Members' Assembly FAQs - Member-Wide Consultation

Members' Assembly FAQs

Members' Assembly FAQs

Members’ assembly FAQs:


Why are we doing this members’ assembly?


What’s the difference between a member and a witness for the members’ assembly?


What’s the advisory group’s role?


What will the assembly decide?


What will happen after the assembly?


Why was the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) appointed to run the assembly?


What due diligence was done before signing the contract? 


Did NatCen ‘no platform’ an academic?


How will language be used: will people be asked to use terminology they disagree with, shut down for stating their beliefs, or expected to tolerate derogatory or offensive language?


Will there be any guidance for branch officers?

 

Why are we doing this members’ assembly? 

In 2018 we had a debate at conference about whether we should adopt a policy that called for people to be able to legally self-identify as a different gender to the sex they were assigned or registered with at birth; identify as non-binary in law; and lower the age of legally changing one’s gender to 16. We also debated an amendment that called for the Equality Act 2010 to be upheld, including exceptions that allow for single sex spaces to exclude people with the characteristic 'gender reassignment' in certain circumstances. Instead of voting on the proposal, it was referred back to the Policy Committee for a member-wide consultation.

The Policy Committee, with input from the Steering Committee, came up with a model that aims to build consensus, by allowing members to listen to different perspectives, and work together to make recommendations about whether to change our current policies in light of the debate.

What’s the difference between a member and a witness for the members’ assembly? 

There will be around 60 members of the assembly, who are selected from the people who filled out a survey we sent to members in August. They are all members of the party, and will go through all three stages of the assembly to decide if and what recommendations to make about our policies.

Witnesses are the people who will present information to the members. There are likely to be around 18 witnesses, covering a range of topics from a range of perspectives.

The witnesses will have an opportunity to present information either prerecorded or live, and assembly members will have a chance to ask them clarifying questions (so long as they are available). Delivering a short presentation of evidence or personal testimony is the only role that witnesses have in the assembly. Witnesses can give a particular opinion or perspective, and the advisory group is responsible for ensuring that assembly members hear a balance of views.

Assembly members, having heard the evidence and testimonies, then meet in small groups to discuss what they have heard, work out what they think it means, and then go on to make recommendations about our policies.

What’s the advisory group’s role? 

The advisory group is responsible for providing witnesses and shaping the questions put to assembly members. They sit outside the process but make important decisions about it. Essentially, the advisory group directs the content of the things the assembly members are exposed to, and NatCen delivers the process using expert facilitators.

What will the assembly decide?

We don’t yet know what the assembly members will decide. But the possibilities are that none of our policies need to change, or that some do, and they will recommend what those changes should be.


What will happen after the assembly?

We will have a session at conference where we report on what has happened and what, if any, recommendations have been made by the assembly. We hope that some members of the assembly will come to conference and share their experiences of being part of it.

We expect the recommendations to take the form of statements or goals, and the Policy Committee will take those recommendations and shape them into full policies that could fit in with the rest of our policies. If that is what happens, the draft policies will then go out for consultation with all members.

We don’t know exactly what shape that consultation will take yet, as we don’t know the outcome of the assembly, but we will update members when we do.

Why was the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) appointed to run the assembly?

We do not have the expertise or capacity in-house to run the kind of process we want to, one that will allow for a full and respectful deliberation and be a reliable source of evidence. The Steering Committee therefore agreed to outsource the work, and we used a competitive tendering process to find a provider. We sent out the brief to a number of organisations including NatCen, Ipsos Mori, and Involve, and assessed any proposals we received against our criteria, as set out online. NatCen’s proposal most closely met the brief.

What due diligence was done before signing the contract? 

We raised some due diligence concerns with NatCen in the process of assessing their suitability for this work, as we would with any contractor. NatCen provided assurances of their impartiality and independence in carrying out the assembly, which is further strengthened by the role of the advisory group in determining things like the criteria for witnesses and evidence. Members of the advisory group have also decided to attend the moderated sessions as observers, which means there is no part of the process that will not have been determined or observed by the advisory group, which is completely independent from NatCen.

Did NatCen ‘no platform’ an academic? 

We raised press reports of no platforming with NatCen during the due diligence process. NatCen assured us that the event that was postponed had been programmed as a survey methodology event, and not a debate about census questions around sex and gender. Not only did they not have a range of speakers to ensure a balanced debate on that topic, but they felt it was beyond their remit to do so when it rightly is the function of the UK census authorities to consult on the Census sex question.

How will language be used: will people be asked to use terminology they disagree with, shut down for stating their beliefs, or expected to tolerate derogatory or offensive language?

As a general rule, derogatory language will not be tolerated from witnesses or assembly members, including slurs commonly used on social media, unless used by a witness to describe their own experience. The advisory group has agreed that witnesses will be asked to define terms they intend to use in their testimony ahead of time, if the definition of those terms are contested. This includes the use of the terms, ‘sex’ and ‘gender’.

Assembly members will be expected to respect the pronouns and prefixes of each other’s (and witnesses) choice/ definition. For those who reject the term ‘cis’ when being referred to in relation to trans identities, we invite people to use the term ‘natal’. However, we will also ask assembly members (and witnesses) to be open minded and generous towards members who are less familiar with the topic.

The advisory group will approve a glossary of terms for assembly members who are not familiar with the topic, and for NatCen’s moderators.

Will there be any guidance for branch officers? 

We will be producing guidance for members of the assembly on things like confidentiality, use of social media, and actions to take if they have any concerns during the assembly. We will produce another version of the guidance for branch members and other officers of the party.

  
        
  

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