Some suggestions for internal party reforms

28th May, 2012 5:03 pm

After more than a decade in which New Labour’s high command believed that campaigns were primarily about media management and could be run from the centre, the need for Labour activists, engaged in their communities, knocking on doors, was finally rediscovered. If Labour Party and trade union members had been listened to more, we would not have lost 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010.

Now, people across the political spectrum within the party claim to want change, to want democracy, and a party that listens to its members. But we’ve seen plenty of so-called listening exercises in the last few years which didn’t involve much listening. As Ann Black says, this has prompted many CLPs and branches to lose faith in the whole process. We don’t want our ‘Refounded Labour’ to be more of the same. We need real changes that make a difference to how the party and its elected representatives respond to members views and experience.

At CLP Level

  • CLPs should work more closely with TULO to increase the involvement of union branches at the local level. Similarly with the Co-op Party, although the latter is more geared to the Labour Party.
  • The selection procedure for candidates should include provision for Party branches and branches of affiliated organisations to both interview candidates and make nominations for the long list (see CLPD’s suggested rule change).
  • Local Campaign Forums – these need to have a proper accountability role in relation to the Labour Group. If the existing local government committee has been successful then something like this should be retained – under the rules, CLPs have considerable freedom on arrangements for LCFs.
  • Local electoral colleges to elect Labour Group leaders should be considered (see CLPD’s rule change proposal)
  • Adjoining CLPs should seriously consider a joint GC arrangement. This has worked well in a number of places and given a boost to activity.

At National Policy Forum

  • All NPF members should be members of a policy commission, especially given the infrequency of full meetings of the NPF.
  • All shadow-cabinet policy review working groups should report through policy commissions and the NPF, this should feed through into options in NPF reports for final decision by conference.
  • All agendas, papers, and minutes of the policy commissions and JPC meetings should be available to all members of the NPF.
  • In line with proposals from TULO, at policy commission meetings, at each stage of the policy making cycle, individual NPF members should be able to put direct amendments on behalf of party units that represent and these should be voted on at the policy commission meetings. Where there is a division of opinion the policy commission will submit minority and majority options to the full NPF.

At Annual Conference

  • Institute a rolling Party programme based on amendments from party units, giving grassroots individual and affiliated members direct input into policy making (see CLPDs rule change proposal)
  • Increase the CLP seats on the NEC, with the eventual aim of parity with the number of TU seats (12). – with seats reserved for Scottish and Welsh members.
  • The original agreement under Partnership in Power in 1997, namely that CLPs and TUs could submit motions on internal party organisational issues like campaigning and finance should be honoured.
  • Other democratic improvements e.g. voting on Conference documents in parts instead of all-or-nothing (see CLPDs suggestions for rule changes at Left Futures).

Create a Party Ombudsperson

  • The ombudsperson would deal with complaints arising at all levels of our Party. This person would be a party member, appointed by the NEC, and would serve for a non-renewable fixed term, not exceeding 10 years (see CLPD’s suggested rule change).

Peter Willsman is standing for election to the NEC – we welcome posts on the future direction of the party from other candidates for the NEC

  • Stuart Bruce

    Some potentially good ideas here. I’ve long advocated OMOV/local electoral colleges for the election of Labour group leaders. The NPF also drastically needs a reinvention with much better use of technology to enable NPF members to communicate directly with members. The Ombudsman idea sounds good in theory, but in reality would be too dependent on the person holding office.

  • Peter G Kenyon

    Dear Pete

    For an evidence based approach I recommend the LabOUR Commission interim report

  • Brianalexandertodd

    What about seats for Northern Ireland members?

  • Jason Jones

    You start by saying about connecting with communities and then go on to list loads more internally looking reforms rather than just getting on with the aforementioned seeing as we’ve already had lengthy debates on internal reform; this post is about a year too late.

    • jonlansman

      We may have had “lengthy debates on internal reform” but we haven’t had much internal reform – and certainly none which really give members a greater voice in policy making.

      Refounding Labour and the policy review alike, it is as if the intention is the keep the discussion going until we all lose the will to live – then they wont have to make any changes.

      • Jason Jones

        No in local parties we’re reforming ourselves rather than having a constant moan about technical structure. And we’re getting out and knocking on doors not bitching about party factions. Some in this party spend all their energies on the internal party itself rather than actually taking the fight to the Tories.

  • Pcotterill

    The National Policy Forum does not need amending. It needs abolishing.  It was one of those intiatives that may have seemed like a good idea at the time but it is clear enough now that it and its (willing and often competent members) are more likely to used as a mechanism to fob the membership off with some notion of ‘being in office’. 

    The stark reality is that the PLP, and the elite within that, set policy.  Anyone notice the idea of an EU referendum discussed by the NPF (not that I’m against it)?  Members and CLPs will be better off without the NPF to deflect energies, and better served engaging with their MP/PPC to demand the policies they want, and holding the same properly to account if they don’t get them.

  • Pingback: Labour’s National Policy Forum: the continuing case for its abolition « Though Cowards Flinch()

  • Daniel Speight

    Just a thought early in the morning. With the party’s finances being in such a state shouldn’t there be a tithe on paid party representatives and employees? It doesn’t need to be that big, just a few percent but it would make a difference. It wouldn’t be unknown either, although you would have to go back a long way to find it.

  • Pingback: Labour’s National Policy Forum: the continuing case for its abolition |()


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