Last night (10/11/2006) we had the Perry Barr Constituency AGM which takes place rather less than annually it seems. Anyway we didn’t have to elect any officers because that had already been taken care of. If I’d read the letter more carefully I would have ssen that nominations were to be sent in writing well beforehand, so there was a good opportunity for the unelected paid officers to make the necessary arrangements.
We had new rules for the operation of constituencies on our chairs. I made the point that since we hadn’t had a chance to read/debate the rules I would abstain. The chair said it was vital that they were agreed so that we could proceed with business. Dutifully most put up their hands irrespective and we got on with the appointed business.
The proceedings were out of the way in no time which left time between the arrival of the guest speaker, none other than Harriet Harman, with Khalid Mahmood, MP for Perry Barr. This left Neena Gill, MEP to fill the gap with an account of what her work entails. Other than by chance this gave us a rare opportunity to get any information about what our elected representatives get up to. This is evidently democracy and transparency in action.
Khalid Mahmood foolowed up with his report which consisted of a similarly glowing response to Harriet’s tribute to his greatness. We had a written report and a very glossy document including mnay photographs of him in company with a variety of people. The one article which caught my eye was about improvements to the (dire) public transport system. This simply stated that he had opposed the “ridiculously expensive” tram. I asked him what his highly secret plan for transform transport was when we were facing crisis with “Gridlock” Gregory, the current Cabinet Member responsibility for Transportation having not a clue what to do either.
Harriet began with an effusive tribute to Khalid other than which I have great difficulty in remembering what was said. She promised that since there were no local elections in London she would be lending a hand in Perry Barr at the next local elections in May 2007. Mick Archer, a comrade who has managed somehow to remain in Labour, reminded those present the reason why Harriet was here and asked what she had done to stand out against discredited policy. The reply was exemplary, a perfect answer saying the necessity for Labour to stand together in the light of the re-emerging Tory threat. No outrage at what has recently happened in Gaza, the increasing violence in Iraq or explanation why Britain was apparently high on the agenda from a terrorist threat, a clarficaton of which the large Muslim presence would have doubtlessly appreciated. Oh yes I do remember what she said about the need for democracy and transparency which wasn’t always apparent in the Labour Party, but of which Perry Barr was a shining example.
There followed a meal at Azim’s in Lozells which I’m afraid I missed, retiring to a pub in West Bromwich which was a bit cheaper than the £15 asked for the privilege of attending among such distinguished company. While I agree with Harriet about the desirability of a woman high in the Labour leadership I’m afraid she didn’t convince me.
The main topic of conversation in West Bromwich was when we would return to a democratic structure and processes where members determined the egenda. We have witnessed those brought in throughly discrediting the party. Six were kicked out in Aston, others were brought in without the necessary requirements of current membership, or very short times (only months) in tthe party. There was a feeling of total frustration of what was going on. Harriet Harman had spoken of the loss of 200,000 members and the need to rebuild the party. The obvious question is why anyone should want to come back in if their contribution counted for so little and there was so little opportunity to debate and discuss issues? The former Sandwell Ward had monthly meetings but with boundary changes things fell apart and the new Handsworth Wood hardly meets. When it does the officers coan’t be bothered to inform members about when it meets. We noted that at the AGM there were delegates selected somehow from the ward. When and where remains a mystery.
Keith Hanson, sidekick to my good friend Ian Reilly at West Midland Regional Office, was present and, apart from silencing the assembled rabble at the start, was uncharacteristically quiet. However I approached him at the end of the meeting to ask why three e-mails I sent to him (the same one 3 times) had received no response. Members of Handsworth Wood Ward had received a letter telling them that the sitting councillor would be endorsed unless 20% of eligible members said they wanted a selection to take place. Khalid Mahmood told me that about 80 people had replied in the affirmative out of 131. I think this exceeds the 20% mentioned in the ruling. Don’t know where the rule comes from, but it seems our beloved paid officers can’t even stick to the rules they themselves dreamed up. All Keith said mysteriously that “it would all come out in the wash”. There you go.