The Organisation Committee of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee met on 13 March and considered a number of important reports about internal Party democracy.
The key item was an early heads-up from Peter Hain about the direction in which the review of Labour’s policy-making structures initiated as part of “Refounding Labour” is headed.
Key features of the proposals sketched out by Peter were:
• Moving to a 5 year policy-making cycle from the current 3 year one, and away from the “Warwick” style climax to the process.
• More readable, shorter, accessible policy documents for members to comment on.
• These would be circulated each year for party units to make submissions in reaction to, and then each Policy Commission would draft a report with options and recommendations. These reports would be debated at a National Policy Forum (NPF) meeting each summer. The NPF would then send the revised documents to Annual Conference for agreement.
• Party units will be able to submit a limited number of amendments. There will be a “duty to consult” i.e. party units submitting amendments will need to show they have sounded out stakeholders before raising an issue. Issues raised which show clear evidence of community support may be given more weight.
• In the final year of the cycle, Policy Commissions would draw up an overarching document based on the policy documents agreed in previous years. Again this would be shorter than the current style of document.
• Labour’s Policy Programme would consist of the final year documents agreed by the policy commissions, NPF, Joint Policy Committee (JPC) and Annual Conference. This would form the basis of the manifesto signed off by the Clause V meeting between NEC and Shadow Cabinet.
• The role of the JPC will be strengthened. It will commission and agree policy documents, work to increase participation in policy debate, oversee the amendments process and agree options papers to go to Annual Conference.
• Policy Commissions will consider submissions from party units and come to a consensus view on whether to incorporate them into policy documents.
• NPF members not elected to a Policy Commission will now be able to attend one as an observer.
• Annual Conference will get to consider alternative positions, not just one take-it-or-leave it document.
• There will be greater use of technology to facilitate discussion and to feedback to party units about their submissions. NPF members will also be involved in giving feedback. All NPF members will get greater information about the work of the JPC and the Policy Commissions.
• There will be an online audit trail to track what has happened to amendments.
• Greater communication of NPF activity and support for party units to get involved.
• Policy Commissions to look more at current issues via conference calls and online debate.
This all seemed fairly sensible and consistent with members’ calls for a more transparent process.
This was just an initial discussion – further discussion will happen at the NEC, leading to rule changes going to Annual Conference this year.
The Committee also agreed:
• To trigger a further 14 early parliamentary selections (all 3 seats in Brighton & Hove based on the anticipated new boundaries, Carlisle, Redcar, Crewe & Nantwich, Gillingham & Rainham, Milton Keynes N, Reading E, Bristol S, Gloucester, Cannock Chase, Stafford, Tamworth & Staffs).
• A timetable for selecting mayoral candidates where referendums result in a “yes” vote (freeze date for being a member with voting rights of 5 May, short-listing by panels of a mixture of Regional Board and CLP reps on 16 May, OMOV ballot goes out on 25 May, hustings meetings by 10 June, ballot closes on 13 June and results declared on 15 June). The same ballot dates will apply to the NEC and NPF elections and the Police Commissioner selections.
• Labour MPs selected as Mayoral or Police Commissioner candidates will have to resign from the Commons and trigger by-elections.
• Guidelines for reorganising CLPs in January 2013 on the new boundaries.
• Model candidate contracts which involve a commitment to a lot of campaigning!
• Labour Movement for Europe and Labour Finance & Industry Group are to become formal affiliates of the Party.