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Threat to the Labour-union link: the party grassroots respond

Over the coming weeks Left Futures will be collating responses to the “Collins Review” from CLPs, CLP branches and other grassroots organisations. We have already covered the motion from London Young Labour. Of course most CLPs do not meet in August but nevertheless we have already become aware of some excellent responses from the grassroots. For example, the GC of Leyton and Wanstead CLP carried the following resolution:

“This GC notes that the police investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in Falkirk.

This GC believes that policy should be determined through the Labour Party’s democratic channels and should not be announced without consultation, as a knee-jerk reaction to goading by Cameron and the right wing press.

This GC supports and values the current link with trade unions and believes that the current opt-out system works for individuals in affiliated unions.

This GC is concerned that:

  • Ed Miliband’s recent proposals to reform the Trade Union link are inconsistent, disproportionate and have far-reaching consequences.
  • The opt-in proposals threaten the link with trade unions; a party with no link to organised labour is no longer a labour party.
  • Opting-in propsals undermine the collective decision-making that defines trade unionism.
  • The proposals also threaten to bankrupt the party.
  • Primaries are undemocratic, favour media-friendly candidates over those with political substance and, undermine the importance of being a fully paid-up party member.
  • We now face a huge debate about internal party matters at the expense of fighting the Coalition’s vicious attacks on ordinary people.”

We have also been made aware of the following summary of concerns expressed at the Ogmore CLP.

“The Meeting regretted the timing of the announcement of the proposals, which risk throwing the Labour Party and unions into an unnecessary period of introspection on controversial Party / union reforms instead of matters of public interest, and instead of focussing on the countdown to winning the European elections and next General Election.”

“Members felt that the Party leadership had wrongly ceded ground to the Tory attacks on the unions, and therefore in effect had publicly conceded that there were fundamental problems with union support of the Labour Party. The Meeting felt strongly that the Labour Shadow Cabinet needed instead to rally behind the union link, as the unions were not only crucial historically to the success of the Labour Party (electorally and financially) but would continue to be so in the future.”

“There was a strong consensus from the Meeting that it would be better to take some of the heat out of this public debate; this would entail taking forward a calmer internal party review of funding which would be more comprehensive and balanced (including importantly, addressing the Conservative multi-million pound donations at and between elections) and putting that forward as part of Labour’s manifesto offer for party funding reforms.”

“Primaries were largely rejected for a number of reasons. One of the benefits of being a Party Member (and paying your full fees) has always been the ability to select candidates, so why should “registered supporters” be allowed this democratic privilege when their allegiance to the Party and their financial contribution is less than that of Members? How would the Party decide where primaries would be used, and would local CLPs have a say in this? Primaries do not extinguish the possibility of Party or affiliate influence of the candidates, as the short-list and panel must surely have some Party determination? How does the Party guard against manipulation of the selection by non-Labour Party supporters registering as supporters to cause mischief?

“The proposals to limit spending on selections for Labour party candidates was welcomed, and strong views were expressed that this should apply to all selections in the Party, and not just at General Elections to the UK Parliament.”

“The proposal to limit MPs outside earnings was also broadly welcomed.”

We would welcome any comments from party members, not necessarily only those who support the views of CLPD and Left Futures. The Labour Party is always stressing how important it is that we should make maximum use of social media. Left Futures would like to play a role in allowing party members to speak to party members about what may become a watershed issue for the party. Please send all local material to Left Futures by completing our contact form in the “About Us” tab above.

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