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Refounding Labour: what’s happened since?

In the months since the 2011 Annual Conference further discussions have taken place to build on last year’s “Refounding Labour” changes to the party structures, particularly with the unions. Refounding Labour, controversially passed on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis at Liverpool, significantly altered the party rulebook.

The following are the most significant changes that will be introduced:

• An online ‘policy hub’ on the party website. This will publish National Policy Forum (NPF) policy papers. Members (and the general public) will be able to suggest amendments, make comments and have a general argument. There will also be provision for members to engage with the Party’s elected reps on current policy issues outside of the formal NPF process.

• A new power for Annual Conference to shape the work of the NPF via a ‘Policy Ballot’, which will identify key topics for consideration. These will then presumably be taken up in NPF policy papers. The ‘Policy Ballot’ will operate alongside and in addition to the existing Priorities Ballot at Conference.

• Every June the NPF will consider the policy arguments generated by the NPF policy papers that were published during the previous year (arguments that have taken place in Policy Commissions and on the Hub). The NPF will choose between different political positions on a simple majority basis. Final policy papers will then go to the Joint Policy Commision (JPC) and then on to Annual Conference for a decision. There seems to be no provision for minority positions at Conference, which is contrary to the existing arrangements. Conference will simply vote on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. This is a step backwards for party democracy.

• In the year prior to a General Election each Policy Commission will produce a ‘final year document’, which will draw upon all the previously agreed policy papers from earlier years. At this stage constituency Labour parties (CLPs) and affiliates (trade unions and socialist societies) will be able to submit specific amendments for consideration by NPF reps. This is the existing arrangement. It would be much better if CLPs and affiliates could submit their amendments direct to Conference, rather than having to rely on the grace and favour of NPF reps.

• Once agreed by the NPF, and then by Conference, the ‘final year documents’ form the Party’s Programme on which the General Election Manifesto is based.

• The current 6 Policy Commissions will be renamed and reorganised to focus on Labour’s key priorities. All NPF reps will be able to attend meetings of one Policy Commission.

This is an edited extract from Peter Willsman’s Delegates’ Guide to Annual Conference 2012, published by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. More extracts will follow in the coming weeks.

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