Giving registered supporters a vote in the leadership election is not popular with constituency parties who are concerned about devaluing party membership. And it’s not popular with trade unions, whose levy payers do pay a great deal of money to the party and who now, potentially, could have less influence. The precise way in which they will vote was dreamed up late in the day, and set out in an NEC statement in the conference arrangements committee report which delegates received on Sunday afternoon.
The compromise, very reluctantly agreed by the trade unions as a face-saver for Ed Miliband, is this: registered supporters will get a vote in a separate section of the electoral college, worth between 3% and 10% of the total once 50,000 are recruited, and subject to their votes never being worth more than members’ votes. If there is a 10% turnout by 50,000 registered supporters, this would mean that just 5,000 voters would have a seperate section in the college. They actually wouldn’t have 3% of the total — that would give them a bigger vote than members — but nearer 1%. But their vote would still be worth more than twice the vote of a union levy payer.
In order to achieve 10% of the electoral college for registered supporters, assuming that there are still 200,000 individual members and turnout was 70% for members and 10% for supporters, you’d need to recruit over 400,000 supporters, twice the number of members. Now you could argue (and, privately, this is what Ed’s advisers are arguing), this isn’t very likely and therefore no-one should be very exercised about this. However, if constituency parties do manage to recruit a large number of supporters, what would rational trade unions who wanted to protect the influence of their members do? Although multiple-voting is to be prevented in the affiliates section, it will still be permitted to vote both as an individual and (once) as an affiliated member, and as an affiliated member and as a registered supporter. Any sensible union would encourage their members to become registered supporters. TULO would be well advised to aim for 3million registered supporters.
What a farce! The proposal is ill-thought through. A face-saver with no other merit.
Paul Kenny, speaking in support of the package, made a great speech about closed minds, closed ears and closed doors, and the millions who voted last year with their feet. Refounding Labour was still work in progress, he said, talking about the need for the control freakery to end. He supported the package but was noticeable in his lack of precision about exactly what he supported.
Peter Hain preceded his closing speech with a moving video about Bombardier workers and Derby Labour’s campaign in their support (for which they reveived a party award) – a high point before the low shabby farce of the procedure in which the package was agreed.