A number of local Labour Parties are calling on the leadership to allow branches and constituencies to meet online for formal business while in-person meetings are not possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of constituency Labour Party (CLP) chairs and secretaries have written to the Party’s national executive committee, plus Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner, to request approval for “CLPs, branches and other Party units to conduct business meetings via Zoom or other online video-conferencing platform during the Covid-19 crisis”.
“In the days leading up to the Covid-19 lockdown, CLPs were effectively placed into administrative suspension until further notice,” they write. “Weeks have now passed since CLPs submitted to this in good faith. Following further Party advice, many CLP members are actively using Zoom, Slack and other online platforms to communicate with members.
“Contrary to arguments against, many CLPs are seeing a significant increase in member participation through using these technologies. We are able to communicate across geographical boundaries far more easily than ever before and members who have never attended meetings are increasingly getting involved.”
While the letter accepts there are “challenges” to overcome with respect to privacy and security, as well as concerns about accessibility and inclusion, they argue these are often barriers to physical meetings too.
“In our view the use of online platforms presents a huge opportunity,” they say. “The Labour Party would benefit greatly from developing a hybrid mix of online and in person meetings for the future in terms of greater inclusion, provision of training, conferencing, brainstorming and for general discussion of our political landscape.
“In any democratic structure it is important that decision making continues. It is a fact that Labour’s National Executive Committee, the Party Leader, UK Parliament, Welsh and Scottish Governments, among many other organisations have managed to operate in the fullest way possible without the option of in-person meetings. It is our opinion that these same principles should apply to the internal operations of the Labour Party too.”
The online letter has now been signed by almost 1,000 members, including more than 100 CLP chairs and nearly 150 CLP secretaries.
Members can add their names to ‘Get Labour Online’ here.