The Labour Party Irish Society – Labour’s Own Rotten Borough

An LPIS member reports

As one of Labour’s affiliated Socialist Societies, the Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) is more than just a drinking society. It sends a delegate to Labour Conference carrying hundreds of votes – more than many Constituency Labour Parties. It has the right to appoint delegates to hundreds of constituencies and vote in trigger ballots – a process often used to protect toxic right-wing MPs like Neil Coyle from deselection by members. And it plays a key role in electing the Socialist Societies’ NEC representative.

All this means that LPIS isn’t playground politics. But over the last few years, LPIS has turned into Labour’s very own Rotten Borough. It is alleged, for example, that

  • In 2017, some members were physically locked out of its AGM in Portcullis House, while others were told the AGM had been cancelled.
  • In 2018, some members were physically prevented from voting on motions by having their arms held down.
  • In 2021, some members were denied ballots, and others who did not attend the AGM at all were sent ballots. In total, 354 members attended the AGM, but 496 ballots were cast.

The result has been an undemocratic LPIS, run largely by a clique of professional politicians, staffers and their friends – that spends little time campaigning for Irish Unity, but lots of money throwing drinks parties for MPs and their mates.

This year’s LPIS AGM was no different. In particular, it is claimed that :

  • Candidates running against the incumbent Executive were kept off the ballot paper, despite confirmation that their nominations had been received and accepted.
  • Ballot papers were sent to members who did not attend the AGM, before the AGM had even begun.
  • A large number of voters attending the AGM were not sent ballots at all, especially those the incumbent Executive identified as likely to vote against them.
  • A large number of members were refused admission to the AGM Zoom, and left in a waiting room all night as they repeatedly messaged asking for entry. The members in the Zoom who asked for them to be let in were left on mute.

Any one of these errors would be sufficient to invalidate the AGM. And taken together, they strongly suggest a deliberate strategy to disenfranchise members and rort the AGM.

LPIS isn’t just a bunch of students engaged in playground politics. Rather, the Rotten Borough seems to have been organised from the highest levels within the right wing of the Labour Party. Its Executive – who directly stood to benefit from the alleged rort – includes:

  • Two members of Keir Starmer’s staff, Paula Kelly and Claire Tighe.
  • A member of the General Secretary’s staff, Bridie O’Shea.
  • Two Labour peers, Lord Roy Kennedy and Baroness Margaret McDonagh.
  • Three Labour councillors, Deidre Costigan, Claire Tighe and Sally Mulready.

A group of LPIS activists who believe in Party democracy are urging the NEC, and the leader’s office, to intervene to ensure LPIS has a valid, democratic AGM. If you’d like to join the fight for a democratic LPIS, sign our petition here.

Labour is fighting the upcoming council elections, and the next Westminster election, on a platform of fighting Tory sleaze. But to have any credibility on these issues, Keir Starmer can’t tolerate sleaze within our own Party – let alone at its highest levels. Rank and file members deserve better than Labour’s own Rotten Borough.

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