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Labour send observer to party meetings after chairman quits

Call for ‘less adversarial’ politics amid claims Labour member left meeting in tears

22 November, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Dr Leao Neto has stepped down from the role of chairman of the Hampstead and Kilburn CLP

REGIONAL organisers of the Labour Party were yesterday (Wednesday) planning to send an observer to constituency meetings in Hampstead and Kilburn amid fractured relations between members.

The tension rose on Sunday when constituency chairman Dr Leao Neto stepped down, less than a year after being elected to the role.

He said yesterday: “What we need is a change of culture in the constituency Labour Party. A new way of doing local politics: less adversarial and more collaborative. Less aggressive and more understanding. Jeremy Corbyn put it well when he said ‘much less shouting and much more listening’.”

His resignation comes amid allegations and counter-allegations over the effectiveness of local meetings, and backstage speculation that dissatisfied members had considered bringing a vote of no confidence.

In different drafts of a resignation message which were circulating, Dr Neto is said to have claimed he had been unfairly “vilified”. When approached by the New Journal, however, he said: “This is not about me or any particular individual at the general meeting of the constituency Labour Party, yet it involves us all.”

Among members who regularly attend meetings in MP Tulip Siddiq’s constituency there is an on­going tug-of-war between those who endorse Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and those less enthused by the direction he has taken the party.

Ali Craft, from the London regional organisation committee, was due to sit in at a special meeting at a hired room in Swiss Cottage Library last night when the possibility of removing an internal delegate system and instead handing voting powers to all members was discussed but not adopted.

Both wings of the party have members who say they support an independent observer being present, and some have even suggested that the press should be allowed in. There have been splits in opinion over whether to support mandatory reselection contests for sitting MPs, the so-called People’s Vote on Brexit and how much money should be spent on sending delegates to conference.

Another divisive issue has been the drafting of a media policy, and a bid to stop infighting unfolding in the public glare of Twitter.

In recent months, several women among organisers have said they have been interrupted at meetings or not called to speak. One is understood to have left in tears after a sharp exchange.

Dr Neto, a Methodist minister who replaced Peter Taheri last year after his predecessor successfully stood for a seat on the council, said: “The Labour Party nationally could put resources into an effort to change the culture of local politics. It would take a whole programme on training in how to live with difference rather than fight one another.”

One insider said: “Leao could not, or could not see how to, make meetings fair and to take the concerns of members forward. It has been frustrating but we can’t put members off attending meetings. The party’s success is based on getting members to participate.”

The suggestion of all-member meetings is due to be discussed at a special meeting of Holborn and St Pancras Constituency Labour Party next week.


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