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Labour pressure group demonstrates how to be open and democratic

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), formed in 1973 by a group of rank-and-file activists, held its Annual General Meeting last Saturday at Conway Hall in central London. Like most other pressure groups in the Labour Party with the notable exception of Progress, CLPD elects its executive and decides its policy at a meeting at which any of its members or affiliates can attend and vote. The meeting was also open to all Labour party members and, as usual, the well attended meeting generated much discussion and debate on the way forward for the left in the party.

Reporting on last year’s Labour conference, Pete Willsman, CLPD secretary, said it was disappointing to see many important rule changes ruled out of order or lost on the conference floor, despite excellent contributions from delegates.  CLPD’s daily bulletin at conference, Campaign Briefing, known to all as ‘the yellow pages‘, proved very popular with delegates.  Fringe meetings organised at both the TUC and party conferences were successful and very well attended.  Pete finished by calling for CLPD members to campaign for the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance slates for Labour’s national executive and national policy forum elections which will be held in the summer.  Further info on the slate can be found here.

This was followed by a discussion on rule changes submitted to LP conference last year.  These included ensuring eight contemporary motions are heard each conference, direct amendments to NPF documents, and for an increase on the number of constituency party (CLP) seats from six to ten.  It was agreed to call on CLPs and affiliates to submit the following rule changes in 2013: Labour Group Leaders on councils to be elected by a local electoral college and more input by branches in selecting their prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC).

National executive member, Christine Shawcroft, told the meeting that the election of new party general secretary, Iain McNichol, was to be welcomed and the trade union members of Labour’s were a signifiant improvement to previous years.  Christine told us her concerns that the executive can act too quickly to de-select PPC’s and prospective councillors upon receiving complaints about the selection process and a proper procedure put in place.  Christine had put to Ed Miliband that the party needs to highlight and act on the £billions lost in tax evasion last year alone.

Kelvin Hopkins, MP for Luton North, gave a parliamentary report. Kelvin believed that Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were more successful when they are forced to move to the left on issues, as proven on policy on News International and NHS reforms.  The parliamentary party was much improved since the 2010 election, and that a strong stand against the coalition’s cuts could win the next election.  Labour needs policies to expand construction, public services and to create new jobs.  The savage cuts may lead to a depression.  The election of Ed Miliband had been about stopping his brother, the New Labour continuity candidate, and David Miliband’s attack on social provision in the New Statesman recently had shown Ed was the preferred leader for the Party.

Seamus Milne from the Guardian led the debate on the way forward for Labour.  Seamus, a longstanding friend of CLPD, said the Left in the party had been marginalised over the last 30 years, but, although the neo-liberal model of Thatcher and New Labour was now broken and discredited, the Left does not automatically benefit.  New Labour died when Lehman Bros crashed and that Ed Miliband has been elected with the opposition of the Establishment.  Ed is open to progressive policies and is beginning to re-connect with voters.  Seamus said Labour had to build a left leaning membership, democratise the Party and create an alternative economic policy.

Following regional reports, UCATT official and convenor of the union group on Labour’s executive, Jim Kennedy, led the debate on retaining the TU/Labour link (his speech can be read in full here). Jim discussed the history of the trade union link and looked at the effect that state funding of political parties would have on the Labour Party. Jim highlighted the need for TU members to join and become active in the Party.  Equally, party members should join and become active in their appropriate union. Jim stated that without organised labour, there would be no Labour Party.

Finally, members debated and passed resolutions on a number of issues including a work programme for CLPD for the next 12 months and opposition to the Tories’ plans to reduce the number of constituencies.

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