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Is this the roadmap to the end of Labourism?

The end of LabourismEd Miliband’s father, Ralph, warned in Parliamentary Socialism of the futility of Labourism – “that genuine compromise between revisionism on the one hand, and socialist purposes on the other is impossible” but “ensures in practice the predominance of the policies favoured by a revisionist leadership“.

Although Ed yesterday presented his “mending not ending” of the party-union link as an opportunity for Labour to become a “genuinely mass membership organisation with roots deep in workplaces and communities all across Britain,” the reality could be very different.

Far from giving Labour a mass working class base, and transcending the orthodoxies of labourism by accepting the politics of class (as his father advised), his ending of the institutional link between Labour and the trade unions could be the ending of Labourism. The destruction of the alliance that has been Labour. And perhaps even “the kind of slow but sure decline which – deservedly – affects parties that have ceased to serve any distinctive political purpose” of which his father warned in his seminal book.

Ed claims that these reforms will modernise and strengthen Labour’s historic relationship with trade unions – “a real choice about joining the party and then a real voice inside it.” Individual members who have not yet got their much promised “living breathing party” in which they have “more say in policy making” may well advise their affiliated comrades to read the detail of the offer very carefully before accepting it.

Ed Miliband has announced that he wants a Special Conference of the Labour Party in the spring of 2014 to approve the package of reforms which he will ask Labour’s National Executive Committee to agree at its September meeting. Yesterday he described a route-map to the Special Conference:

  • Lord Ray Collins has been instructed to conduct a review to draw up detailed proposals. The review will examine precisely how these reforms will be implemented and any wider implications. It will advise on any other rule changes that may be necessary as a result of these reforms.
  • The Collins Review will “consult widely over the summer, asking how these reforms should be implemented” and will publish an interim consultation document at this year’s Annual Conference in Brighton in September.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s Deputy Leader, and Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield and a junior whip, have been given special responsibility to “debate these changes with party members“. Harriet Harman appears to have been given back the role of “party chair”, a title which she has had since 2007 but which was purely nominal (as well as lacking any basis in the party rules) while Tom Watson filled the role of “party vice chair” after Ed’s election as leader. Phil Wilson is, rather bizarrely described in the party press release as “the Labour MP who helped Tony Blair change Clause IV” – an indication of the symbolism of this whole exercise. He is also a member of the strategy board of Progress.

Jon Trickett, the Shadow Cabinet Office minister, and Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will work closely with the Collins Review on this process of reform. According to the press release, they will examine what further reforms are needed to make Labour a truly 21st Century mass membership organisation. They will draw on the work that has already begun under Arnie Graf’s community organising model, as well as on the experience of other political parties and campaigns around the world that have opened up to people in new ways in recent years such as through the use of social media and new technology.


  1. Syzygy says:

    This is the transatlanticist fetish to turn the UK political system into the US model where the parties are unencumbered by a membership, let alone Trade Unions. Mandelson and Progress want the LP to be the Democrats aka the more acceptable face of Republicanism. Unfortunately, it seems to also be demonstrated by Ed Balls’ announcement of collaboration with the appalling Larry Summers, ex-Clinton and Obama administrations.

  2. Syzygy says:

    New York Times article ‘Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy provides a good summary of the events. It documents the fierce opposition that Greenspan, Rubin and Summers put up against any notion of regulation of the financial markets.’

  3. Patrick Coates says:

    Len Mc says today he will only join the Labour Party, if it fits, him and his members. OK
    My CLP is the adverage CLP, facts we have 5 unite members and 28 other union members, out of a total 155 members, only 20 yes Twenty are in full time work, the rest is made up of the unemployed, retired, some part time workers and schoolchildren. I think you have more power at TUC HQ

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