The Labour Party Irish Society (LPIS) has always been one of the smaller socialist societies affiliated to Labour. So it came as a surprise to those involved when The Skwawkbox, a well-read Corbyn-supporting blog, issued a plea to its readers to join and attend the AGM, promising them a chance to boot out Progress director Richard Angell and return the society to ‘its radical roots’.
This led to a flurry of new members and renewals which, at £10 a go, will have filled the coffers and should go some way to funding the highlights of the LPIS year – the legendary St Patrick’s Day bash & the annual Labour party conference reception.
Arriving early at Portcullis House last night, the queue stretched round the corner. A quick glance at familiar faces in the queue suggested the Momentum / Skwawkbox call to action had backfired spectacularly.
The meeting began late, with around one hundred still out in the corridor, who were eventually bundled into an overspill room. When an attempt to abandon the AGM was heavily voted down, it became clear that the ‘left’ slate (handed round the room at the start of the meeting) was going to fare badly.
The LPIS exec represents a wide range of views in the party – and Corbyn-supporting exec members expressed surprise at attempts to oust them by other Corbynites. Their crime? Presumably collaboration with the enemy (or none of the Skwawkbox crew thought to check the allegiances of those already in post).
Further comedy was provided by Ruth Smeeth MP being repeatedly ordered to sit down as a presumed heckler, having risen to tell the room that MPs would not need to leave as a planned Commons vote had been cancelled.
Two hours of points of order and speeches about loyalty to the current leadership came to nothing – the status quo was maintained by a huge vote, bolstered (but not materially altered) by a number of notable parliamentarians and pass holders in the room, some of whom were more Irish than others…
Conclusion? The battle for Labour’s soul will be an expensive one – at least 20 societies affiliate to Labour and can be joined / infiltrated for a fee. But if you’re the struggling treasurer of a niche campaign group – get yourself in the Skwawkbox and watch the money pour in from both sides.