Labour’s Centre Left today launched its vision of a new democratic structure for a twenty-first century Labour Party. Entitled A Living Breathing Party, words used by Ed Miliband launching his leadership campaign, the plan aims to turn into reality the Leader’s promises of giving members back their voice.
During the leadership campaign, Ed Miliband said:
I want the Labour Party to be the most effective campaigning organisation in the country… Party members have felt they did not have a voice and that all the leadership wanted them to be is leaflet deliverers. We need a living, breathing party of which people are proud to say they are members and proud to call their own.”
The key proposals in the document are as follows:
At a local level
- Attitudes, imagination, openness and year-round activity matter more than structure which should be flexible and pluralistic.
- Primaries should be rejected, as they reward inactivity and non-membership at the expense of members, but fees should be reduced to help recruit new members.
- The revamping of the party’s intranet to facilitate improved communication between members — not just top down — and give access to information about what is being proposed or decided at every level.
- A real, functioning democracy requires real debates and votes on motions from local parties and unions, as well as a rolling policy programme, with the majority of time devoted to contributions from delegates.
- The principle of equality of representation between individual and affiliated members should remain at conference and be extended to the national executive and national policy forum.
The National Executive
- Its role in planning and overseeing policy development should be restored alongside its role on campaign organisation and finance, and as the voice of the party in dealings with the Leader.
- It should approve any arrangement with other parties in the event of future hung parliaments.
The National Policy Forum
- Its primary task should be to facilitate debate and decision by party conference on options for inclusion in the rolling policy programme. That would require a major cultural change and reform of its internal procedures.
- All significant strands of opinion within the party should be included on policy commissions and amongst the options included.
- Policy proposals should be based on widespread consultation amongst members, affiliates and local parties making best possible use of the party’s intranet.
- No more coronations – thresholds should be reduced anyway (to 5%) where there is a vacancy, but should be ignored if only one candidate achieves the threshold.
- The electoral college should be maintained as the only way of including affiliated and individual members as well as MPs. The involvement of “supporters” should be rejected for the same reason as primaries, as they reward inactivity and non-membership at the expense of members, and last year demonstrated that a leadership election can be a real incentive for new members to join.
Party members’ rights
- A renewed right for members to select or reselect all candidates (parliamentary, council, assembly and mayoral) prior to each election, without any unnecessary interference, and without any prior approval of the candidates.
- Party officials must observe the civil service principles of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality and there must be a charter of members’ rights, an ombudsman and a whistl-eblowing policy.
- A strengthening of the women’s and BAME structures in the party, a renewed commitment to increased BAME and female representation in parliament, and a new programme to increase working class representation.
- A new autonomous Young Labour organisation at every level in the party, integrating students and young members, with adequate resources and a sabbatical elected Chair, and able to feed into decision-making at all levels.
The plan was drawn up by a Taskforce chaired by Michael Meacher MP under the auspices of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, after consultation with individuals and organisations on the centre-left of the party.
A Living Breathing Party may be downloaded here.