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Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions

Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

July 14, 2017
5 min read

Seema with Jeremy Corbyn
What is this internal election for and why does it matter?

The Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) is basically the committee that organises the Labour Party’s annual conference, including the agenda, standing orders and overseeing ballots. It is important to remember that the CAC has seven members, two of whom are decided by ‘one member one vote’ [an email and postal ballot of all Labour Party members] and the other five are elected at conference by vote of delegates. Billy Hayes and I are standing for the two positions elected by all members.

It is important to note that should we win, we take position to start arranging the 2018 and 2019 conferences.

What made you decide to stand?

I truly believe that conference should be more meaningful for ordinary members and that has to start with access. Too many working class and BAME people are being priced out of conference, as are many CLPs [constituency parties] – if we are the party of ‘the many not the few’ then our conference needs to be financially accessible to all.

Faith needs to be restored back into our conference. Last year we saw very distinct rule changes bunched together on one vote, rule changes that included local government budgets (cuts) and whether a sitting leader requires MPs’ nominations to be on the ballot if challenged.

These are not linked in any way, yet delegates had one vote to vote in favour or against all these changes, not individual votes on each item. How can we honestly trust a process that decides rules in this way?

You have received an estimated 80 per cent of the constituency parties’ nominations – how do you feel about that?

Overwhelmed. Humbled. Grateful. Although we are still waiting for the confirmed figures from the Labour Party, these are figures from our campaign’s intelligence and what we’ve seen from CLP Nominations on Twitter.

I remember when it was first discussed that I should stand for the Conference Arrangements Committee, I really felt it should be someone with a higher profile, given the other candidates were an MP and a Lord who both featured on TV prior to entering politics.

The support has been really amazing, from the campaign team to my trade union, from comrades to fellow CLP secretaries. It is a lovely experience.

Luke Akehurst has referred to you [and others standing for CAC and other positions] as the ‘hard left’ – what do you make of that?

Luke has probably been the most helpful person in my campaign – every time he tweets or emails support for the other two candidates, the nominations came rolling in. I owe him a lot.

As for the ‘hard left’ label – I am just an ordinary member, who grew up in poverty often in care, who lives on a council estate in Tottenham amongst people desperate for a Labour government. I thank Labour whilst in power as it socially mobilised me through university and now I dedicate my time to the Labour cause because I am a democratic socialist and I want what I had for others.

Ultimately members will decide whether they want to vote for me or not. Some will listen to Luke, others will have got the memo that the Cold War ended decades ago.

You and Emine are the only two BAME candidates running for CAC and the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) – why do you think that is?

When the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) were putting the left-slate together, the executive were very keen and conscious about BAME representation. However, more does need to be done in the party to ensure that BAME representation within the party is embedded. Myself and Emine may not win, and having BAME candidates is very different to have BAME people in positions.

BAME representation is not only a problem for CAC and NCC but a whole range of positions across the party, from conference delegates to standing as a parliamentary candidate. We as a party need to do a lot more, even if that means we explore introducing quotas.

Are you a Corbynite?

100% yes. I first suggested on Twitter Corbyn should stand for Leader on 9th May 2015, when Ed Miliband resigned. I believe that makes me the first person to be a Corbynite!

Jeremy is well known around Tottenham, he was the Councillor in what is now Harringay ward in the Tottenham constituency in the late 70s to early 80s. For me, he and Bernie Grant represent what I have always known as ‘Labour’ and I am glad that across the UK people are both excited by and embracing the Labour that Jeremy espouses.

What happens next?

Ballots will start reaching members via email from Monday, 17 July 2017 – as there are so many members this will be staggered. For those not on email, they will get a ballot paper in the post from Monday 7 August. Ballots close on Friday 8 September at noon.

For more information and to sign up to support, go to yourlabourconference.co.uk

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