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Forty years of CLPD – a cause for celebration

This article first appeared in the CLPD’s Campaign Bulletin 40th Anniversary issue which was published last week, and can be downloaded here.

The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy’s fortieth anniversary is indeed cause for celebration. Our campaign has registered a number of important successes in its existence. Yet surely its importance really lies in its future. For CLPD continues to offer socialists in the Party a route to effective politics.

CLPD understands that socialist policies are tied to the promotion of Party democracy. Membership activity and involvement in all areas of the Party produces better and more effective policies. That is a strategy and appreciation which has worked for these past decades, and will work for many years ahead.

CLPD has rejected any approach which involves presenting the membership with ultimatums. Instead, its approach has always been to offer solutions which are both practical and radical.

As a result it has, on occasion, led and articulated the desires of the majority of Party members. This was most notable in the achievement of the electoral college for leadership elections, and on the reselection of MPs. But there are other recent victories, such as the four/four balance in contemporary resolutions to Conference, and the use of OMOV for the constituency section of the National Policy Forum.

As we celebrate the successes we must acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by Vladimir and Vera Derer. In their book The Battle for the Labour Party, David and Morris Kogan wrote of the Derers’ home in Golders Green: “It is arguably the most important and best-known centre of left-wing activity in Britain”.

Such an assessment was fair, given the impact of CLPD’s successes. Today, we must continue their work by ensuring that CLPD remains a practical vehicle for progressive aims of party members.

The need for alternatives to the Coalition government’s austerity policies is widely shared amongst Labour Party members. More dialogue between membership and leadership is the best guarantee that an in-coming Labour government in 2015 will implement an expansionary economic policy.

CLPD’s current priorities for Party reform and development are aimed at ensuring such dialogue can take place

Hence, the importance of CLPD’s proposed rule change to allow full involvement of Party branches and affiliated organisations in the selection of Westminster candidates. This chimes with Ed Miliband’s commitment to give members a greater role and influence. It also demonstrates CLPD’s continuing commitment to maintaining union involvement in all aspects of Party life.

Equally important is CLPD’s proposal for Party Conference to be able to vote for NPF reports, and other reports, in parts. At present Conference delegates are faced with the invidious choice of “take it or leave it” for lengthy, complex documents. Such a method has weakened the internal policy-making process by removing Conference’s power to change a policy through debate.

It is wrong to assume that debates at Conferences can damage the Party in the eyes of TV viewers. Live debate on current issues makes for enthralling and engaging viewing. Politics matters desperately, and it is not difficult to present a conference as an important event in the calendar.

Billy Hayes is General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union and has been a CLPD registered supporter for over thirty years.


  1. Jon says:

    O.k the fact that Wilson refused t accept the NEC proposal in 73 tht if Laobur returned t power they should nationalise the25 biggest industries, was wrong for him to overturn a policy being voted on, but. The CLPD also put Laobur out of power for 18 yrs

  2. Gerry says:

    Jon – it is nonsense to blame CLPD for Labour’s 18 years in opposition!Don’t rewrite history…

    At the time, it was totally right for CLPD and others to seek to fight for a democratic socialist manifesto, accountable MPs and internal party democracy…the Labour Party in the 70s was in many places rotten, undemocratic and unaccountable, with some of the most disgusting time-serving MPs ever seen in Parliament….

    The 1983 manifesto offered a real choice to the electorate, and I was/am proud to have fought/canvassed on it.. but with the forces of the Press, Establishment, and – yes – the populisms of some of the Tories and Alliance policies, we were portrayed as “looney lefties” and then decimated, esp in the South, South East and Midlands..but we should never apologise for fighting for democratic socialism!

  3. Jon says:

    We’ll agree to disagree, the only two things I’ll say is that a I voted labour proudly in83′ although the closed shop wasn’t democratic socialism, and B the loony left, of Livingstone seizing power in a Coup (again undemocratic) and inviting the IRA with open arms drove votes away by the bucket load, are you saying that the policies the CLPD put forward wasn’t the reason we lost?

  4. peter willsman says:

    In 1983 the key factors were the SDP split and to a less extent the Falklands War.

  5. Gerry says:

    Jon – Labour’s 1983 manifesto did fail to convince many working class voters, you are right..we got less than 40% of the working class vote that year, the worst ever showing since 1935.

    But the total hate-filled vitriol pumped out daily by almost all of the Press, the SDP split, the Falklands war and Thatcher’s populist narrative were the key factors, as Peter said…

    CLPD were then, and are now, a 100% positive thing, and won the internal democracy argument hands down.

  6. Jon says:

    Won the eternal democracy argument, with union block votes ,militant turning up and deselecting several M.P.s who then felt they had to leave

    As for the SDP thing, never understood this democracy lark, the public had a democratic right to vote for someone other than labour, as now they didn’t like what labour stood for, and they did!!

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