By Milo Perrin
Anna Gillett has hit back at claims by Laura Rogers that Momentum HQ has bullied the local party into selecting her as their preferred candidate for the next general election. In an exclusive interview with Cornish Stuff Anna gives her version of events.
Rogers resigned on Friday saying “I cannot preside over a group in which democratic processes have been so insidiously undermined ”
“Laura has misrepresented her tenure as Chair of Momentum in Truro” Anna told us “She has misrepresented the levels to which democracy has been observed during her tenure of chair. She hasn’t acted properly”
Gillett claims the publication of the resignation letter and the fact that it was sent to every local Momentum member shows that it was a deliberate attempt to damage Momentum, and to discredit Gillett herself.
And pointed out that by Laura saying to Cornish Stuff that her resignation letter wasn’t newsworthy was hypocritical as she had just published it on the internet for everybody to read.
Rogers alleged that senior organisers at Momentum “told outright lies about alternative candidates”. Gillett was endorsed on Friday as Momentum’s choice for the selection process that starts in February for a parliamentary candidate for the Truro & Falmouth seat. Rogers claims that members were told Gillett was the only candidate, when she wasn’t. Several local members abstained.
Rogers accused national Momentum bosses of controlling the organisation top down from Head Office and hit out at them for failing to allow members to make their own decisions.
“She left Friday’s meeting very upset and angry because it didn’t go her way”.
Anna claims that Laura’s version of events doesn’t stack up, pointing to the vote that was taken on the night that endorsed Anna as Momentum’s preferred candidate. She says no one voted against her and Laura’s version of a 16-4 vote is wrong. The 4 votes were abstentions, not votes against.
She also says that for Laura to complain about the lack of democratic process is rich as she hasn’t been observing the rules herself.
“She’s not been organising or holding meetings nor has she been allowing any other members to do the same. Friday’s meeting was only the second meeting since the general election”
Anna Gillett is the Chair of Truro and Falmouth Labour Party.
READ THE RESIGNATION LETTER HERE
Anna has been chosen by Momentum as their preferred candidate for the Truro & Falmouth parliamentary seat. Momentum is a party within a party that supports Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
The episode shines a chink of light into the internal workings of a party machine. Momentum gives Labour Party members more freedom to be active and campaign. They can meet as Momentum rather than as an official Labour Party meeting. After Jeremy Corbyn took over leadership of the Labour Party and most of Labour MPs walked out in protest, and through to the second leadership vote, local Labour Parties were banned from holding meetings to discuss what was going on. But the Labour Party had no power to say you couldn’t hold a Momentum meeting.
“She’s been controlling it and effectively Momentum is quite dormant here. There’s been no minutes. At the beginning of the meeting on Friday, following her lecture on Iran, or her little educational that she delivered, she got everybody to agree to a vote that was taken at the previous meeting, at which I was not not present but there was no evidence to back the claims she speaks of. So her talking about democracy is pot and kettle stuff”
Laura claimed that Momentum HQ had chosen Anna as a candidate back in August.
“The beginning of the process was at the announcement of the last General Election, it was obviously very short notice and the Labour Party up to that point had not being allowing local parties to select candidates despite the fact that we were already supposed to be on an election footing for about a year”
“We weren’t allowed to select a candidate so that process had to be done at the very last minute. The momentum group as it was then met in April in the middle of the local council election campaign.
It was agreed in the room that myself and several others would make an application to become the candidate. Momentum were happy to support me as their candidate. Following that general election based on the prospect of a hung parliament and another general election soon Momentum were keen to have people in place who were prepared to put themselves forward, so there could be some sort of readiness.
So I said yes and I was the only person to put my name forward from the constituency group. The was a selection panel process but as I was the only candidate it was a parer exercise. Over the course of time another candidate (Jennifer Forbes) emerged and she was very very keen to put herself forward.
She found favour with Laura who preferred Jenefer Forbes as candidate.
But this is all happening whilst there are no meetings. Laura Rogers said to me ‘we don’t need meetings anymore because we hold positions within the executive’, which I found a bit odd. I know other members have asked her again and again to organise meetings so we could get together. But she wasn’t up for that at all”
Gillett also says that Jennifer Forbes, the candidate Laura Rogers supported for the nomination had refused to be held to the vote, and would put herself forward anyway, even if the vote went against her.
“The meeting on Friday was only the second since the general election. there are no minutes of the meeting on Friday or the one back in October”.
Anna is the Chair of the Truro & Falmouth Constituency Labour Party, a position she says she takes very seriously. She criticised other members who are publicly positioning themselves and beginning campaigns for the general election (PPC) selection process that starts in February.
The selection process for the parliamentary seat for Truro & Falmouth is not going to be pretty. Labour has already selected one Momentum parliamentary candidate in Cornwall – Paul Farmer in Camborne/Redruth. Whoever wins the battle for the selection committee within the local constituency party will win the war. Momentum have a tactic of loading these committees with their organised supporters and therefore are able to select a Momentum candidate for the general election. However they have been accused of using bullying tactics to oust long serving party members in the process. Momentum denies bullying and says it’s just using the rules to best advantage.
The selection committee for Truro & Falmouth will be voted in at a meeting in the first week of February. Local members are encouraged to attend the meeting as the committee is selected on the night, with only the votes of people in attendance will count and not by any postal ballot of members or anything.
After that there is a seven to nine week process when the candidate is chosen. Jayne Kirkham reduced the Tory majority to around 3,000 last may but she is currently deciding whether or not to stand again and she won’t make a decision until after the selection committee is chosen.
Jayne Kirkham beat Anna Gillett in a vote of members to choose the candidate for Candy Atherton’s old council seat in Falmouth Smithwick.
Anna points out that the Jayne’s success in reducing Sarah Newton’s majority for Labour back in May was a team effort and shows what can be done if members pull together and focus on the job in hand rather than bicker amongst themselves.
But Anna says it would not be right for her, as Party Chair, to begin campaigning yet, before the official process starts.
“It’s not supposed to be happening until the point when the vacancy is advertised.
“It’s my job to oversee democratic proceedings. The selection committee first needs to be selected and that will happen on the meeting of 5th February”
Anna dismissed claims that Momentum will bully the process and load the committee in their favour. She made the point that these tactics, if used, were not exclusive to Momentum and are universally used across all parties for internal factions to enable the changes to party policy they want to see.
“The Labour Party is made of members and democratic processes occur every year. We have AGMs, we have meetings. Local members are encouraged and entitled to put themselves forward for positions. They are entitled to nominate themselves and get seconded. that’s how it works. If they can get enough people around them to support them then they are democratically elected. There is no seizing control, there’s nothing like that. It’s just how democracy works.
There is nothing sinister in joining a party, genning up on it and wanting to do something within it. That’s what it’s for.
All members are entitled to attend the meeting and to vote. It’s all written down in the rule book”
“A good number of members, including myself are struggling under this current Conservative administration. So we want to do the best we can to try and get in an administration that will actually change things rather than just carry on with business as usual, which is the danger when you just tip toe around the centre ground”