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Labour Party members’ policy reps: gagged for 2-years, now facing elections

For those of you braced for late night tomorrow glued to CNN and the GOP New Hampshire primary spare a thought for Labour Party national policy forum (NPF) consitutency labour party(CLP) representatives facing an election next summer.

Since taking up office in the autumn of 2010, these haplessindividuals (55 in total – five per Labour Party region) have been in effect ‘gagged’. Unless something radical changes in the next two weeks, there will have been no NPF meeting at which Labour Party policy was discussed and voted on before ballot papers are issued for the 2012 NPF elections. Don’t take my word for: Luke Akehurst, leading right-wing member of Labour’s national executive committee and secretary of Labour First, in a recent Twitter exchange with me described the format for the last two NPFs as:

content free networking rallies for the nomenklatura

There was only one NPF in the preceding two years on my watch as an NEC member (2008-10), and nothing appears to have changed, despite fine words from Leader, Ed Miliband and more recently appointed general secretary (GS), Iain McNicol.

It is not too late for action. The Labour Democratic Network is willing to help pay for, arrange and staff an event to give our elected policy representatives an opportunity to meet, discuss and decide future policy direction. A proposal was circulated to sympathetic NPF members and select key decision-makers before the festive season to help gauge interest. Even among some so-called rabid lefties there was an understandable reluctance to make life more difficult for the new Leader.

But there appears to be solid support for the proposed format:

10:30                          Plenary start
11:00 – 12:45            Policy Workshops
12:45 – 13:30            Lunch
13:30 – 15:15            Policy Workshops
15:30 – 17:00           Plenary – debate, votes and wrap
Note: no provision for speeches or campaigning sessions – just concentrated policy discussion.

Of course, the directly elected 55-CLP reps account for barely a third of the total 180 plus NPF members. So there a a lot of other representatives to take into consideration. In particular, there is an elected Leader. He was interviewed at the weekend by the Guardian newspaper.
I gather there has been some stuff in the newspapers,”
he is reported to have opined laconically.

Acknowledgement of the role of members in Labour Party policy-making was there none. This is going to continue to haunt Ed Miliband until he gets it. With the wind of change blowing through Labour Party Head Office, and a new staffing structure in prospect, now is the time for both Miliband and his new GS, Iain McNicol to restore members’ rights to have a say. Membership has stalled again, and unless people sense their opinions matter, they are not going to bother to stay in membership, let alone join the Labour Party afresh.

According to some well-informed sources the Labour Party does not have sufficient paid staff to service an NPF. That is why LDN is offering to assist pay for a venue and recruit volunteers to record, transcribe, and steward.

In the meantime nominations for NPF candidates have been invited in a Head Office circular to CLP representatives over the Christmas period. The deadline is 30 March 2012. The election will take place after the May elections. Incumbents could be forgiven for asking what is the point, if the Leadership isn’t interested in your views – even if you have been elected to represent members?

Your call, Ed.

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