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Labour conference boycott by local parties revealed

A progressive boycott of Labour party conference by local constituency parties has been revealed in figures presented to Labour’s National Executive yesterday. The number of constituencies represented this year at the conference at which Ed Milliband’s election as leader was announced was the lowest in living memory — 412 meaning more than one in three parties was unrepresented. A survey of most years since 1949 demonstrates how constituencies have turned their back on conference most markedly since the abolition of contemporary motions by Gordon Brown. This illustrates the crying need for conference to become once again a real conference — one which has real debates and votes.

Attendance at conference by constituency parties was at its highest in the early 1980s when absentees were as few as 6%, and almost as good in the  1950s when they were about 10%. In the years 1949 – 1985 which we examined (shown in blue in the table below), attendance only fell below 80% once. It is now clear that it declined during the Blair years and plummeted in the Brown years. Figures made available at the NEC are shown in black.

It has always been the case that a small number of local parties do not attend conference for financial reasons, and this may happen slightly more immediately after a general election. The trend in recent years, however, does not appear to be about money as more of those CLPs that do attend have chosen to send more than one delegate – also revealed in the table.

year total present delegates
2010 632 412 65% 553
2009 632 444 70% 547
2008 632 465 74% 499
2007 632 501 79% 525
2006 632 497 79% 512
2005 628 491 78% 507
2004 628 500 80% 542
2003 628 499 79% 518
2002 628 527 84% 570
1985 633 593 94% 628
1982 623 579 93% 598
1981 623 584 94% 590
1980 623 588 94% 595
1979 623 548 88% 552
1978 623 534 86% 538
1977 623 546 88% 551
1976 623 548 88% 552
1975 623 512 82% 516
1974 623 515 83% 523
1972 659 548 83% 556
1971 659 548 83% 557
1970 656 490 75% 492
1969 656 530 81% 538
1965 659 531 81% 551
1963 667 569 85% 588
1962 667 582 87% 600
1961 667 605 91% 622
1960 667 598 90% 616
1959 667 562 84% 577
1958 667 591 89% 612
1957 667 618 93% 641
1956 667 612 92% 634
1955 667 594 89% 617
1954 667 611 92% 644
1953 667 606 91% 631
1952 667 600 90% 625
1951 667 588 88% 611
1950 661 588 89% 606
1949 660 581 88% 600

5 Comments

  1. A Trubble says:

    we didn’t go as a boycott… we were suspended! Again!

  2. Ryan Thomas says:

    Interesting to note that participation was at its highest during the Bennite “boom” of the early 1980s!

  3. Gary Elsby says:

    Maybe the attendance is down because the Party itself (NEC) does not want members to have a say, an opinion or a vote.

    This is possibly considered a hinderence by members who continually believe they are members of one of the biggest democratic political parties in the world.

    Maybe it would help if the rule book was observed and the clap happy conference organisers were removed.

    The question should be asked:
    What has your CLP achieved in the last 5 years (or so)?

    Stoke Central sent a delegate every year, come what may (Stoke North boycotted).
    The delegate report of the Conference was listening to paint dry.

  4. David Martin says:

    There is an additional explanation for the decline in CLP attendance. Since devolution national conference has lost much of its imprtance for the Scots and Welsh.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I think it is right that participation in UK national politics has declined especially in Scotland since devolution and this is visible in things other than attendance at conference. However, Scotland was always the party region with the highest level of absenteeism, especially when conferences were in southern England. The distance to travel must be a factor and perhaps also the fact that Scottish parties have tended to be smaller and maybe therefore poorer. Absenteeism does now seem to have penetrated all regions. If I have time, I will have another look at the data to see whether it can throw further light on this.

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