For the first time in, what? 25 years or so, I went to a branch meeting of the Labour Party tonight.
Except I didn't.
The National Executive Comittee has decreed that during the leadership campaign, there will be no party meetings, because of all the bullying and intimidation.
So what I went to tonight was a meeting of Labour Party Members. Not a Labour Party Meeting. A meeting of people who just so happen to be Members of the Labour Party.
There were close to 80 people there. I suspect normally at monthly branch meetings, they get perhaps 10-15 or so. Still, these are volatile times, and given that this is Angela Eagle's constituency, it's inevitable perhaps that people around here are going to be more energised and politicised.
Every seat was taken. People were standing around the edges of the room, with more stood outside the door.
Because it wasn't a "proper" meeting, some of the formalities were dispensed with. They didn't bother with the minutes of the previous meeting, for example, and just got down to business.
The business was 3 motions. The first one agreed with a statement Angela Eagle made during the final days before the Brexit vote, in which she praised Corbyn's energy and commitment, and stating that this meeting was in support of Jeremy Corbyn's continued leadership.
The meeting was well ordered. There was a chair, who gave everyone a chance to speak, and who asked those who wanted to interrupt to not do so. She kept order, and everyone abided by what she had to say. Some people were long winded. Some were eloquant. Some were disjointed. Support for Corbyn was not universal. Antipathy towards Eagle was not universal either. Both sides had their say. There was disagreement, but no personal attacks, or threats, or any unpleasantness on either side.
A show of hands was called. The motion was supported, by 66 votes to 11.
The second motion stated that this meeting has no confidence in Angela Eagle. Same pattern. Both sides had their say, and it was all well mannered. This time the vote supported the motion by a similar but slightly smaller margin. This time there were two abstentions.
The National Executive Committee has put a proviso in place that people who joined the party less than 6 months ago will not get to vote in the leadership election. I'd assumed that this was part of the bargaining that took place at the NEC meeting to get Corbyn on the ballot sheet, but it turns out that after this was achieved, Corbyn and his faction left the meeting, which continued, in his absense, to impose this condition.
The third motion was an emergency motion opposing this condition. It too was debated politely, and passed unanimously, or at least without opposition.
It was stated that a Guardian Reporter was nearby, and that when the meeting had finished, anyone that wanted to, from either side of the debate, could meet him or her at a pub nearby and make their views known.
The meeting went on from a little after 730 to just after 9pm. Once it was over, some adjourned to the pub. I went home.
So, about that bullying and intimidation...
Well, a brick was thrown through the window of the Labour Party office sometime during the night when Eagle announced her intention to run for leadership. She immediately called on Corbyn to rein in his supporters. The assumption being that the bricking was carried out by a disgruntled Corbynista. It could have course have been carried out by an agent provocateur, or by a passing drunk, or of course, by a disgruntled Corbyn supporter. There's a lot of anger over how the Parliamentary Labour Party have acted over the last week or two after all. Corbyn condemned the brick, and it's throwing, but he has no power to act over the bahaviour of individuals. This is taken as demonstration of his inability to lead.
So anyway, I wonder, if the press report on tonights meeting, will it be the one I went to, or something else? Labour is, if the narrative is to be believed, a hotbed of entryists, anti-semites, and homophobic thugs.
Here's what came out of the conversation attendees had with The Guardian:
driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?