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CAC: The election that could get winning ideas onto Labour’s agenda

Clark & Willsman for CAC v2The deadline for nominating candidates for Labour’s conference arrangements committee (CAC) has passed – and September’s party conference will see battle lines drawn between party democracy champions Katy Clark MP and Pete Willsman, and two parliamentary whips, Heidi Alexander and Tom Blenkinsop. But it’s not too late to make sure your vote is cast for candidates who will stand up for grassroots members, whose voices are all too often lost in the party machine.

Why does this election matter? Because annual conference is supposedly a chance for ordinary party members to set the agenda. Members can vote on policy motions at their party branches all over the country – and their delegates can then propose and vote for them to be enshrined as party policy. If they see a part of the party constitution they feel is isn’t working, they can propose for it to be changed. Right?

All too often, the party’s conference arrangements committee rules policy motions and rule changes proposed by grassroots activists ‘out of order’ – and on very spurious grounds. Last year a motion calling for the renationalisation of the railways, a policy that would find immense public support, was ruled out on the grounds that it was ‘not contemporary’, despite the country still being in the midst of the fiasco over Virgin and the West Coast Mainline rail franchise, events to which the motion specifically referred.

ASLEF national officer Simon Weller joked in Campaign Briefing, CLPD’s daily conference bulletin, that his union would present the arrangements committee with a copy of the English dictionary – as their own motion was originally ruled out on the same grounds.

But it doesn’t stop here. There are so many aspects of Labour’s annual conference that feel designed to shut out ordinary party members. Delegates who have taken time off work and who are potentially forking out large sums are told that there is ‘no time’ left for their contributions to debate, only for a panel of hand-picked sofa guests to be ushered on stage to mither indefinitely.

The conference arrangements committee sounds boring and irrelevant, but if you want a party conference that’s run in the interests of ordinary members, rather than one run by people who are employed for the specific purpose of doing the leader’s bidding and avoiding potential embarrassment – parliamentary whips – then electing Katy Clark and Pete Willsman to the CAC is crucial.

One really wonders why the party machine would bother standing whips for the arrangements committee – as it currently controls the running of conference anyway – as the elected CAC members do not assert themselves, and simply rubberstamp plans drafted by paid party officers.

If you’re still in doubt about the importance of this election, remember this. Bill Morris, the 1990s T&G leader, always maintains that the most powerful position he held was not as leader of Britain’s largest trade union. Nor as a governor of the Bank of England. What then? Chair of the conference arrangements committee.

Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how your vote is cast in this election – and how to make sure, via mandating of delegates, that it isn’t cast against the interests of ordinary members.

One Comment

  1. Peter Willsman says:

    Sadly the unfair ruling out has continued this year.In a couple of weeks the next CLPD magazine will be published, which will detail the latest unfairness to CLPs .It will be posted on LeftFutures.One phrase that comes to mind to describe all of this is one much favoured by Ed – machine politics!

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