A bit about us
The Holborn and St. Pancras parliamentary seat has existed since 1983 when the seats of Holborn and St. Pancras South and majority of St. Pancras North were merged to form a single constituency. Holborn & St. Pancras Labour Party is one of the largest in the country with almost 3800 members.
The constituency stretches from Covent Garden in the south, to Hampstead Heath in the north, and from Primrose Hill in the west to Islington in the east. Holborn & St. Pancras is made up of 11 London Borough of Camden wards which are, from north to south; Highgate, Kentish Town, Gospel Oak, Haverstock, Cantelowes, Camden Town with Primrose Hill, St Pancras and Somers Town, Regent’s Park, King’s Cross, Bloomsbury and Holborn and Covent Garden. The remaining 7 London Borough of Camden wards, in the west of the borough, are in the neighbouring constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn.
Holborn & St. Pancras, since its formation, has been represented by two Labour Members of Parliament (MP). Frank Dobson was MP from 1983-2015 (having previously served as MP for Holborn & St. Pancras South from 1979-1983) and in May 2015 Keir Starmer was elected MP with 52.9% of the vote, a majority of 17,048 votes. In June 2017 Keir Starmer was re-elected MP with 70.1% of the vote, a majority of 30,509 votes.
Each London Borough of Camden ward is represented by three councillors. Currently 32 out of the 33 councillors in Holborn & St. Pancras are Labour and Labour currently holds 42 out of the 54 seats across the whole Borough.
Local party organisation
The structures of the various different committees of the Labour Party are sometimes difficult to navigate and some of the terminology and acronyms used in local party meetings can be a little obscure. You should never be embarrassed to ask what an acronym means or what a particular committee does: there is almost certainly at least one other person in the meeting who also doesn’t know!
However, this section of the guide seeks to explains some of the structures and officer positions that you are most likely to come across.
The structure of the Labour Party mirrors the electoral map of the UK. The smallest unit is the ward which is represented by local councillors. Together a number of wards combine to form constituencies for the purposes of national elections and boroughs who manage local government. The Labour Party has groups and forums that support both these levels.
Branch Labour Parties
The first, and in many ways most important, layer is that of the Branch Labour Party (BLP). Every member of the Labour Party will be a member of their own local Branch, which will normally be an area which matches a local government ward represented by councillor(s).
Sometimes more than one ward area will be grouped together for all local activity such as Bloomsbury and King’s Cross. Others where the wards are very small or there are relatively few active Labour Party members have occasional joint meetings to share guest speakers or hold social events. Other wards have their own meetings.
Each BLP will have a committee who are responsible for many of the functions of the party in that area. This will always involve a chair, who heads up the local party and chairs meetings; a secretary, who ensures meetings are publicised and well run, write the minutes, and often have other responsibilities; a treasurer, who is responsible for the bank account and sometimes fundraising; and a vice-chair who runs meetings if the chair is absent.
Beyond this, there is flexibility about what other positions (if any) are appointed. Other positions which are frequently elected are: campaigns officer, who leads on organising campaign sessions; a membership officer, who is responsible for recruitment and making sure members are involved in the party; and a youth officer, who leads on engaging with young people.
These positions will be elected (or in some cases appointed) at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), and all members of the Labour Party in that branch area can stand for election and take part in them. Every effort must be made to ensure that women are represented at every level in the party.
The BLP and its committee members will often be the main point of contact for members, and how they become actively involved in the Party. Each BLP makes its own decisions as to what activities it will undertake, but it will normally involve a mixture of discussion meetings, campaigning sessions (particularly in the run-up to elections), social events and fundraising. Another key role of the BLP or the ward (in the case of there being a branch made up of more than one ward) is in selecting who the Labour Party puts forward as its candidates to be ward councillors in local elections.
Sending delegates to the Constituency Labour Party General Committee
The other positions which are elected by Branch Labour Parties are their ‘delegates’ to the General Committee (GC) of their Constituency Labour Party (CLP). They are elected at the Branch AGM. The number of delegates each ward gets will depend on the number of members they have, and each branch delegation must be gender balanced. The Secretary of the BLP is also automatically a member of the General Committee, to make sure they are aware of decisions made there. The branch secretary is usually a member of the Executive Committee (a sub committee of the Constituency Labour Party).
GC delegates are not bound by the views of their fellow branch members in how they vote, but they will normally take account of them.
Constituency Labour Party
Every member of the Labour Party is also a member of their Constituency Labour Party (CLP), which in England mirrors the area represented by a Member of Parliament.
The structure of the CLP is in many ways similar to that of the BLP, except covering a wider area and with more members. The General Committee of this CLP has a chair, two vice-chairs, secretary treasurer, women’s officer, youth officer and BAME officer – of which at least three must be women. There are a number of other officers to assist with key functions, and often more than you would find at the BLP level.
These positions are also elected, with the election happening at the CLP Annual General Meeting among the delegates sent by branches, but also those delegates sent by unions and socialist societies and the Co-operative Party. You have to be a delegate to the General Committee to stand for a position as a CLP officer.
While many day-to-day operation and administrative decisions are made by an ‘Executive Committee’ (EC) (made up of the officers of the CLP and representatives from the branches, unions, socialist societies and the Cooperative Party), major decisions and positions as to policy would normally be made by the General Committee – the primary decision-making body of the CLP.
In Holborn & St. Pancras, and in many other constituencies, all members can attend meetings and participate in discussions, but only General Committee delegates can take part in votes.
Issues decided by all members of the Constituency Labour Party
However, some decisions are made at CLP meetings by all members of the Labour Party who live in the CLP. This includes who the CLP ‘nominates’ as their chosen candidate for national party Leader and Deputy Leader. This is more often than not an endorsement, and the final decision will be made in a postal and online ballot of all members. In some instances, such as the selection for London Mayoral candidate, prospective candidates must pass a threshold of constituency nominations in order to be on the ballot paper.
All members of the CLP are able to take part in votes about who the party selects as its candidate for Parliament when there is a vacancy.
Attending Annual Conference as a Visitor or Delegate
Holborn & St. Pancras GC members usually elect three delegates to the Labour Party’s Annual Conference; one woman, one man and a youth delegate (under 27). The CLP delegate is invited to report back to the GC on their experience at conference. Members are also able to buy a pass to attend conference to observe conference proceedings and to participate in fringe events.
Local Campaign Forum
The Local Campaign Forum is made up of delegates from CLPs, Constituency Campaign Officers and other elected positions. The LCF’s primary aim is to organise for local elections in Camden. It co-ordinates the campaign activities of Camden branches to secure the election of local Labour candidates, recruits party members to stand for local elections and compiles the panel of candidates for those elections. It also works with the local Labour Group to encourage a role for branches, members and affiliates in local government policy and to feed ideas into the Party’s local manifesto and policy-making process.
The Camden Labour Group is made up of all Labour party councillors and is the forum for discussing council issues and developing local council policy