Minutes of the October CPA meeting

There follow the minutes of our October (in September) meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 4 November at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.


Cambridge People's Assembly, 30 September 2015

  1. Agenda
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approval of minutes and matters arising
  4. Secretary's report
  5. Treasurer's report
  6. Update on the coach to Manchester, 4 October
  7. Update on TTIP actions, 7 and 10 October
  8. Report on Cambridge Left Forum, 17 September
  9. Discussion on working with political parties
  10. Planning an umbrella meeting
  11. Planning a newsletter
  12. Activities in support of migrants and refugees
  13. Other business and announcements
  14. Next meeting and collection

The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Lesley, Maud (treasurer, acting chair), Neil (secretary), Nicki, Ozzy, Richard M., Vern, and Scott. Names may have been changed.

1. Agenda

The meeting accepted the agenda which had been circulated.

2. Apologies for absence

The meeting received apologies from Hilary, Jon, Kamila, Lucy, Martin, Olivier, Owen, Paul, Richard W., Shelagh, Simon, Steve, Tom, and Was.

3. Approval of minutes and matters arising

The meeting approved the minutes of the September meeting. As that meeting had asked, Neil had posted online Kamila's work towards mapping sympathetic local organizations, and asked the secretary of the Cambridge and District Trades Council to circulate to its members a letter seeking invitations to send speakers from the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) to union meetings. Lesley had put a successful motion to her union, Cambridge University Unite, that it should make a donation to the CPA to help it meet the costs of providing coach transport to the demonstration in Manchester on 4 October. (Note: the absent Steve had put a similar successful motion to his union, the Unite GPM National Publishing and Media branch.)

4. Secretary's report

Neil reported that the CPA had 227 subscribers to its mailing list (last month 226), while 758 Twitter users followed it (739) and 522 Facebook users liked it (512). It had 26 members (25).

5. Treasurer's report

Maud reported a balance of £1,123. She asked the meeting to note major forthcoming expenses arising from two CPA projects, the coach to Manchester on 4 October and the event on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal on 7 October, which taken alone would leave a shortfall of £425. However forthcoming income, including an estimated £300 in coach ticket sales, donations after pending motions, and a collection at the TTIP event, could be expected to make up the balance.

6. Update on the coach to Manchester, 4 October

Neil reported that 43 passengers had booked seats. He had therefore booked a 49-seater coach in place of the 75-seater the group had booked in July. Nicki asked Neil to check whether the coach was accessible to wheelchair users. (Note: this need had been overlooked, and sadly the coach was not accessible.)

The meeting agreed that the coach should leave Cambridge at 8.30 a.m. and leave Manchester at 4.30 p.m. In the morning it should collect passengers from Queens' Road and from Madingley Road in Cambridge, and – at Ozzy's suggestion – if necessary from the Brewery Tap pub in Peterborough. Neil would communicate this to the coach hire company.

Ozzy volunteered to help Neil and Tom as a third steward.

7. Update on TTIP actions, 7 and 10 October

Maud confirmed the details of the event the CPA was jointly organizing for Wednesday 7 October, Everything About TTIP, which would be held at 7.30 p.m. at the Wesley Methodist Church on Christ's Pieces. The guest speakers would be the anti-poverty campaigner John Hilary (Executive Director of War on Want) and the jurist Eva Nanopoulos (Fellow of King's College Cambridge). The event was being organized in collaboration with Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), Global Justice Cambridge, UNISON Cambridge City, and UNISON Cambridgeshire County.

As for promotion, Maud reported that the CPA had already distributed 1,500 leaflets, and that Eva and Olivier would be interviewed about the event on Cambridge 105's Rebel Arts Radio programme from 9 p.m. on Monday 5 October. The organizing groups had previously agreed to place an advertisement in the Cambridge News, and the meeting approved a text Maud had prepared. (The advertisement would run for three days.) The event should also be mentioned on the Manchester coach.

The day of action on Saturday 10 October would be promoted by announcements on the coach, at the 7 October event, and on social media, and by notices on the CPA mailing list and blog.

8. Report on Cambridge Left Forum, 17 September

Neil reported that a meeting, Corbyn: What Next?, had been organized on Thursday 17 September by Cambridge Left Unity and Cambridge rs21 under the label of a Cambridge Left Forum, for the local Left to discuss what it should be doing after Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader of the Labour Party. Maud had been invited to speak for the CPA, alongside Ozzy for rs21, Margaret Ridley for Cambridge KONP, the sociologist and activist Luke Cooper, and Alfie and Dan for both Cambridge SolFed and Cambridge Unite Community. Lucy and Was, known to the CPA through their work in Cambridge Defend Education, had chaired the meeting. Around fifty people had attended.

Neil thought that the chief decisions of the meeting had been to hold another meeting (straightforward, but it did not always happen) and, in answer to the media attack on Corbyn, to hold a street party around a stall on Sunday 27 September in celebration of his election.

Maud added that the party had attracted people's interest and had been good fun. The organizers, now using the name Cambridgeshire Left (CL), had prepared a useful leaflet listing forthcoming local events (including the Manchester coach and the TTIP event) to distribute there.

As a label meant to bring together people from different campaigns and organizations on matters of broad agreement, the purposes of CL seemed to overlap with those of the CPA. Maud believed this issue was as obvious to the CL organizers, who had suggested for example merging the CL and CPA Facebook pages. The meeting agreed that the CPA should let CL develop and continue to co-operate with it.

The meeting discussed where the CPA stood after the election of an anti-austerity leader in the Labour Party, and in the midst of his supporters' efforts to create structures with a foot outside the party (such as the Communities for Corbyn network, if not perhaps CL itself). It seemed to agree that the CPA could not seek to be or to merge with any such, for one thing because (as Richard observed) it was still possible Corbyn would be unable to move his party closer to the positions agreed nationally by the People's Assembly.

9. Discussion on working with political parties

A discussion was inconclusive. At one point Richard imagined a CPA leaflet (against TTIP, for example) carrying a Labour Party endorsement, which the meeting seemed to find acceptable; then a Labour Party leaflet carrying a CPA endorsement, which the meeting clearly rejected. The meeting generally seemed to approve working with political parties as long as it showed no favour as between them. At another point Neil mentioned that an absent member had objected to the group's efforts to publicize the Cambridge Left Forum meeting, which – it having been organized by Cambridge Left Unity and Cambridge rs21 – he saw as party political and therefore contrary to item 2.3 of the CPA's current, second constitution.

The meeting agreed that the matter should be discussed again at the group's annual general meeting in January, which would have the power to alter its constitution if necessary.

10. Planning an umbrella meeting

It had been thought that an umbrella meeting could be held in November, in preparation for a day of anti-austerity talks and workshops in June. Neil wondered if the former could use the Cambridge Left Forum label, but Maud reminded him that the idea was that it should be a rare private meeting with the representatives of different groups, which tried to work out how to widen participation in and ownership of the CPA. This was a different form to the Left Forum.

Ozzy was sceptical about such a meeting, which he saw as a sterile 'meeting about meetings' with no clear object. In any case he thought that autumn and winter were already busy. Instead he proposed a public meeting perhaps in March, and later a day of campaigning against austerity.

Neil said he thought the meeting with other groups was important. To abandon it would put in question some of the assumptions on which the CPA had been founded.

Maud thought the meeting had to be somewhat open, but accepted that it would be worse than not having a meeting to have one without a clear object. The CPA would have to prepare carefully and therefore November would be too soon.

The meeting agreed that the group should continue to work on planning the umbrella meeting.

11. Planning a newsletter

As time was short, this item was omitted.

12. Activities in support of migrants and refugees

Richard advised that a new campaign, Stand Up to Racism in Cambridge, would be launched with a meeting on Monday 2 November.

Lesley and Vern had attended the vigil for refugees held on Parker's Piece on Wednesday 17 September.

13. Other business and announcements

Neil advised that the Freshers' Fair at the University of Cambridge would be held on Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 October. (The fair at Anglia Ruskin University had already taken place.) The meeting agreed to use the CPA's e-mail discussion list to seek a volunteer to keep a stand.

14. Next meeting and collection

The meeting agreed to adopt the River Lane Centre as the regular venue for CPA meetings. The next one would be held there at the usual time of 7.30 p.m. on the usual first Wednesday of the month, Wednesday 4 November.

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