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Labour needs refounding in local government too

At a national level, it is now received wisdom that New Labour’s command and control model produced bad policies on a host of key issues, lost votes and must change. It has gone almost unnoticed how the concentration of power in the leadership was reproduced by New Labour in local government, both through changes within the party and by changing the way councils are run, with a deeply corrupting effect. In all parties, local councillors together with their friends, families and closest supporters are the heart of the party’s campaigning membership, and yet Refounding Labour seeks to continue where New Labour left off. Not exactly the change which Ed promised!

New Labour concentrated power and undermined accountability by introducing directly elected mayors and cabinet government, an enormous extension of the powers of patronage especially when combined with large increases in what councillors are paid. Leaders can now provide the chosen few with an income stream worth six figures in a single term of office. Financial inducements in their gift bind cabinet members and committee chairs to Leaders and their policies. They can also serve as golden handcuffs, especially when councillors are encouraged to give up their day jobs, creating a massive penalty for any future dissent.

Within the party, we have already seen the withering away of local party structures through the collapse of membership and morale. The voices of backbench dissent have been removed in purges of candidate panels — all facilitated by cooperative party officials who understood the New Labour project and will continue to work on it unless they are weeded out by Labour’s new general secretary. The result amounts to nothing less than the corruption of the local state.

Now the Refounding Labour report seeks to abolish local government committees and district/county parties and replace them with “smaller functional bodies” dominated by local leaders and agents who would concentrate on “local election campaign co-ordination, candidate recruitment and candidate selection“. In many places — where Labour councils straddle constituency boundaries and more will do so after the boundary changes –this will remove the last part of the structure that can hold local leaders to account.

Even local electoral colleges to elect leaders (proposed in the full Refounding Labour report though not in the published shorter version) which would be a welcome advance would not be adequate to ensure the accountability of leaders between elections.

One Comment

  1. Gary Elsby says:

    A meeting was called the other day of which all former members of the Labour Party were invited. Most walked due to the unjustified role the NEC (Org Sub Commmittee) played in ‘restructuring’ the local party.

    I asked : “What test is in place which would determine the validity of the new General secretary of the Labour Party?”

    The answer was clear.
    The Regional Director of the West Midlands must be sacked.

    It has gone much further than hounding internal talent in Stoke. What has replaced overwhelming determination, cause and loyalty, is a set of ‘paper’ candidates that now run the City for Labour.
    All well and good for Labour but extremly bad for the Party and the local public.

    I have never heard of most of our Labour Council and a check on membership length will find Councillors with a few weeks membership.

    By the way, our meeting was bigger than all three Stoke CLP meetings put together.

    They persecuted talent in Stoke because that talent won every vote in every meeting they entered. Eric Wilson and all the rest of them on our ‘Court list’ (Vaz, Black, Reilly,Speight etc..) knew full well that to breaK this near 100% support the local activist had in their own City, they had to resort to nonsensical interpretations of the Labour rule book.

    In their place came those that the public revolted against and now there is no ‘opposition’ to their ways, they shut down our local services with impunity. It was they, not Cameron who spent our money wastefully and wrongly in the first place.

    It is now going to happen to all of you.
    No one will come to your aid and the rule book is so deliberately stupid in its intent, you will find that you break rules every day anyway.

    Get a grip, hit them now and hit them very hard.
    The party itself across the land must be informed of their deliberate madness designed to cause internal strife to get their own minority way.

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