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Do Labour whips really want to run its conference too?

The election for the two constituency party representatives on Labour’s conference arrangements committee (CAC) is hotting up. After the local elections, the two candidates backed by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance Katy Clark MP and Pete Willsman began campaigning in earnest. Katy has been MP for North Ayrshire and Arran since 2005 and Pete is the only person to have served on all four of Labour’s national bodies, including the national executive and an earlier 13-year spell on the CAC.  Somewhat belatedly, two challengers have emerged, Heidi Alexander and Tom Blenkinsop, both not only MPs but also opposition whips.

Whips in the House of Commons are agents of the Leader. Their primary function is management and control of the parliamentary party. They act on behalf of the Leader and, in theory at least, with the knowledge of the Leader. It is surprising therefore that two whips appointed by a Leader who promised to create a “living breathing party“, in which members had “more say over policy“, should seek to represent constituency parties on the body that is supposed to manage the party’s sovereign policy-making body.

To be fair, they do reveal their purpose in their publicity material. Heidi Alexander says:

Whilst Labour Party Conference is an opportunity for members to set out their priorities to the leadership, it should also be a forum for us to have the hard discussions about the policies we need to win the next election.

So members should only be entitled to “set out their priorities to the leadership“. They are entitled to have “hard discussions” about policies, but not choices. Not even “hard choices”. The purpose of conference is to:

showcase the energy and ideas of ordinary party members and all elected representatives.

Nominations close on 21 June. The election takes place at conference in September.


  1. peter willsman says:

    I am really looking forward to the contest. Perhaps the two Whips could emerge from the shadows and arrange a series of party debates between the four of us so that CLPs can make an informed decision. Many thanks to all those CLPs that have already nominated me. Each CLP can make two nominations by 21 JUNE. Yours in comradeship. PW.

  2. Axel Landin says:

    The word ‘showcase’ sums up everything that’s currently wrong. We need Katy and Pete and we need ’em now.

  3. Patrick Coates says:

    I have voted for Pete, Katy suggest all other CLP secretaries do the same, otherwise all of us will be run over by the American bulldozer.
    Also please cancell this Euro picking farce, on the figures from 2004 and 2009, after the recent elections all 10 seats in my region will go to UKIP, over 1 Million votes from all other parties including the Tories, stop the hustings now.

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