhealthy diet, yet certain foods seem to be kept artificially low by supermarkets; such as bread, carrots, onions, apples and potatoes. 

19. But mushrooms are expensive and some meat but not all.  Organic farmers need to link up with co-operatives to develop a coherent policy for food production and distribution. New, urban farms and polytunnel sites are needed and the overall decline in acreage set aside for food production reversed. 

20. The end of the Common Agricultural Policy will be a historic opportunity to get subsidy policy right. 

21. Party organisations should develop research and understanding into local costs of living, leading to relevant publicity. Take for example, the situation shown on number.com about Stoke on Trent and every other town and city in the Midlands. Much data on food and clothing prices is contained here.  

22. A sample of this detail is that average monthly net salary (after tax) is £1,500.00 but monthly Rent for 3 bedrooms outside of the city centre is £521.25. The possibility of a Cost of Living profile for each area could be considered as part of a co-ordinated district campaign on poverty pay. 

23. We need to:

  • Campaign independently and in unity with others about food poverty. Many workers are now, due to austerity, forced to look to charities, whether for food banks or those helping with debts. Party organisations should follow the YCL’s successful campaign by occasionally organising food collections, channelled into food banks.”
  • Party organisations should consider linking up with local campaign groups to prepare for the 2020 End Hunger UK Week of Action to tell government to act to ensure that everyone has enough money to afford good food, and that no-one goes to bed hungry.

LIFE EXPECTANCY & QUALITY OF LIFE

24. For the metropolitan area of the West Midlands Combined Authority, life expectancy for new-born girls is 82.2 years and for boys 77.9 years. For the wider region of the West Midlands as a whole, the life expectancy of recently born females slightly rises to 82.7 years and for males, 78.8 years. In both cases, this is the sixth longest life expectancies out of the nine English regions.

25. There is considerable variation in preventable mortality across East Midlands local authorities, with an urban-rural divide. The inner-city areas of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, show significantly lower life expectancy than the average for England with the highest preventable rates associated with the high levels of deprivation. 

26. Only 11% of Oxford’s usual residents live in deprived areas, compared to 20% in England. However, about 20% (5,000) children live in poverty, a figure significantly higher than the average, and even higher once monthly housing costs are subtracted. Whilst life expectancy and physical health is generally high, the percentage of mental health problems and substance misuse within the population is excessive.

27. Simple, cost effective, public health measures could lengthen the average human life span by five to 10 years, according to the World Health Organisation.  Risk factors include underweight children and mothers, poor hygiene, high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol, and obesity. 

28. But it is poverty that is the killer. Since 2010, £37 billion of funding has been removed from social security. It is a national disgrace that in every school class of 30 children, on average, nine will be living in poverty. 

29. We need to: 

  • Ensure Party organisations develop good links with local campaigns on the issues of benefits. 
  • Promote and popularise the campaign for a shorter standard paid working week and resist extensions of the retirement age. 
  • Build campaigns for the working class to access cheap or free leisure and personal education facilities. 
  • Understand that robotics is no more a challenge than was automation. It should be used for the betterment of the world of work, not an excuse to attack workers’ rights.

MOTION NUMBER 2

BUILDING THE PARTY AND THE YCL 

The CPB Midland District Congress recognises the devastating effect ten years of Conservative / Lib Dem austerity has inflicted on the lives of millions of people in this region. 

Young people have been among the groups disproportionately affected by austerity. They  face precarious employment including low pay and zero hour contracts, a housing crisis leading to having to reside for extended periods in the parental home,  or live in poor quality accommodation, or for some having to sofa-surf, or be forced into homelessness. Other consequences of austerity for young people include debt, poor mental health, victims of knife crime and substance abuse.

Possibly the most important priority for the district must be building the Young Communist League.  Each branch is urged to develop one or two young people to form a parallel YCL collective, with a view to self-reliant independent YCL branches, Noting that under Party Rule 4, “all Party members aged between 16 and 28 (inclusive) will at the time of joining the CPB also become members of the Young Communist League, save that any such member shall have the right to opt then or subsequently to hold party membership only”.

Party organisations are urged to involve themselves in local university freshers’ weeks, seeking to make contact with local colleges and universities in collaboration with the YCL, with the aim of establishing Communist Societies on campus.

The development of coordinated activity across the district aimed at educating members and supporters, building recruitment, cadre development, and new Branches, whilst increasing Morning Star direct sales and sales outlets, will see the

District Committee: 

a) continue to use and adapt existing YCL recruitment materials and produce Midland YCL promotion material, made available to Midland Party branches.

b) collect and review Branch Plans and develop an integrated and clear District Plan and schedule for activity and growth, producing information on branch planning and fundraising.

c) noting Party Rule 6 (The Structure of the Party), regularly review its constitution of Party Branches based on a place of work or a locality, or an industry, or a party collective

d) ensure that each Party Branch shall hold an Annual General Meeting which shall elect a Branch Committee and main branch officers. Branches should aim to produce a realistic, but ambitious annual development plan agreed with branch members, pursuing outward facing activities including meetings and involvement with trade unions and trades councils, establishing positive working relationships with other progressive organisations, building networks and maintaining contact with organisations that can co-operate in realising Party policies

e) provide a regular news update of Party activity to members and review all aspects of the District’s functioning, especially the spread of membership and activity, and the possibility of district commissions where feasible. 

f) in recognising the importance of social media, to actively use this to profile the Party and its policies, continue to develop Information Technology and Social Media work and endeavour to provide basic education to all Party members on internet and information technology matters.

g) establish a self-reliant financial base for the district’s activities

3. Party collectives in all areas covered by each of our seven branches shall: 

a) ensure they have full knowledge of local conditions, issues and struggles of concern to the people, being involved directly and regularly report on these matters to all members by email and, where necessary, post. Local editions, district or branch level, of Unity! should be considered, and minutes of meetings circulated to those close to, or interested in, the Party’s work

b) immediately after district congress, develop a branch plan of work as well as routinely supplying all their minutes and regular reports on their activities to the District Committee. Branches shall advise the District Committee of all officer changes taking place in between their AGMs. Branches will be asked to include in their annual branch plan proposals for collaboration with YCL to support recruitment and development of YCL membership, setting targets for recruitment.

c) aim for at least one social or cultural event a year.

d) ensure that the Morning Star is seen as the paper of the whole local left by taking the following steps: 

  • elect a Morning Star Organiser in every branch
  • audit all branch members regarding daily readership of the Morning Star and PPPS share ownership
  • ensure that there are effective Morning Star Readers & Supporters Groups in each branch’s localities
  • establish an effective local sales team to enable responses for bulk orders for local events

e) adopt a strategy for recruitment by the development of regular links with identified individuals, using the Recruitment Pack (Britain’s Road to Socialism, What We Stand For, new leaflets and membership forms) to approach and recruit prospective new members.

f) arrange a regular programme of political discussion involving both possible new members as well as long-established ones.  The importance of all communists and others being skilled in Marxist Leninist theory and practice is required if we are to correctly analyse the current situation and enact the correct course. Congress welcomes those branches that organise Marxist Leninist education, but recognises that some of our branches have limited resources and some of our members do not engage in Branch work. The District Committee should organise in a suitable location a suitable event open to Communist Party members and allies in order to maximise the spread of Marxist Leninist education in the District. The D.C. will consult on a name for the event. 

h) encourage branch members to take on more responsibility, building a wider and deeper collective, and noting that under Party Rule 4 (Conditions of Membership) members should “work in a Party organisation”, establish a means to communicate and guide the work of individual members of their branch suitable to their own circumstances and the branch’s plan of work. 

i)Branches must attempt intervention in municipal elections in ways ranging from Party local leaflets to adopting candidates where Labour has selected unpopular, right-wing individuals but also to campaign for good left-wing candidates in selected areas.

Branch Motions

COMMONWEALTH GAMES – Birmingham & District Plus

This district congress, in noting that the Commonwealth Games are coming to Birmingham, expresses concern that the citizen could be left with a significant debt to pay for them. The District Committee should initiate activity to ensure that facilities remain in public hands and not sold off. 

100 YEARS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY – Coventry, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire 

Congress recognises and welcomes the contributions made by the Communist Party both nationally and internationally over the last 100 years. It agrees that if the working class is to retain any advances achieved and achieve a socialist society there is a crying need to increase the role, size and influence of the Marxist party of the Working Class, the Communist Party. To this end this District Congress welcomes the plans agreed by the Executive Committee to organise a number of events celebrating the role of our party. This District Congress agrees that maximum support should be given by Branches and members in the Midlands District to these events and calls upon the District Committee to both coordinate and encourage support for these events particularly the national event on 31st July/ 1st August.

Congress calls upon Branches to at least one local public event which both explains the history of the Communist Party and the requirement for a Communist Party both now and in the future.

Congress agrees that the District Committee will organise with our allies two events during 2020.

In conclusion Congress agrees that the centenary years gives us a massive opportunity to increase the size of the Communist Party and we should use it.

ESTABLISHING A MIDLANDS MORNING STAR READERS & SUPPORTERS GROUP – Coventry, Warwickshire & Northamptonshire 

All Party members should read and support the Morning Star. There are a number of Morning Star Readers and Supporters Groups in the Midlands District which should be supported by the Party. Congress also recognises that the establishment of Readers and Supporters Groups will bring others into political activity. Whilst these groups exist there is no effective coordination of activities and many areas aren’t effectively covered. To this end the District Committee should, working with the Morning Star and organisational shareholders, should establish a Midlands Regional Morning Star Readers and Supporters Group.

NB: The District Committee additionally urged congress to note that Party Rule 15 on the Duties of Members says that “Party members shall have the duty, with the assistance of the Party… To read the Morning Star and to help in every way the circulation of the paper.

PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLIES AND TRADES COUNCILS –

Derbyshire & East Staffordshire

People’s Assemblies and Trades Councils give ALL members and branches the opportunity to initiate and take part in local political campaigning activity, and the organisation of the extra parliamentary mass movement that is a Party priority.

All trades councils are meant to welcome a representative of the local PA to their meetings and activities by virtue of the TUC Trades Councils Plan of Work, and similarly local PAs should welcome Trades Councils reps.

The District Committee regularly takes reports from all branches on progress in these areas of work and congress urges branches to keep up a supply of these. 

District Congress Delegates

Birmingham and District Plus

Brian Allbutt

Andrew Maybury – apologies (urgent NHS operation)

James McLelland

Graham Stevenson

Joanne Stevenson

Annie Banham – apologies (Clarion Choir event)

Nick Kelleher – apologies (IWA event)

Yvonne Washbourne – apologies (family)

Coventry, Warwickshire, & Northamptonshire

Tony Conway 

Damon Cummings.

Derbyshire & East Staffordshire

Marios Doucas

Bill Greenshields 

Bob Bonner

Leicestershire & District

Pierre Marshall

Nottinghamshire & East Lincs

Oliver Dodd, 

Joe Pateman

Oxfordshire & Berkshire 

Dave Stavris

Ian Wright

Shropshire

Chris Chesworth

Pam Pink

D.C. consultative

Geoffrey Ferres

Phil

CP EC soral delegate

Liz Payne

Elected District Committee 

20 nominations were received but 5 comrades declined to accept. The DC recommendation to congress was, as per past practice in Midlands District Congresses, to fix the size of the District Committee as the number of valid nominations and acceptances received before district congress and for delegates to hold a secret paper ballot permitting individual voting on the day if congress wished it. The D.C. has been in the past as large as 17 and as low as 13 by this practice, and varying numbers in between, no particular size creating difficulties. This committee is 15 in number. 

There were two women who accepted nomination and the current age ranges of the elected committee are:

Under 40         6

41-59              4

Over 60           5

Albutt, Brian 

Active Retired Member Unison; membership officer Sandwell and West Birmingham Branch of the Pensioners Convention and Assistant Regional Secretary

West Midlands Pensioners Convention; active member of Birmingham Keep Our NHS Public.

Bonner, Bob 

Currently, District Committee representative on National Anti-Racist and Anti-Fascist Commission, member of retiring DC. Member of PCS, working in IT and communications; 34 years of age, member of Party for over 5 years.

Chaffer, Andy 

Present Party Positions:  Chair of Birmingham and District Plus branch, member of Midlands DC and Morning Star organiser, member of Executive Committee, National  Morning Star Organiser. 

Past Party Positions: Branch Secretary, Branch Treasurer, National YCL Treasurer, member of Communist Review Editorial Board. 

Present Labour Movement Positions:  Branch Secretary Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health UNISON; Delegate to West Midlands Regional Council, Regional Committee, Regional International Committee; Co-convenor Regional LGBT+ Self Organised Group; Member of UNISON  LGBT+ National Committee.

Member of party since 1985, currently 56 years of age.

Chesworth, Chris

Member of Party for 4 years. Present Party positions – Branch Secretary, Shropshire Branch, member of the retiring District Committee; employed in retail catering, aged 28.

Member of Unite, past position in USDAW. Member of Shropshire Peoples Assembly. 

Conway, Tony

Current Party positions: member of EC and PC; Branch Secretary Coventry and Warwickshire; Convenor of ARAF Commission.

Member of YCL 1977 till 1984. CPGB/CPB 1970 until 1987 and 1989 to date. 63 years of age. 

Current labour movement positions: national committee member of the Associate and Retired Members (ARMS) section of PCS. Member of PPPS MC,  Stand up to Racism Steering Committee, Coventry Trades Union Council and Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee.  Treasurer Coventry and Warwickshire People’s Assembly, treasurer West Midlands UAF, Midland TUC Pensions Committee, Secretary of Coventry Against Racism.

Past Labour Movement Positions: PCS National and Group Committee, Branch and Group Officers; former full-time officer

Dodd, Oliver

Joined early 2019 (returning member), aged 29; acting branch secretary Nottinghamshire and North Lincs.  

Economic and Research Council PhD Candidate & Seminar Teacher,  Fellow of Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice.

Author of articles in MS on Colombia; Member of Justice for Colombia and Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Doucas, Marios 

Aged 47 years, employed Derbyshire County Council, member of Unison. One year member of CPB, Chair of Derbyshire & East Staffs CPB branch. 

Greenshields, Bill 

First joined CPB in 2007. Past Chair of EC and current EC member, convenor Anti-Austerity Commission, Communist Renewal Team; Trade Union: Divisional Secretary – then NEC member – then National President of NUT (now incorporated in NEU); Retired member NEU; Delegate to Derby Area Trades Union Council; Peoples Assembly National Committee; Life member of Central London Poly (Westminster University) Student Union; 68 years of age. 

Greenshields, Moz 

Joined CPB 2007. Aged 66. Former D.C. and EC member. Secretary Derby Area TUC. Unison branch officer, regional committee, national executive, chair regional local government committee, regional NEC member. East Mids TUC Executive and EM TUCJCC rep.

Ferres, Geoffrey 

Joined CP in 1974; former branch secretary of three branches Oxford University Students, Birmingham University Student, and  Oxfordshire, as well as holding various other branch positions. For many years prior to 1988, Secretary of the Party’s History Group; Member of the (West) Midlands Committee of the CPB for two spells and before that of the Midlands Committee of the CPGB; Member of retiring D.C. and currently Midlands Treasurer and served for two years before that as Midlands Secretary; 2001-2009, held politically restricted positions in local government and had to give up party positions.

Manager of an advice centre, member Oxford County Branch of Unison; in the past been a shop steward in NUPE and the TGWU, when was Deputy Convener of the National Voluntary Sector Combine. 65 years of age. 

Marshall, Pierre 

Present party positions: branch secretary of Leicester CPB; member of national CPB IT committee, international committee, and Popular Sovereignty Commission: member of YCL Executive Committee and international committee; co-op member of Manifesto Press; attended the YCL summer camp in 2009 and joined CPB in 2010.  Short break in membership in 2014-15 when living abroad;  Member of UCU, and Unite Community.  Attends Leicester University; aged 26 years. 

Maybury, Andrew 

Currently Midlands District Chair, member of DC and Secretariat; member of Birmingham & District Plus Branch; CPB member for around five years.

Previous: UNISON workplace steward from 1990, Branch Chair 2002 – 2005, Branch Secretary 2010-2017. Dudley TUC Secretary 2013-2018. The last two positions were relinquished whilst completing a doctorate in industrial relations, during which time I was also a member of the Equalities and Employment Policy Research Group at Keele University. Aged 57. 

McLelland, James 

Member of retiring DC; Youth and Student Officer of Birmingham and District CP, member of EC of the YCL, as well as it’s Midlands Organiser; BFAWU member; joined in early 2016. Aged 21 years, employed in retail catering. 

Stevenson, Graham  

Party positions: Member CP/YCL since Jan 1966, YCL EC/PC 1969-1978, Midlands District Secretary YCL, then National Young Workers Organiser; many branch and district CP positions including Secretariat and D.C. of both West and East Midlands. Secretary of Party Advisories T&G/Unite 1992 to present; CP EC and PC for 20 years. Midlands Party District Secretary 2007-2015, 2018 to present, member of retiring DC, National Trade Union Organiser 2015-17. Aged 69

Labour movement: Youth rep then shop steward and joint shop stewards committee secretary until FTO for T&G from 1980. President and Vice President of international transport trade union bodies 1989-2011. Currently, Chair of Birmingham Area Activists Committee of Unite. 

Stevenson, Joanne 

Party/YCL – Joined 2002, previous roles – YCL young women’s organiser, YCL general secretary, Midlands D.C. Treasurer, member CP EC.  Present: Bham CP branch treasurer. Retiring D.C.member and District Equalities Organiser. Aged 32. 

Previously: Bham STWC, leader of school students strike; Delegate to NUS conference; Treasurer World Youth festival Midland Preparatory Committee;  National Treasurer YCND, Unite branch treasurer. 

Report of the Midlands District Congress –  January 11th 2020

Contents

  • Report of Work from the District Committee                   p3
  • DC Standing Orders                                                      p14
  • The Challenge for Midlands Communists 2020-22       p16
  • District Congress Congress motions                             p22
  • Branch Motions adopted                                                p29
  • Delegates to District Congress                                      p30
  • The elected District Committee                                     p31

Midlands Report of Work 2018-19

The District Committee

The 2018 Midlands Congress elected a new Midlands District Committee of 14  comrades. As has been long-standing common practice in the district, no comrade who had accepted nomination was excluded from election to the committee at congress. 

Although two members resigned during the period (one from the Party itself), one member died, and one was subject to long-term health difficulties, the level of the committee’s collective activity rose considerably. 

None the less, reflecting the high level of commitment and activity of Communists, both political and personal, it has been always understood that a degree of authorised absence is to be expected. There were rarely less than 8 members present at any one time, with the effective size of the committee operating at 11 for large stretches of the period under review. However, the committee has increasingly insisted on correct apologies for non attendance being provided and for facility for attendance, part of the time. 

A newer development, as established members begin to move out of paid employment, is that younger members of the committee are more and more unable to commit to dates ahead. Not only is this due to the collapse of premium time payments for weekend working but line managers now tend to be inflexible and unresponsive about shift patterns, when workers have not given significant advance warning of dates they wish to have off. 

An additional complication is that we have had to insist on a right to reimbursement of reasonable travelling expenses. The level of earnings of younger comrades is such that more often than not, they need to claim these, whilst others have not always needed to do so. Inevitably, these factors stress the committee’s budget, whilst only a few of our branches contribute to district income. 

As time has moved forwards, we have found that bringing more workers on the D.C. generates more of these problems but the D.C. considers it is politically the right thing to do, however many awkward problems it makes for us. This whole thing is made more complex by the fact that the D.C. aims to follow the meetings of the Executive Committee, perhaps at a distance of a month or six weeks later, which tend not to be fixed longer than a year at best and this is often not done until part way through the year. 

Hence the D.C. has become more concerned to establish accountability of its members, whilst at the same time applying a significant degree of leniency. However, where significant and long standing failure to apply personal disciple arises, attendance has been raised and remedial action has ensued. To ensure effective and universal reporting back from D.C. meetings applies, it was also decided that branches may request a report back from a D.C. officer where they require this. The application of these various measures, which have been consciously built on across some years, does seem to have resulted in a better position in terms of the youthfulness and contemporary relevance if district committee deliberations. 

The D.C. has confirmed that all DC members may Skype in to its meetings, provided they confirm the request and provide their Skype name to the District Secretary before the meeting. It has also adopted a set of standing orders. (See appendices.) In a similar vein, the District Committee also submitted amendments to Party rules and Congress Standing Orders, which were subsequently remitted to the EC. 

The DC has sought to review written branch plans via a standard agenda item “Correspondence (incl. branch minutes/plans)”. Unfortunately, only three out of seven branches regularly supplied such material. Given that active members involved in all sorts of broad activities have useful information to pass on, the District Secretary’s post D.C. bulletin now includes all relevant information. 

The D.C. also reviewed its responsibilities with regard to the exigences of the General Data Protection Regulation, which the Party nationally has been very  to ensure was properly handled. 

Acting more efficiently has also meant meeting more regularly but spreading the load more effectively. The committee met twelve times across the period, a 50% increase in frequency over the previous period in a shorter time frame: 7th April 2018, 12 May 2018, 9 June 2018, 13 July 2018, 22 September 2018, 27 October 2018, 16 February 2019, 13 April 2019, 13 July 2019, 31 August 2019, 12 October 2019, 14 December 2019. Individual attendances and apologies of elected members of the committee follow. 

Following the sad and untimely death of the Chair, Laurence Platt, Andrew Maybury, the former Vice Chair was elected in February 2019 to fill the vacancy.  Support was given to Nottinghamshire Morning Star Readers and Supporters in organising a Laurence Platt commemorative event on 1 June 2019. 

Other officer roles are associated with ‘departments’ of Party work, which are returned to later in the report. 

District Committee attendance, apologies, resignations and deaths.

Bob Bonner Attended 6 meetings   4 apologies due to work shift clashes
Steve Bradfield Attended 3 meetings 5 apologies (2 personal, 2 family, 1 union. Resigned from D.C. September 2019. 
Andy Chaffer Attended 8 meetings  4 apologies (3 union, 1 personal)
Chris Chesworth Attended 6 meetings.  6 apologies ( all due to  work shift clashes)
Geoffrey Ferres Attended 10 meetings  2 apologies (family)
David Grove Attended 1 meeting.  11 Apologies received and accepted as a standard for all meetings from 12 May 2018 due to ill-health and travel difficulties. 
Andrew Maybury  Attended 9 meetings 3 apologies (personal or health)
Laurence Platt Attended 1 meeting Unable to attend any meetings from 12 May 2018, apologies for non-attendance due to ill-health thereafter until his death in January 2019.
Dave Stavris  Attended 6 meetings 6 apologies, all for political responsibilities elsewhere  
Graham Stevenson Attended 12 meetings     
Joanne Stevenson Attended 11 meetings  1 apology for ill-health
Phil StreetAttended 10 meetings2 apologies (family)
Matt WiddowsonAttended 2 meetings  Resigned from the Party –  July 2018 (NB: but  subsequently rejoined)
Robert Wilkinson Attended 10 meetings2 apologies for other political responsibilities.

Mobilising the Midlands Party in public work

The Midlands Committee has a responsibility to encourage branches and individual comrades to support the work of the Party. One example of district wide activity was when the Tory Party Conference returned to Birmingham from 30th September to 3rd October 2018 at the International Convention Centre.  The Midlands TUC sponsored an anti-cuts demonstration and the District 

  • Assisted with mass distribution of the Morning Star
  • Ensured an Anti-Tory Midlands Unity! produced and distributed 
  • Placed a gazebo at the end of the demonstration

In considering the Party’s impact at May Day and other forthcoming events, it was agreed that the Midlands Party produce a Midlands Unity! for the Women Chain Makers’ Festival. There was a significant Party presence in both summers. Although the District advertised Chainmakers’ Festival, perhaps understandably, only Birmingham & District Plus mobilised significant numbers of comrades, who were effectively scattered across many stalls and delegations. Although the Leicester & District branch secretary also visited and helped in 2019. The new location at Mary MacArthur Gardens, Lower High Street, that year was reasonably beneficial from the point of view of stall holders. 

The District Committee is actively represented in a campaign to memorialise in some official way the events at Saltley Gate in 1972.  In February 2019, the 47th anniversary of the Saltley Gate picket, a successful event was held in Birmingham involving Arthur Scargill as main speaker, with the President of Birmingham TUC and our District Secretary speaking for the CPB.  Subsequent to the meeting a response was received from Birmingham City Council with regard to displaying the mural both permanently and during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Questions about dimensions, artist, ownership etc as being pursued. 

Acting to maintain branch life

Of course, since this is the District Committee’s report of work to district congress and not an aggregate report of the independent Party life of each branch, the following represents the work of the D.C. in building the Party. 

It is Rule 6c that governs this role: “The District Committee shall constitute Party Branches based on a place of work or a locality or an industry or a party collective, and shall ensure that each Party Branch shall hold an Annual General Meeting which shall elect a Branch Committee.”

The D.C. has taken the view that it is ready to reconstitute branches  urgently based on whole counties, even multiple counties, based on more local and smaller collectives that are built into functioning branches by a combination of work carried out by the D.C. and by constituted branches. We are ready to engage in such developments anywhere and anytime. The reverse must however be the case; where branches are unable to function it is proper to merge them with functioning branches if, after a lengthy period of time, it proves impossible with current cadreship  levels to maintain a Party organisation then reorganisation will take place after appropriate discussions.

Regrettably, in the period, it finally became clear that neither North Staffordshire (except East Staffs), nor Wolverhampton, nor the Black Country, would function as an independent Party organisation, despite the very significant labour movement activity of a number of active comrades in these areas. (Historically, since re-establishment, South Staffordshire has been covered by the Birmingham branch.)  Accordingly, it was determined that Birmingham, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire branch be designated Birmingham and District Plus, covering the West Midlands (minus Coventry), Staffordshire, the Black Country, Wolverhampton, Hertfordshire, and Worcestershire. (Earlier attempts to revive the latter two counties came to little.)

Also during the period since last District Congress, challenges to the maintenance of Party life in both the Leicestershire & District branch and the Nottinghamshire and North Lincolnshire branch arose. Some of this was related to ageing of the membership and some to instability of younger members joining and leaving with bewildering rapidity. A particular concern has been a drift to the Labour Party. 

Three comrades, two from Leicester & District and one from Nottinghamshire and North Lincolnshire branches, were issued with standing invitations to attend the D.C. until district congress. These comrades attended meetings as they could but also maintained closer contact with the district leadership as a result. Work is ongoing to continue direct assistance in maintaining self-reliant units of Party operations, with an increasing sense of confidence and outreach activity in both areas becoming evident. The district committee recently reiterated its view that all efforts need to be focused on rebuilding local activity in the catchment areas of these constituted branches.

Early in 2019, the D.C. took the view that it could be relatively easily done to ensure meetings of some of the comrades take place in Leicester and this proved to be the case. The District Secretary met with Arvinder Singh Kandola to ensure both social media and basic branch administration was kept up with and subsequently he and he and Pierre Marshall (twice) attended District Committee meetings as invited visitors. 

In Nottinghamshire, after Laurence’s death, the District Committee urged a rejoining comrade, Oliver Dodds, who has attended D.C. meetings as a visitor when able, to work with the small number of local members to seek a revived branch via the medium of a Morning Star Readers & Supporters Group, which had been Laurence’s own plan had he lived.  A number of Labour and Trade Union activists in the area have shown considerable interest, following the successful memorial event for Laurence and subsequently the editor of the paper, Ben Chacko visited for a meeting. Active plans for a meeting of the Party branch in early 2020 are under way. The District Secretary has offered to visit Nottingham to meet with members whenever required. 

The serious problem arising from the decision of the Shropshire branch secretary to formally leave the Party in order to accept an invitation to enter the Labour Party on a fast track system to significant personal involvement was discussed by him and his branch committee. Given the relevant personal circumstances discussed at length by the local committee with the comrade in question, it was decided by the branch leadership to accept the position and report to the District Secretary on possibilities arising for a further strengthening of already developing links going wider than Shropshire. In that context, several meetings were held on a West Midlands basis to discuss these developments, which are outside the scope of this report.

Whilst such losses are always disappointing, on the positive side, a very effective Shropshire MSR&G, involving both Labour and Communist Party members to a substantial level, continues, with the District Secretary addressing one of its meetings in the run up to the general election in Shrewsbury . 

A report on District Committee activity in specific areas follows: 

Membership

Every branch secretary was contacted with a list of currently recorded members as at 24 May 2018, whilst a review of previous lapsed, deceased, and resigned members was undertaken. This resulted in 123 members being declared, including 24 Female members (19.5% of the total – a considerable drop from the position in the District only 2 years before); 4 BME (a considerable improvement); and 22 under 40 years of age, (also an improvement). A review of the process for managing applications for membership was undertaken to ensure that none were lost.

In point of fact, on the analysis conducted in 2018, Midlands membership levels for a population of 11.3 million compared very well to surrounding economically similar English districts. A great deal of work in the early part of 2019 was undertaken with Party centre and the outgoing National Treasurer to ensure that, on the one hand elderly party members, some of whom may not be in a fit enough state any more to personally maintain payment of dues, are not unduly lapsed. But, on the other, that failure to ensure membership growth does not rest on imprecise figures. 

On this basis, at 4 January, membership recorded by Party Centre for the Midlands is 130, though, in the latter part of 2019, dues arrears have risen considerably, meaning some 20 or so of these members are currently technically not in compliance. 

Political Education

Political discussions on key topics are general for district committee meetings and several intensive political/theoretical discussions were held, details of which follow:#  

Britain’s Road to Socialism

One was on Britain’s Road to Socialism in June 2018. The District Committee agreed after lengthy discussion on a formal response to the issuing by the PC of a draft rewrite of Britain’s Road to Socialism. Accepting that the draft was intended to refine the previous editions based on previously accepted new policy, comrades appreciated that producing a revision so near to a congress could be problematic. However, it was unclear to them why this draft had not been before the Party a year before. The following was the outcome in summary of the D.C. discussion. 

The Labour Party and government – there was concern about the document’s weaknesses here, especially on a strategy with dealing with internal resistance to Labour’s continuing movement to the left and our role in that.

Recognition is needed that many new members of Labour are new to politics and their understanding of labour movement structures and culture is shallow, whilst Momentum’s links to trade unions are very weak. Some work has been done in our district in this regard, but we are not aware of much other consistent and strategic delivery. 

Reference to .”Criminal gangs” was perhaps intended to apply to a developed socialist society, but the D.C. felt that the phrase was insensitive to the situation in inner city areas.

The  text could be considerably strengthened by recognising the realities of life for Millennials more specifically. 

Finally, on Implementing the BRS in the Midlands, in anticipation of the need for the D.C. to place before district congress a theoretically based judgement on interpreting Britain’s Road to Socialism in the Midlands, it held an extensive discussion on the basis for this, introduced by re District Secretary (see Appendix)

The politics of equality

The Equality Organiser opened a special discussion at another D.C. Sketching out the generality of the way in which austerity had borne hard on women, A range of political, social, and economic issues of concern to women were addressed. Although there were signs that in the trade union movement and in the Labour and progressive movements, the involvement of women was at a high level, there had been significant problems of development over the past decade as far as party work was concerned.

Looking at disability, the district had made a special feature of this work, but a problem was that, by definition, the disabled were disadvantaged in managing organisational tasks unless, as with disability rights groups and unions there were skilled professionals assisting. 

The Party has a dearth of BAME members and few activists. Yet, in the East Midlands, Asians form some 6.5% across the whole region, with self-defined Blacks at 1.8% and 1.9% as `mixed’, over a tenth of the population. In the West Midlands, Asians constitute 10.5% of the whole population with Blacks at 3.3% and `Mixed’ at 2.4%, a total of 16.5% of the population.  

 As far as Party work among women goes, there are still not enough areas where collective work had been developed but the report of the women’s commission was very encouraging.  Issues of representation, especially seeing women in key roles was important. But their absence sometimes in materials and information was notable. The question women would ask themselves is: “Does this party represent me?” Sometimes communications, our very vocabulary, and even how meetings are run needed attention to remove barriers to women’s involvement. It was noticeable how caring responsibilities were now affecting women of all ages, especially with the elderly, which would have a consequent effect on involvement. 

There are not enough women to recruit enough women. Practical work interested women. It was noticeable that a campaign to collect signatures on the street had seen only women in the branch volunteer – three had offered to turn out but one was prevented by illness. 

A campaign Birmingham Plus comrades had taken up, WASPI, was proving to be of interest as was period poverty but the very culture of branch work was also constantly under review. Whilst it is true of most people, women especially need the space to `say the difficult’. Other comrades reported success in contacting women who might be allies through broad campaigns. 

Anti-racism and anti-fascism

The D.C. held a political discussion on anti-racist and anti-fascist work, led by the ARAF convenor. This focused on the fact that fighting racism and fascism is not just about fighting with racists and fascists. The real problem of racism is the deliberate development of ethnic and cultural division by the leaders of the economic and political system in which we live, a system of imperialism with all the history of demonisation of other ethnic groups and cultures. 

It is a class issue, generated to undermine any developing unity against wealth and power. Racist racist ideas prosper through “populist” misinformation about the causes of poverty, lack of proper jobs, housing problems, decline in services etc – fostered through establishment politicians and media. They cannot be defeated without a struggle deeply rooted in working class communities, taking up the issues that racists use to mislead workers – unemployment, “precarious” work, housing, poverty, injustice, state contempt for working people etc etc. it is our work on these issues, building a broad movement, strong trades unions, people’s assemblies, an anti-monopoly alliance etc that will provide the class foundations for defeating racists and fascists… relatively insignificant as they are compared to the current establishment class enemy.

Without that mass movement some activists look for “quick fixes”, fall back on stunts, leftist demos, wishful thinking, happy-clappy huggy events, etc. others in frustration turn to sporadic acts of “self-defence” violence. Neither can defeat racism and/or fascism. in fact, under certain circumstances, they achieve the opposite of what they say they want.  We need to be showing

•           that problems – housing, money, jobs, etc – are caused by the billionaires, their pet politicians, and their ruthless dog-eat-dog crisis ridden system

•           they import and export workers from around the world as easily as they sell or move your job to countries where there is cheap labour

•           they super exploit immigrants, and ask you to blame the immigrants for low pay

•           the ruling class will go on being your problem for as long as you let them. 

•           get organised in unions, tenants, people’s assemblies and community organisations 

•           Fascists would take away all your rights as workers in the name of “The Nation”

•           No-one can build a better world for you – you have to do it yourselves working together. 

Racism, a sustained divisive presence in capitalist society should not be confused with fascism, though clearly it is weapon used by fascists. Fascism is not about a few drunks with swastika tattoos. The term is used too casually and too widely. 

Fascism is about a ruling capitalist class, so threatened at a time of economic and political collapse and opposition, that it increasingly abandons pretence of democracy and uses the full force of the state in all round totalitarian oppression of those by whom they feel threatened. 

It is at such pivotal times – when the ruling class cannot rule in the old way and workers refuse to be ruled in the old way that a revolutionaty situation can develop. it is when the ruling class feel threatened with losing their power that they reveal the full extent of the oppressive nature of the capitalist state and we see the emergence of real fascism.  It is not a matter of choice or even of “morals”. it is a matter of the development of class forces, and the consequences of the class struggle over power.

Local and general elections

On considering the local elections of May 2018, the district committee noted the disparity between the mass media line that Labour had done badly and the reality in local areas where the actuality was quite different. The Birmingham & District Plus branch, having consulted widely, including publicly, amongst left forces, had made a conscious decision to support Labour candidates very publicly and actively. The view was that, as right-wing control was still very strong in the West Midlands at that point, albeit weakening by the day, given its tactic of red baiting the strengthening unity of the left in unions with the left in the Labour Party, it would not be politic for a strongly independent presence at this stage. Whilst the situation with regard to replaced councillors and how they would perform was as yet still very unclear.

Finally, given the copycat notion of the CPGB (ML) to widely contest in the city (it stood in three wards with mixed results) for the first time ever it was felt that CPB contests would add to confusion. Emphatically, a no contest decision was not a cover for feeling unable to contest.

Labour were in control of Birmingham with 67, the Conservatives on 25, Lib Dems with 8, and Greens with their first seat in the city.

The Conservatives made gains in Dudley and Walsall (although this was NOC) from UKIP, which lost all six of their seats up for contest Dudley MBC.  Labour made gains in the already solid areas of Wolverhampton and Sandwell. Wolverhampton & Bilston TUC indoor May Day event was as excellent as ever and. GF had been the Party speaker this year; congratulations were due to Nick Kelleher. 

Labour maintained a slim majority on Cannock Chase Council. The Green Party won seats for two more councillors and now have three. The Tories remain dominant in Tamworth. 

There were no elections in Herefordshire but, in Worcester, the Mayor lost his council seat, with no overall control still, with two Green councillors.

Elections were held in Coventry, Nuneaton and Bedworth, and Rugby. Coventry Tories tried to put a positive spin on the results, despite the Conservatives dropping from 14 seats to 13.

The Labour leader of Derby City Council lost his seat on the authority to UKIP, but Labour remained the largest group with 23 seats, albeit without an overall majority. The Conservatives won two new seats bringing their total to 20, while the Liberal Democrats remain on five and UKIP now on three.

The Conservatives lost a third of the seats they were defending in West Oxfordshire, including two to Labour and three to the Lib Dems.  Labour kept control of Oxford City Council winning two seats from the Greens.

Departments of Party Work:

Morning Star: 

In effect, the Party’s National MS Organiser, Andy Chaffer, acted as District MS Organiser. The D.C. has agreed that the Morning Star should be a separate agenda item at every one of its meetings and has urged branches to do the same, as well as formally appointing branch MS Organisers. An attempt to establish a district working group collective composed of comrades from each branch failed.. The aim was to lay the basis for a broader Midlands MS Organising Committee. Having obtained such names, a  training day was planned but was aborted as, sadly, only the Birmingham & District Plus Branch supplied names for attendance.  None the less, a positive development on establishing a Midlands Morning Star Circulation Campaign Committee was reportedly underway in that it was advised that the PPPS Chair was to write to the MTUC Secretary seeking shareholding in the paper. No further information has come through about this, however.

An audit of PPPS membership amongst Midlands CPB members was carried out. Of approximately 130 names about 45 indicated PPPS membership on their Party record. All members were advised and the records of about six have been updated to include PPPS membership. It was agreed that branches could be legitimately supplied with a list of those CP members we believe are not in PPPS. Noted Leicester & District branch were trying their own local audit with a view to improving not only PPPS membership but also MS readership.

Marxist Education:  Matt Widdowson, in conjunction with David Grove, agreed to take the role of Education Organiser, liaising together on a workable plan, which would be put to a future DC meeting. Unfortunately, due to David’s health and Matt joining the Labour Party little was done on this, it being thought that the feelings of District Congress on the matter should be sought, in particular, whether an Education Organiser who is not a D.C. member might be found, who could attend at least an occasional planning meeting in between congresses. 

Equalities

Joanne Stevenson was elected Equalities Organiser to steer the party’s work across a range of areas, women, BAME, disabilities, etc. A series of policy initiatives were undertaken and promotion of activities by the National Assembly of Women. Personal support and mentoring of women members was undertaken as and when called for. 

Trade Union: 

Laurence Platt agreed to continue in the role as Trade Union Organiser, liaising with Andrew Maybury on trade union councils work, and Andy Chaffer on Unison. The latter has subsequently been involved in a major NHS Trust dispute over outsourcing and gained significant positions within his union.  

Laurence and Graham Stevenson worked closely together on Unite matters. Since Laurence’s untimely death, the Chair and Secretary have managed all industrial  matters with AC. Significant advances in Unite activities were achieved across the West Midlands and valuable new links were made with the East Midlands Unite leadership, following Laurence’s demise.  

The Midlands District Committee is responsible for the Ea covered by the Midlands TUC region plus the Government’s Thames Valley sub-region (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire).

Communications: 

Annie Banham was District Communications Officer until late 2019, although not a member of the D.C., managing email communication and social media protocols.  In July 2018, the District Committee received a written report from Annie on the future use of communications, especially in the light of recent Data Protection legislation (GDPR). 

The District Communications Officer produced a plan for action on media and social media, endorsed by the D.C. The CPB Midlands Facebook page has attracted a very large and diverse audience. We now have a number of Midlands and National Party Facebook pages and Twitter accounts which are active and fulfil these functions:The following decisions were made:

1) To close the Midlands Communists Google Group. Many members of the group were added directly, without a consent process, and relying on an opt out. This was no longer acceptable for non-party members under GDPR. We are unable to maintain a database outside of the Party’s civi list, given the need for explicit consent.

2) To establish regular email communications with Midlands party members, via a district bulletin, to be distributed by civiCRM. Editions of this are routinely sent after D.C. meetings and periodically. 

3) To ensure members are aware of the various online platforms maintained by the district, such as Facebook and Twitter accounts, pages and groups. 

4) Members are also routinely contacted via post where no email exists (about 20:comrades).

The key focus is the engagement of all members, through whatever means agreed, to ensure all comrades are kept in touch with their branch and district. Branches maintain their own means to communicate locally.

Information Technology Committee: 

This is ad hoc group of Bob B, Pierre M, Oliver D, Chris C, James McL, Joanne S, and any YCLer recommended by the YCL Regional Organiser,  has been set up by the DC, with the District Secretary assisting

The ITC has been asked to provide briefings on the available range of platforms and their uses.

• Facebook – Midlands Communists page is to be continued to be handled by Oliver Dodds f

• Twitter: this is another key channel for the Party, now gaining traction, ITC to review.

• Postal mail: About 20 members not on email across the whole district; 

• Training and support: key comrades to offer assistance to others within branches 

A district website has been developed, linked to national Party site: https://wordpress.com/view/midlandscommunistparty.home.blog

Appendix 1

Standing Orders – Midlands District Committee 

Adopted 13 July 2019

  1. The Midlands District Committee will meet to conduct the business of the Midlands region.
  2. The first meeting of the Midlands District Committee following the Midlands Congress will, at minimum, elect a Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, which shall constitute the Secretariat, a subordinate committee of the DC.
  3. The Chair will rule on all questions of procedure but may be overruled by a majority of the Committee voting following a formal objection raised by any member.
  4. When the Chair is absent the meeting will elect a member to act as Chair in their absence.
  5. A tied vote will result in the status quo ante, that is to say, the position previously prevailing shall be maintained until such time as a clear majority has been recorded.
  6. Minutes of the previous meeting will be circulated by the Secretary no later than 10 days prior to the meeting.
  7. Any motions must be submitted to the Secretary no later than 5 days prior to the meeting and circulated to Committee members no later than 2 days prior to the meeting.
  8. Emergency motions must be submitted to the Chair and Secretary prior to the meeting, which shall determine whether it should be admitted onto the agenda.  
  9. The meeting shall first conduct the business stated on the agenda. Other business shall be admitted to the agenda with the agreement of the Chair.
  10. The meeting shall not normally exceed 3 hours.

Conduct within meetings of the Midlands District Committee

  1.  Agenda items and reports where no motion submitted
  2.  Opening statement on any agenda item or report (not formal motions) should not exceed 15 minutes.
  3.  Replies, comments or proposals to the agenda item or report should not exceed 7 minutes.
  4.  Where there are no replies, comments or proposals are made that challenge the agenda item or report, this will be deemed to be accepted by the Committee. Any challenges that are not accepted by the member raising the item or report will be put to the vote and carried by a simple majority and noted within the minutes.
  5.  Where a vote is taken, the result shall be recorded in the minutes.
  6.  Any member of the Committee may have their individual voting position recorded on request.

Motions

  1.  Movers of motions or amendments shall speak for up to 15 minutes.
  2.  Where the amendment is not accepted by the mover, a simple majority of members will determine whether the amendment is accepted and becomes the property of the member proposing the amendment. Where the amendment is accepted by the mover, the amended motion remains the property of the original mover.
  3.  Members contributing to the debate may speak for up to 5 minutes.
  4.  The mover of the motion, or the mover of a successful amendment have the right of reply which shall not exceed 5 minutes. Otherwise no member shall speak more than once during a debate, except with the permission of the Chair, or to raise a point of order, or to answer a question in response to a point of information.
  5.  The following points of order may be moved at any time without notice and shall be immediately voted upon by the meeting without debate: that the meeting proceed to the next business; that question be now put.
  6.  A motion shall be decided by a simple majority.
  7.  Any member of the Committee may have their individual voting position recorded on request.
  8.  Any item as stated in these standing orders may be temporarily suspended for the current meeting only, where 2/3 of the members vote for this.
  9.  Whilst it is well understood that members face competing and important demands on their time, membership of the DC implies a commitment to attend meetings, or at least to submit formal apologies with an explanation for non-attendance. 
  10.  The DC shall review attendance of its members. Any member who has not provided an apology for three successive scheduled and properly advised meetings shall be asked by all available communication methods if they wish to continue as a member or not. The DC has the power to remove a persistent non-attendee from membership of the committee.
  11.  The DC has the power to co-opt new members to the committee by majority vote but shall not exceed the size of DC agreed by the previous district congress.
  12.  These Standing Orders must be reviewed and considered by the first DC meeting after each district congress and may be amended by the committee. 

Appendix 2 

The Challenge for Midlands Communists 2020-22 –

laying the basis for the road to Socialism in the Midlands

STATEMENT TO THE DC BY GRAHAM STEVENSON

THE MIDLANDS MATTERS

It looks increasingly that, whatever the protests from both Remainers and Leavers over Johnson’s constitutional manoeuvrings that a general election will be declared and that, on 31 October, the UK will leave the EU. Any general election campaign is likely to be presented by the Tories as them going to the people for a mandate after having delivered Brexit.  Whilst a Johnson government is going to resist being ousted at all costs. Brexit is hardly the issue for him anymore, whether a cloudy, dressed up exit, or a full-blown shift to the right, by the time of our district congress, either neo liberalism will have been given a devastating body blow or some reactionary outcome will have happened. Either way will require the working class of Britain to unite around class politics and extra-parliamentary militant action linked to left forces inside Parliament.

Harry Pollitt once wrote that politics is not rhetoric, or revolutionary nostalgia. It is the essence of life. It’s all the things going on in peoples’ lives about work and study, housing and health, physical and mental, domestic and community. Whilst “years of bitter experience” showed that the working class “does not spontaneously develop a political, socialist consciousness out of separate struggles or campaigns”. (Challenge to Labour, p.42)

So, what are going to be the key issues for working people and their families in the Midlands in the two years from our district congress and how do these present themselves as challenges for a revolutionary party, like the Communist Party? Just as in 1917 in Russia, when decrees on basic issues, typified by the slogan `bread, peace, land’, were passed in the first few weeks of Soviet power, working people and their families today are concerned with the basics in life. Communists need to be able to demonstrate how the coupling of extra-parliamentary action with parliamentary processes can transform working peoples’ lives and how our party can play its part in impacting them in the Midlands?

• affordable and decent housing

• good and inexpensive food

• quality transport and environment 

• decent jobs, especially for their young

• fair and reasonable pensions

• equality of treatment for all

In the course of engagement in the politics of these matters, Midlands Communists can rely on a collective understanding born of generations of mass campaigning, especially the leadership of movements associated with working peoples’ struggles. We stand on the shoulders of giants. The beginnings of Midlands’ radicalism created the Pentrich Rising of 1817, the Birmingham Political Union of 1830-2, the Derby Turnout of 1833-4, the growth of trades unionism and strong centres of Chartism right across the Midlands in the decade from 1839. Whilst, after that, craft trades unionism persisted in the market towns of the Midlands, when general unionism developed, the region provided some of the earliest sustainable organisations.

Coventry provided one of the first and most extensive tenants’ strikes in history during and after the First World War, both Oxford and Birmingham initiated movements that would lead to the mass unionisation of working women and the latter also produced the biggest rent strike ever in 1939. In the mid-20th century Staffordshire produced several Communist councillors, and in the 1970s Walsall rivalled the famous Clay Cross council in its leadership against Tory housing finance legislation. Whilst the fifty years from the early 1930s to the early 1980s saw factory, mine and mill workers right across the Midlands led in the main by Communists, to the extent that few families and communities were untouched by our politics.

Yet all parts of the Midlands labour movement have long suffered under the tight control of the Labour Party – at least since the beginnings of the decades’ long employer offensive from the early 1980s saw closure after closure of many massive workplaces, often workplaces led by Communist shop stewards. The consequence has been that the local labour movement titled heavily to the right. The ideological fall out of this, oddly contrary to the real experience of workers elbowed out of work, was a rise in the belief that the state is a neutral body; that power can be won through government majorities without connection to the masses outside parliament other than occasional voting.

In the period of New Labour, less than a handful, if that, of the nearly 50 Labour MPs hailing from all parts of the Midlands had doubts about Blairism – and it they did it was because they were Brownites! The resultant discernible changes can be an important opportunity for Communists, if we build good links with trades unionists and Labour activists in the localities we operate in.

THE ROLE OF THE CP AND YCL

In his book, Challenge to Labour, Harry Pollitt also asked the movement to consider what the point of a Communist Party was. His answer was to provide the following key tests:

• to build socialist consciousness and understanding

• to provide leadership in all struggles

• to create an organisation for those working people who are capable of these two tasks.

Perhaps we manage the first reasonably well, through our branch activists in the main?  But we cannot claim leadership of those few truly mass struggles still taking place, strikes, rent action, occupations, and the like, let along ensuring a rising tide of struggle. 

Except for maybe four tiny peaks, a graph of working time lost due to labour disputes since the start of the Great Depression looks like a flat line set at the lowest level. The thin line continues to the present with a significant small blip is accounted for by the public sector dispute of 2011.

See: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/timeseries/bbfw/lms

Clearly, our district congress needs to make a frank and honest assessment of the state of both the labour movement forces in the West, East, South, and South East Midlands and our district and branch organisation and consider what need to be done. This will be a big task for us, for, unlike the caucus or sect, a Communist Party branch has wide ranging role, even so its main aim in the short term must be to reproduce itself, growing by means of spreading its geographical or employment contact. We aim to be a mass party, if not in terms of numbers but at least in terms of how we inter-relate to the class. As the rules of the International Workers’ Association, or First International, declared: “The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves”. The revolutionary party has task of giving back to the class the very consciousness which has come about through the experiences that the working class itself has lived through. It is through periods of intense crisis for capitalism when the class recognises in the principles and programme of revolutionaries its own historic interests.

It is not surprising that, when the class goes through periods of set-back, the revolutionary party will also do so.  one of the essential tasks of the party is to equip itself with operational instruments which can, in the most concrete way possible, return to the class the programme of working class emancipation, Communists distinguish themselves from the mass of workers by the fact that even while they fight alongside the whole class in its defensive struggles they denounce the limitations of these struggles and use them to propagandise the necessity for revolution. Communists must link the struggles of the class to a political strategy for attacking the bourgeois state. 

The party would be failing in its fundamental task if it did not move swiftly to work within the class and all its necessary instruments in the coming decisive political period.  Should a political situation become objectively favourable, we would be unprepared and isolated from the class. In turn that would lead to the class being disarmed and unprepared.

The last high spot of struggle, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the British Communist Party at the zenith of its vanguard role within the labour and trade union movement. But our membership was forty to fifty times larger than at present, with a YCL then very much larger than our Party currently is (34,000 in 1966).

When I began to call myself a Communist at the age of 14, there were many card-carrying Communists in the single city I lived in; the equivalent of about half of the entire national membership we have today. Any chance of restoring the CPB to prominence in class leadership, enabling anything like the concrete possibilities inherent from being armed to act like a revolutionary party, is closely linked to its role in developing the degree of maturation of the class struggle.

Marxism-Leninism distinguished between two vital aspects of socialist development, social and economic campaigns, especially strikes for increased wages and concessions at work, which always implies diffused plural leaderships; and political campaigns for socialist changes in society, in which we would expect decisive revolutionary leadership of the revolutionary party. Forty and fifty years ago, the Party’s main appeal to workers active in class struggle was to promote understanding that militancy was not enough. But this was done from within the struggle.

Now, we need to adopt different ways of connecting. The advent of social media and online polling enables a much wider involvement of all members in an area such as the Midlands in meaningful involvement in decision making.  

Interestingly, as the British Communist Party began to expand and broaden from the 1930s, Harry Pollitt was firmly set against those who wanted it to be “a small party of the elect … composed only of people we can rely on in a crisis”. The revolutionary snobbery behind this notion had created resistance, he wrote, to recruiting “raw workers”.

Not only should we reject the idea that there are people not good enough to be members, we need to accept that people joining us do not come as ready-made Communist cadres – it is our organisation’s job to train and develop them over time to become so.  Whilst we do need to be better organised and accept that each of us can do something, whilst appreciating that it is not the size of our branches or district that matters, it’s what we do with it!

A YOUNGER PARTY TO LIVE LONG!

A generational shift in our party is now desperately urgent.  We have twice the national average rate of 50+ year olds in our party, with few 40-year olds and even fewer 30- and 20-year olds.   At the last national congress, the outgoing EC had 14% of its members who were younger than 34, compared to a rate of that age band of 26.4% in the general population. 80% of the EC was over 60!  For our own District Committee, this must mean a determined effort to ensure that those who accept nomination, if at all possible, are mainly under 50 and are women and ethnic minorities.  If there is a notion that the DC should only include the most advanced, theoretically developed comrades, it is misplaced.  We need the most vigorous and dedicated of our younger activists, with a handful of the unpatronizing grey-haired to help them on their way.  

A TURN TO UNION BRANCH WORK  

Our own meetings should avoid talk at length that contains little of value. Our work must become not just practical and agitational, but we need to acquire the skills for mass leadership. This does not come automatically, or by planning it, or just from wanting it, or talking about it, or telling Party organisations and members they must look to themselves and do better. Leadership can only be won if it is deserved. Harry Pollitt again: “The leading role of the Communist Party does not come of itself; it has to be won in action.” [Britain Arise, page 32]

To do this, Communists need to be linked inseparably with the mass of working people.  Yet, after a long period of failing to renew our work in mass organisations, our Party’s connections to the world of work are now small and fast diminishing. Recruiting trades unionists is critical for our Party’s development. As the real Workers’ Party, we need to be developing workers as our best cadres. We all agree getting the young will be important but how?

We need to “Turn to the Workplace” with Party activists thinking about how they can connect with those in the workplaces of today. What union activists on union Regional Committees do we know? What workplaces do we know? Who do we have? Have we asked these people if they’ll join us?  Most unions now have constitutional provisions to prevent those not in work from determining policy and personnel over those who are.  Even Unite Community has restrictions, although much improved.  We need to be more focused on getting workers to join unions – any union.  Looking at the nature of disaggregated work is a key to developing organising strategies – Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise being the best example, thus far of how to build across unions and sectors in localities.

That doesn’t stop the two thirds of our members who are baby boomers contributing as magnificently as they currently do. But, as the real Workers’ Party, we need to be developing workers as our best cadres and to be truly effective these will be mostly those under 35 or so.   How do we even begin such a mammoth task? Surely, by focusing on our `bread, peace, land’. There must be many more recent experiences of connecting in a mass way. Why not write in with your own experiences, or those of you branch?

Motions adopted by District Congress

Motion 1:

The British Road to Socialism & Midlands 2020-2022

AFFORDABLE AND DECENT HOUSING IN THE MIDLANDS

1. The Midlands District Congress is aware of the housing crisis facing many individuals and families. Research estimates that over eight million people are affected by the housing crisis in England. This includes people living in overcrowded homes, unable to afford rents and mortgages, living in poor quality homes, being on ever increasing housing waiting lists and sleeping rough.  There are an estimated 1.7 million on social housing waiting lists in England alone – that’s one in 12 families. In Nottingham, the waiting list has soared to 8,000 people, with only half the level of housing stock held in the 1980s. The introduction of a market-style bidding system for a council use puts many off. 

2.  Housing building has collapsed, requests for planning permission declined, social housing waiting lists soared by 64% and numbers seeking homes increasing annually by over 25,000 in the Midlands. A house in Acocks Green recently had 214 bids put in by waiting listers. Only those earning upwards of £45,000 a year can now afford the typical mortgage, whilst the cost of renting privately now stands at well over £600 per month or more. There has been a massive shortfall of homes unbuilt.  

3. In Birmingham alone, the five-year deficit of homes needed stands at 18,000.  But 80,000 new homes are needed to accommodate a population growth of an estimated 150,000 extra people living in the city by 2031. Both those out of work and those who are part of the working poor are vulnerable to distress occasioned by housing need.

4. We need to:             

  • Contribute to highlighting the housing crisis and campaign for local authorities to build council housing and for the implementation of living rents in the private rented sector.
  • Produce a housing crisis fact sheet and guidance to branches on ways to engage in housing crisis action in their areas.
  • Encourage widespread local trades union branch involvement in the affiliated Labour Housing Group.
  • Work with the tenants’ union, Acorn, to build their branches and members in the localities we are active in.
  • Win the Midlands TUC to support an active development of social housing programme by all local authorities.
  • Work to make housing a main strand of activity in local People’s Assemblies and trades councils

TRANSPORT & THE ENVIRONMENT

5. The economic costs of air pollution are important; cutting it out would mean an economic boost of 4% of GDP every year but it would also mean avoiding 10,000 early deaths a year in the whole Midlands region. Nearly 6% of adult deaths in the West Midlands are down to air quality, 22 times more than those caused by car accidents. 

6. Many hundreds of schools in the Midlands are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution.  In the last three decades, bus use outside of London has drastically declined.  The Midlands, both in urban and in rural areas, needs to catch the bus!  

7. Buses are still heavily funded from the public purse, it’s effectively subsidy farming by big business. Yet fares are extortionate, while shareholders do supremely well out of their shared ownership. 

8. The public are strongly in favour of the municipalisation of bus services. Campaigning for opposition to the Bus Services Act, which prohibits a local authority from “forming a company for the purposes of providing a local bus service”, could be an important campaign.  

9. Yet cities like Birmingham have one of the most expensive bus services in the UK outside of London. Most of its services are run by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for 77% of all bus journeys. The cost of an adult annual pass and day ticket is £4.40 whilst an annual pass is £654.  

10. A new way to fund transport is Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy, which means that companies have to pay for the car parking spaces they supply – £417 per space per year to the council if they have 11 or more. The council in Nottingham used it to pay for a new tram, refurbish a station and introduce cycling schemes.  

11. We should be proud that this tax is based on one introduced by a Communist minister in the French left unity government of 1982. The French port of Dunkirk is just one of dozens around the globe that introduced free public transport for all, now a growing trend. There are well over a hundred entirely fare-free public transport networks around the world, including over 30 in France and 40 in the United States.

12. Freight transport in all modes of transport has also been deregulated. Road haulage is now dominated by either transnational contracting firms or by owner drivers, with little public sector role. The inefficiencies of the free market work against effective environmentalism. Integrating road, rail, water, and air transport to ensure minimal impact on global warming will become critical. 

13. We need to:

  • Build support for Labour’s Green New Deal (GND) campaign, which aims to nationalise the national grid and divert £13 billion of profits into renewable energy and decarbonisation, with more and better recycling 
  • Publicise the opportunity of geothermal heating through abandoned flooded coal mines, of which the Midlands has a large potential supple, that could see around 650,000 homes naturally heated 
  • Work with active trades unionists and local Labour members, including by advancing the argument for municipal ownership of sub-regional urban public transport in the Midlands. 
  • Work with organisations such as the Campaign for Better Transport and We Own It, as well as GND, which is open to non-LP members, establishing genuinely broad Morning Star Readers’ Groups may provide an effective structure for the development of local campaigns on public transport, especially on public ownership, particularly in areas receiving or projected to have combined authority status,
  • Campaign to reduce lengthy supply chains using road transport resulting in high social costs in terms of pollution and damage to road surfaces, bridges and culverts 
  • Campaign for locally sourced production for both industry and agriculture

REASONABLY PRICED AND HEALTHY FOOD 

14. Finding a means to develop public campaigning about the cost of living and especially the price of food could be a significant way of introducing political campaigning to working people and their families in the Midlands.

15. Increases in the price of basic food items and closures of local stores particularly affects the working class and those without access to transport. Disproportionate problems arise for single parents, those on benefits, the disabled, and the retired, the majority of whom are women.

16. Labour’s policy on developing city centre shopping could be useful if Local Authorities could work with start-ups and co-ops to develop aquaponics production and training centres for commercial food production that could work closely with many small providers.

17. Places like Nottingham and Birmingham, while big cities, are surrounded by agricultural land. Most of Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire are very rural.  Migrant labour has become dominant in many ‘picking’ industries in these areas. A restored Agricultural Wages Board or Food Sector Board needs to cover every sector of food production and have regional arms to it, massively raising wages and conditions. 

18. Fresh food is generally very expensive and cupboard food even more so, like pasta, staples with a high shelf life.  Of course, it’s cheaper to feed families an unhealthy diet, yet certain foods seem to be kept artificially low by supermarkets; such as bread, carrots, onions, apples and potatoes. 

19. But mushrooms are expensive and some meat but not all.  Organic farmers need to link up with co-operatives to develop a coherent policy for food production and distribution. New, urban farms and polytunnel sites are needed and the overall decline in acreage set aside for food production reversed. 

20. The end of the Common Agricultural Policy will be a historic opportunity to get subsidy policy right. 

21. Party organisations should develop research and understanding into local costs of living, leading to relevant publicity. Take for example, the situation shown on number.com about Stoke on Trent and every other town and city in the Midlands. Much data on food and clothing prices is contained here.  

22. A sample of this detail is that average monthly net salary (after tax) is £1,500.00 but monthly Rent for 3 bedrooms outside of the city centre is £521.25. The possibility of a Cost of Living profile for each area could be considered as part of a co-ordinated district campaign on poverty pay. 

23. We need to:

  • Campaign independently and in unity with others about food poverty. Many workers are now, due to austerity, forced to look to charities, whether for food banks or those helping with debts. Party organisations should follow the YCL’s successful campaign by occasionally organising food collections, channelled into food banks.”
  • Party organisations should consider linking up with local campaign groups to prepare for the 2020 End Hunger UK Week of Action to tell government to act to ensure that everyone has enough money to afford good food, and that no-one goes to bed hungry.

LIFE EXPECTANCY & QUALITY OF LIFE

24. For the metropolitan area of the West Midlands Combined Authority, life expectancy for new-born girls is 82.2 years and for boys 77.9 years. For the wider region of the West Midlands as a whole, the life expectancy of recently born females slightly rises to 82.7 years and for males, 78.8 years. In both cases, this is the sixth longest life expectancies out of the nine English regions.

25. There is considerable variation in preventable mortality across East Midlands local authorities, with an urban-rural divide. The inner-city areas of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, show significantly lower life expectancy than the average for England with the highest preventable rates associated with the high levels of deprivation. 

26. Only 11% of Oxford’s usual residents live in deprived areas, compared to 20% in England. However, about 20% (5,000) children live in poverty, a figure significantly higher than the average, and even higher once monthly housing costs are subtracted. Whilst life expectancy and physical health is generally high, the percentage of mental health problems and substance misuse within the population is excessive.

27. Simple, cost effective, public health measures could lengthen the average human life span by five to 10 years, according to the World Health Organisation.  Risk factors include underweight children and mothers, poor hygiene, high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol, and obesity. 

28. But it is poverty that is the killer. Since 2010, £37 billion of funding has been removed from social security. It is a national disgrace that in every school class of 30 children, on average, nine will be living in poverty. 

29. We need to: 

  • Ensure Party organisations develop good links with local campaigns on the issues of benefits. 
  • Promote and popularise the campaign for a shorter standard paid working week and resist extensions of the retirement age. 
  • Build campaigns for the working class to access cheap or free leisure and personal education facilities. 
  • Understand that robotics is no more a challenge than was automation. It should be used for the betterment of the world of work, not an excuse to attack workers’ rights.

MOTION NUMBER 2

BUILDING THE PARTY AND THE YCL 

The CPB Midland District Congress recognises the devastating effect ten years of Conservative / Lib Dem austerity has inflicted on the lives of millions of people in this region. 

Young people have been among the groups disproportionately affected by austerity. They  face precarious employment including low pay and zero hour contracts, a housing crisis leading to having to reside for extended periods in the parental home,  or live in poor quality accommodation, or for some having to sofa-surf, or be forced into homelessness. Other consequences of austerity for young people include debt, poor mental health, victims of knife crime and substance abuse.

Possibly the most important priority for the district must be building the Young Communist League.  Each branch is urged to develop one or two young people to form a parallel YCL collective, with a view to self-reliant independent YCL branches, Noting that under Party Rule 4, “all Party members aged between 16 and 28 (inclusive) will at the time of joining the CPB also become members of the Young Communist League, save that any such member shall have the right to opt then or subsequently to hold party membership only”.

Party organisations are urged to involve themselves in local university freshers’ weeks, seeking to make contact with local colleges and universities in collaboration with the YCL, with the aim of establishing Communist Societies on campus.

The development of coordinated activity across the district aimed at educating members and supporters, building recruitment, cadre development, and new Branches, whilst increasing Morning Star direct sales and sales outlets, will see the

District Committee: 

a) continue to use and adapt existing YCL recruitment materials and produce Midland YCL promotion material, made available to Midland Party branches.

b) collect and review Branch Plans and develop an integrated and clear District Plan and schedule for activity and growth, producing information on branch planning and fundraising.

c) noting Party Rule 6 (The Structure of the Party), regularly review its constitution of Party Branches based on a place of work or a locality, or an industry, or a party collective

d) ensure that each Party Branch shall hold an Annual General Meeting which shall elect a Branch Committee and main branch officers. Branches should aim to produce a realistic, but ambitious annual development plan agreed with branch members, pursuing outward facing activities including meetings and involvement with trade unions and trades councils, establishing positive working relationships with other progressive organisations, building networks and maintaining contact with organisations that can co-operate in realising Party policies

e) provide a regular news update of Party activity to members and review all aspects of the District’s functioning, especially the spread of membership and activity, and the possibility of district commissions where feasible. 

f) in recognising the importance of social media, to actively use this to profile the Party and its policies, continue to develop Information Technology and Social Media work and endeavour to provide basic education to all Party members on internet and information technology matters.

g) establish a self-reliant financial base for the district’s activities

3. Party collectives in all areas covered by each of our seven branches shall: 

a) ensure they have full knowledge of local conditions, issues and struggles of concern to the people, being involved directly and regularly report on these matters to all members by email and, where necessary, post. Local editions, district or branch level, of Unity! should be considered, and minutes of meetings circulated to those close to, or interested in, the Party’s work

b) immediately after district congress, develop a branch plan of work as well as routinely supplying all their minutes and regular reports on their activities to the District Committee. Branches shall advise the District Committee of all officer changes taking place in between their AGMs. Branches will be asked to include in their annual branch plan proposals for collaboration with YCL to support recruitment and development of YCL membership, setting targets for recruitment.

c) aim for at least one social or cultural event a year.

d) ensure that the Morning Star is seen as the paper of the whole local left by taking the following steps: 

  • elect a Morning Star Organiser in every branch
  • audit all branch members regarding daily readership of the Morning Star and PPPS share ownership
  • ensure that there are effective Morning Star Readers & Supporters Groups in each branch’s localities
  • establish an effective local sales team to enable responses for bulk orders for local events

e) adopt a strategy for recruitment by the development of regular links with identified individuals, using the Recruitment Pack (Britain’s Road to Socialism, What We Stand For, new leaflets and membership forms) to approach and recruit prospective new members.

f) arrange a regular programme of political discussion involving both possible new members as well as long-established ones.  The importance of all communists and others being skilled in Marxist Leninist theory and practice is required if we are to correctly analyse the current situation and enact the correct course. Congress welcomes those branches that organise Marxist Leninist education, but recognises that some of our branches have limited resources and some of our members do not engage in Branch work. The District Committee should organise in a suitable location a suitable event open to Communist Party members and allies in order to maximise the spread of Marxist Leninist education in the District. The D.C. will consult on a name for the event. 

h) encourage branch members to take on more responsibility, building a wider and deeper collective, and noting that under Party Rule 4 (Conditions of Membership) members should “work in a Party organisation”, establish a means to communicate and guide the work of individual members of their branch suitable to their own circumstances and the branch’s plan of work. 

i)Branches must attempt intervention in municipal elections in ways ranging from Party local leaflets to adopting candidates where Labour has selected unpopular, right-wing individuals but also to campaign for good left-wing candidates in selected areas.

Branch Motions

COMMONWEALTH GAMES – Birmingham & District Plus

This district congress, in noting that the Commonwealth Games are coming to Birmingham, expresses concern that the citizen could be left with a significant debt to pay for them. The District Committee should initiate activity to ensure that facilities remain in public hands and not sold off. 

100 YEARS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY – Coventry, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire 

Congress recognises and welcomes the contributions made by the Communist Party both nationally and internationally over the last 100 years. It agrees that if the working class is to retain any advances achieved and achieve a socialist society there is a crying need to increase the role, size and influence of the Marxist party of the Working Class, the Communist Party. To this end this District Congress welcomes the plans agreed by the Executive Committee to organise a number of events celebrating the role of our party. This District Congress agrees that maximum support should be given by Branches and members in the Midlands District to these events and calls upon the District Committee to both coordinate and encourage support for these events particularly the national event on 31st July/ 1st August.

Congress calls upon Branches to at least one local public event which both explains the history of the Communist Party and the requirement for a Communist Party both now and in the future.

Congress agrees that the District Committee will organise with our allies two events during 2020.

In conclusion Congress agrees that the centenary years gives us a massive opportunity to increase the size of the Communist Party and we should use it.

ESTABLISHING A MIDLANDS MORNING STAR READERS & SUPPORTERS GROUP – Coventry, Warwickshire & Northamptonshire 

All Party members should read and support the Morning Star. There are a number of Morning Star Readers and Supporters Groups in the Midlands District which should be supported by the Party. Congress also recognises that the establishment of Readers and Supporters Groups will bring others into political activity. Whilst these groups exist there is no effective coordination of activities and many areas aren’t effectively covered. To this end the District Committee should, working with the Morning Star and organisational shareholders, should establish a Midlands Regional Morning Star Readers and Supporters Group.

NB: The District Committee additionally urged congress to note that Party Rule 15 on the Duties of Members says that “Party members shall have the duty, with the assistance of the Party… To read the Morning Star and to help in every way the circulation of the paper.

PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLIES AND TRADES COUNCILS –

Derbyshire & East Staffordshire

People’s Assemblies and Trades Councils give ALL members and branches the opportunity to initiate and take part in local political campaigning activity, and the organisation of the extra parliamentary mass movement that is a Party priority.

All trades councils are meant to welcome a representative of the local PA to their meetings and activities by virtue of the TUC Trades Councils Plan of Work, and similarly local PAs should welcome Trades Councils reps.

The District Committee regularly takes reports from all branches on progress in these areas of work and congress urges branches to keep up a supply of these. 

District Congress Delegates

Birmingham and District Plus

Brian Allbutt

Andrew Maybury – apologies (urgent NHS operation)

James McLelland

Graham Stevenson

Joanne Stevenson

Annie Banham – apologies (Clarion Choir event)

Nick Kelleher – apologies (IWA event)

Yvonne Washbourne – apologies (family)

Coventry, Warwickshire, & Northamptonshire

Tony Conway 

Damon Cummings.

Derbyshire & East Staffordshire

Marios Doucas

Bill Greenshields 

Bob Bonner

Leicestershire & District

Pierre Marshall

Nottinghamshire & East Lincs

Oliver Dodd, 

Joe Pateman

Oxfordshire & Berkshire 

Dave Stavris

Ian Wright

Shropshire

Chris Chesworth

Pam Pink

D.C. consultative

Geoffrey Ferres

Phil

CP EC soral delegate

Liz Payne

Elected District Committee 

20 nominations were received but 5 comrades declined to accept. The DC recommendation to congress was, as per past practice in Midlands District Congresses, to fix the size of the District Committee as the number of valid nominations and acceptances received before district congress and for delegates to hold a secret paper ballot permitting individual voting on the day if congress wished it. The D.C. has been in the past as large as 17 and as low as 13 by this practice, and varying numbers in between, no particular size creating difficulties. This committee is 15 in number. 

There were two women who accepted nomination and the current age ranges of the elected committee are:

Under 40         6

41-59              4

Over 60           5

Albutt, Brian 

Active Retired Member Unison; membership officer Sandwell and West Birmingham Branch of the Pensioners Convention and Assistant Regional Secretary

West Midlands Pensioners Convention; active member of Birmingham Keep Our NHS Public.

Bonner, Bob 

Currently, District Committee representative on National Anti-Racist and Anti-Fascist Commission, member of retiring DC. Member of PCS, working in IT and communications; 34 years of age, member of Party for over 5 years.

Chaffer, Andy 

Present Party Positions:  Chair of Birmingham and District Plus branch, member of Midlands DC and Morning Star organiser, member of Executive Committee, National  Morning Star Organiser. 

Past Party Positions: Branch Secretary, Branch Treasurer, National YCL Treasurer, member of Communist Review Editorial Board. 

Present Labour Movement Positions:  Branch Secretary Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health UNISON; Delegate to West Midlands Regional Council, Regional Committee, Regional International Committee; Co-convenor Regional LGBT+ Self Organised Group; Member of UNISON  LGBT+ National Committee.

Member of party since 1985, currently 56 years of age.

Chesworth, Chris

Member of Party for 4 years. Present Party positions – Branch Secretary, Shropshire Branch, member of the retiring District Committee; employed in retail catering, aged 28.

Member of Unite, past position in USDAW. Member of Shropshire Peoples Assembly. 

Conway, Tony

Current Party positions: member of EC and PC; Branch Secretary Coventry and Warwickshire; Convenor of ARAF Commission.

Member of YCL 1977 till 1984. CPGB/CPB 1970 until 1987 and 1989 to date. 63 years of age. 

Current labour movement positions: national committee member of the Associate and Retired Members (ARMS) section of PCS. Member of PPPS MC,  Stand up to Racism Steering Committee, Coventry Trades Union Council and Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee.  Treasurer Coventry and Warwickshire People’s Assembly, treasurer West Midlands UAF, Midland TUC Pensions Committee, Secretary of Coventry Against Racism.

Past Labour Movement Positions: PCS National and Group Committee, Branch and Group Officers; former full-time officer

Dodd, Oliver

Joined early 2019 (returning member), aged 29; acting branch secretary Nottinghamshire and North Lincs.  

Economic and Research Council PhD Candidate & Seminar Teacher,  Fellow of Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice.

Author of articles in MS on Colombia; Member of Justice for Colombia and Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

Doucas, Marios 

Aged 47 years, employed Derbyshire County Council, member of Unison. One year member of CPB, Chair of Derbyshire & East Staffs CPB branch. 

Greenshields, Bill 

First joined CPB in 2007. Past Chair of EC and current EC member, convenor Anti-Austerity Commission, Communist Renewal Team; Trade Union: Divisional Secretary – then NEC member – then National President of NUT (now incorporated in NEU); Retired member NEU; Delegate to Derby Area Trades Union Council; Peoples Assembly National Committee; Life member of Central London Poly (Westminster University) Student Union; 68 years of age. 

Greenshields, Moz 

Joined CPB 2007. Aged 66. Former D.C. and EC member. Secretary Derby Area TUC. Unison branch officer, regional committee, national executive, chair regional local government committee, regional NEC member. East Mids TUC Executive and EM TUCJCC rep.

Ferres, Geoffrey 

Joined CP in 1974; former branch secretary of three branches Oxford University Students, Birmingham University Student, and  Oxfordshire, as well as holding various other branch positions. For many years prior to 1988, Secretary of the Party’s History Group; Member of the (West) Midlands Committee of the CPB for two spells and before that of the Midlands Committee of the CPGB; Member of retiring D.C. and currently Midlands Treasurer and served for two years before that as Midlands Secretary; 2001-2009, held politically restricted positions in local government and had to give up party positions.

Manager of an advice centre, member Oxford County Branch of Unison; in the past been a shop steward in NUPE and the TGWU, when was Deputy Convener of the National Voluntary Sector Combine. 65 years of age. 

Marshall, Pierre 

Present party positions: branch secretary of Leicester CPB; member of national CPB IT committee, international committee, and Popular Sovereignty Commission: member of YCL Executive Committee and international committee; co-op member of Manifesto Press; attended the YCL summer camp in 2009 and joined CPB in 2010.  Short break in membership in 2014-15 when living abroad;  Member of UCU, and Unite Community.  Attends Leicester University; aged 26 years. 

Maybury, Andrew 

Currently Midlands District Chair, member of DC and Secretariat; member of Birmingham & District Plus Branch; CPB member for around five years.

Previous: UNISON workplace steward from 1990, Branch Chair 2002 – 2005, Branch Secretary 2010-2017. Dudley TUC Secretary 2013-2018. The last two positions were relinquished whilst completing a doctorate in industrial relations, during which time I was also a member of the Equalities and Employment Policy Research Group at Keele University. Aged 57. 

McLelland, James 

Member of retiring DC; Youth and Student Officer of Birmingham and District CP, member of EC of the YCL, as well as it’s Midlands Organiser; BFAWU member; joined in early 2016. Aged 21 years, employed in retail catering. 

Stevenson, Graham  

Party positions: Member CP/YCL since Jan 1966, YCL EC/PC 1969-1978, Midlands District Secretary YCL, then National Young Workers Organiser; many branch and district CP positions including Secretariat and D.C. of both West and East Midlands. Secretary of Party Advisories T&G/Unite 1992 to present; CP EC and PC for 20 years. Midlands Party District Secretary 2007-2015, 2018 to present, member of retiring DC, National Trade Union Organiser 2015-17. Aged 69

Labour movement: Youth rep then shop steward and joint shop stewards committee secretary until FTO for T&G from 1980. President and Vice President of international transport trade union bodies 1989-2011. Currently, Chair of Birmingham Area Activists Committee of Unite. 

Stevenson, Joanne 

Party/YCL – Joined 2002, previous roles – YCL young women’s organiser, YCL general secretary, Midlands D.C. Treasurer, member CP EC.  Present: Bham CP branch treasurer. Retiring D.C.member and District Equalities Organiser. Aged 32. 

Previously: Bham STWC, leader of school students strike; Delegate to NUS conference; Treasurer World Youth festival Midland Preparatory Committee;  National Treasurer YCND, Unite branch treasurer. 

Currently – member United Left and Unite. 

Currently – member United Left and Unite. 

The Real Jessie Eden

https://shop.communistparty.org.uk/?q=pamphlets/real-jessie-eden

The real Jessie Eden 

Booklet £5.00

Made Famous by the TV series Peaky Blinders, this is the true story of the life of communist legend, Jessie Eden, written by Graham Stevenson, Midlands CP District Secretary.

Public Space Protection Oppression?

In Birmingham, as across the nation, homelessness has more than doubled since 2010. With cuts to local council budgets and support networks such as those which offer help to individuals with issues such as mental health, domestic violence and addiction, and with the continuing decline in social housing and secure accommodation, it is increasingly difficult for local charity organisations to cope with the need for their services.

Birmingham City Council have proposed implementing a Public Space Protection Order, which would cover central Birmingham and has the potential to be kept in place for three years. Whilst BCC is promoting it as a means to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour, one has only to look at the detail of the PSPO, which can be found on the Birmingham Be Heard consultation website, to see how this could impact homeless people.

A fine for obstructing a doorway or begging would be practically impossible for a homeless person to pay, inevitably leading therefore to a criminal conviction that would make it even harder for someone in already difficult circumstances to turn their life around. Liberty and The Community Law Partnership oppose this order, and Crisis has made a statement on the impact of PSPO’s in other cities, which can be found here:
https://www.crisis.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/rough-sleepers-being-targeted-by-legal-powers-designed-for-antisocial-behaviour/

Say No to the Birmingham PSPO is a campaign group set up to challenge this issue, and can be found on FB, along with a link to the ongoing online petition: https://www.facebook.com/Say-No-to-the-Birmingham-PSPO-566984807156377/

Our recent lobby of the council was supported by local councillors including Kerry Jenkins, Majid Mahmood and prospective Labour Metro Mayor candidate Pete Lowe.

These proposals are still at the consultation stage, so please sign and share this petition, and also write to your local MP or councillor raising your objections.

Joanne Shemmans
Say No to the Birmingham PSPO

Reprinted from The Midland Pensioner – Sept 2019

Midlands District Congress

January 11th conference to discuss plan for 2020-21

The next Midlands District Congress will be held on Saturday 11 January 2020 from 1.15pm to 4.30pm at the Michael Hubbard Room, Carrs Lane Conference Centre, Birmingham, B4 7SX.
 
http://carrslane.co.uk/
 
This is a very short walk from Birmingham New Street railway station.

The CPB’s district congresses do not debate national themes but deal with how to implement existing policy matters within, in this case, the Greater Midlands Region.   Whilst the congress will be closed to all but full delegates elected from the seven branches covering the Greater Midlands area of central England, according to membership strength, Party members will be able to engage in substantive Inner-Party debate over the next few months.

We’d also love to hear ideas not only from our members but allies and friends of the Party in the Midlands area, too. The congress is an essential party of our party’s internal democracy, which we take very seriously.

The following timetable applies:

 
Ø      31st August: Retiring Midlands District Committee (DC) discusses initial ideas for themes to be discussed at District Congress
Ø      12th October: DC finalises draft proposals to congress
Ø      28th October: all DC proposals to be sent out to CPB members.
Ø      1st November to 7th December: Closed CPB branch meetings to discuss district congress business
Ø      8th December @ midnight – deadline for sending nominations for new DC membership, branch motions, and branch amendments to the DC motion.
Ø      14 December: DC makes all final arrangements.
Ø      1st January 2020: all papers emailed out to elected delegates.
Ø      11th January 2020: District Congress to be held.
 
 


Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started