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London Labour conference exposes democratic deficit

London Labour Biannual Conferemce 2013The London Labour Party conference meeting on Sunday revealed a serious democracy deficit within the London party.  Ed Miliband promised to make Labour “a living breathing party of which people are proud to say they are members and proud to call their own.” He promised that members should have more say in policy making. It’s about time it happened in London.

Eighteen months from the election for London’s Mayor and Assembly and there was no place on the agenda for discussing the policies on which London Labour will fight that election, nor even a process for deciding it. It is said that there will be a conference next year which will do so, but on what basis? Unlike in Scotland and Wales, there is no London policy forum and so far, no plans to create one.

Nor does it seem likely that the people who succeeded in keeping every emergency motion off the agenda this weekend and allowed only two composites to be debated will be keen to see amendments to policy documents debated and voted on by the conference itself as they were back in 1980. Sunday’s agenda allowed just 45 minutes for policy discussion, but plenty of time for platform speeches. And in recent years, the conference has met for only one day every two years, whereas in the past it used to meet for two days every year as many regions, even those without a coterminous unit of regional government, still do.

Six months away from a selection process to choose the Mayoral candidate, and London has had foisted on it a “primary” none of us asked for or wanted, which the Regional Board had opposed, with the involvement of “registered supporters” whose involvement undermines the value of joining the party. It will also severly reduce the level of involvement by trade union members. Scotland agreed its own rules for its current leadership election – why can’t London?

And yet this weekend, even a proposed “Future of London” question and answer session for would-be mayoral candidates (albeit not a formal hustings which cannot take place until the campaign is formally under way next June) failed to materialise. That, however, was not the fault of regional officials. It was down to Sadiq Khan and Tessa Jowell refusing to appear in any form of debate with any other potential candidate. That did not stop, rather inappropriately, a platform speech from just one of the likely contenders – Sadiq Khan – making the contest look increasingly like a stitch-up.

Perhaps the biggest gap in the democratic process is that there’s been no London Rule book for several years since it was torn up under New Labour when making rules up as you went along was the order of the day. Last year, conference was promised the Board would work on one. It set up a working party to do it, but it has so far failed to produce one. Having no proper rules is a recipe for confusion and conflict – constituencies and affiliates don’t know their rights or entitlements.

So where is the new rule book? It’s time to make “a living, breathing party” a reality! That was certainly the feeling of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy fringe meeting at which almost 50 people heard Diane Abbott announce her candidacy for Mayor, Lucy Anderson MEP , Jim Kelly, Chair of Unite London & Eastern region and CLPD’s own Francis Prideaux.

Fortunately, there was a slight shift to the Left on the Regional Board which will, we hope now begin to seriously address these issues. The full results were as follows (2012 & 2010 results in brackets in that order, names in Italics were backed by London Labour Left):

Chair: Len Duvall AM

Vice-Chair: Linda Perks (Unison) unopposed

National Policy Forum Reps x2: Lucy Anderson and Sam Gurney (to face election next year)

Disabilities RepSean McGovern 58% (previously 48% & 31%) retained his seat

Ethnic Minorities Officer: Kamaljeet Jandu 66% beating Unmesh Desai (32%), neither of whom had stood previously

LGBT OfficerAnton Johnson unopposed having won with 52% in 2012

North West CLPs (F): Alex Sanderson 60% standing for the first time, beating Judith Atkinson 40% (previously 17% & 45%)

North West CLPs (M): Peter Mason 54% beating Nisar Malik 25% and William Hunter 20%, all standing for the first time

South & SE CLPs (F): Leonie Cooper 58% beat Johnnie Byrne 42%, standing in this section for the first time (Leonnie Cooper had previously represented Unite)

South & SE CLPs (M): Charlie Mansell unopposed

North & NE CLPs (F): Emine Ibrahim 65% standing for the first time beating Laila Butt who had previously been elected unopposed

North & NE CLPs (M): Unmesh Desai 61% (previously 56% and 57%) beating Richard Price 39% (previously 44%) 

Central CLPs (F): Claudia Webb 54% beating Amina Ali 46%, both standing for the first time

Central CLPs (M): Francis Prideaux 55% (previously 71% & 52%) beating Tarik Khan 37% and Tom Reed 8%, both of whom were standing for the first time

Trade Unions x8: Gary Doolan (GMB London), Mike Hedges (Unite), Gloria Hanson (Unison), Alan Tate (CWU), and Maggie Ferncombe (Unison) were joined by Niamh o’Brady (Unite), Sue Patel (TSSA), and Chris Ward (USDAW) all elected unopposed.

One Comment

  1. the mayoral election and London Assembly elections are not new developments. WHat was the practice in previous years? Even if there are no rules, there is custom in practice which in law can be held to be binding,

    Trevor Fisher.

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