Ed Miliband promised change. A real voice for members. A “living, breathing party”. We think he does believe in that, but he hasn’t delivered it in Refounding Labour, not in form or content. Taking it as a whole, which is how party managers are forcing us to take it with just one vote on the whole package, it doesn’t actually weaken internal democracy — unlike the reforms of Blair and Brown — but parts of it do. Party members and trade unionists need to act quickly if we are to salvage something from this farce. Necessarily, this blog concentrates on the process – we shall return to the content.
The process which has been undertaken totally lacks transparency and accountability: there was no working party or commission appointed by the executive or anyone else which carefully went through the details. Peter Hain was appointed (by the Leader) to oversee the process, but it is not clear that even he was in control of the process. The 27 page report which went to the executive was not examined in detail – there was a long debate on the whole document but many critical parts were not discussed at all. Although there was widespread consultation, the outcome fails to reflect member’s wishes in many respects: it totally ignores many good ideas (including some which were reported in the report produced in July) but does include many undemocratic and centralising proposals from party managers and the Leader’s advisers who do not appear to share his commitment to democracy.
The latest report will be emailed to delegates together with a 100-page revised rule book in the four days before it is debated, but the outstanding papers on the reform of Partnership into Power – the heart of policy making covering conference and the national policy forum — on the electoral college, on subscriptions and finances, and on the Scottish party will not even go to the executive until Saturday. Although some individual executive members spent hours going through the submissions, they were not published as promised. And the plan is that the entire package, inevitably largely unread by delegates, will be put to a single vote on Sunday afternoon.
Although several rule changes submitted this year and last year by CLPs cover the same ground, they will not be considered until later in the week, and not at all if they conflict with the NEC’s package. A number of these rule changes have already been ruled out of order on the highly dubious grounds that the same clause has been amended in the last three years - even if that amendment was on a completely different subject and affected a completely different part of the clause (some of which run to several pages). If this absurd ruling is not overturned, no further rule changes can be proposed by CLPs or unions for three years on the following subjects:
- in chapter 1: party structure and affiliated organisations (clause II), party finances (clause III), party officers (clause IV), the national executive committee (clause VIII)
- in chapter 2: membership subscriptions (clause III),
- in chapter 3: conference delegations (clause I), conference procedures (clause III)
- in chapter 4: procedures for electing national officers (clause (II), procedures for electing national committees (including the NEC and national policy forum) (clause (III)
- in chapter 5: selections (all clauses)
- in chapter 6: disciplinary action by CLP
- in chapter 7: rules for CLPs (almost all clauses)
In order to ensure a reasoned debate on the issues raised by Refounding Labour, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy therefore urges members to get the following emergency motions though their CLP. It must be received by Friday 23 September at 12 noon:
This conference notes the General Secretary’s letter of 17 September about Refounding Labour to all party members, but is concerned at reports that the recommendations and consequent rule changes will be presented to conference as a single package subject to a single vote.
This conference therefore calls on the Chair and Conference Arrangements Committee to allow for separate debates and votes on each section of the Refounding Labour Report alongside the NEC’s consequential rule changes and any relevant rule changes submitted by CLPs or affiliated organisations in 2010 or 2011.
This motion should be sent to CAC@new.labour.org.uk and a hard copy, signed by the CLP secretary or Chair, sent or delivered to the Conference Arrangements Committee, The Labour Party, 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0HA or faxed to 020 7783 1506 by Friday 23 September at 12 noon.