What we know about Refounding Labour so far


Refounding Labour2By Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

This morning Labour’s NEC have been meeting have been thrashing out the details of the Refounding Labour proposals that will go to a conference vote this Thursday. This afternoon we’ll be hearing from some of the NEC members themselves on what they think these changes mean, but for now we’re able to confirm that:

– Young Labour will now be affiliated (and in the coming years I hear they should expect greater financial and structural support from the party, as well as greater autonomy)

– Labour will be recruiting “registered supporters” locally, who will get to vote in the Labour leadership campaign in the affiliates section (often referred to, somewhat inaccurately, as the union section)

– Unions will retain 50% of the vote at conference

– Multiple voting will be reined in. MPs will get only one vote, and Labour party members a maximum of two (one membership section section, one affiliate)

Registered suppporters is what has been most heavily briefed out so far, and has been viewed by some a significant and historic change to how the party works. On one (limited) level that’s true – the party has never had a tranche of people involved in the party who are linked only to the party without being party members. If it works then it could significantly increase Labour’s capacity to campaign in the seats we need to win at the next election.

It isn’t though, as some have suggested, a significant “dilution” of the union vote in the leadership election. The number of “registered supporters” that Labour would need to sign up to have any significant impact on the affiliates section would be hundreds of thousands – as Jim Pickard at the FT has rightly noted. Pickard has also been hearing the same from inside the leadership as I have on potential numbers of “registered supporters” – that is that it will be tens, not hundreds of thousands, at least initally. I’m actually more sceptical than that. I’m prepared to be convinced, but I don’t believe there are significant numbers of people who want to be involved in the party who are not already members or affiliates.

Plenty of people will try to spin this as a battle between Miliband and the unions, or as a blow struck by Miliband against the unions. As an argument that’s a real stretch – especially as the unions have retained control over 50% of the vote at conference – something which didn’t seem certain as recently as yesterday evening.

As has always been the case though, I’m much more concerned about how the process of party reform has been handled than the proposals which have come out of the end – I’m broadly happy with the proposals, but because the process hasn’t been transparent to ordinary members, it is going to be hard to get them onboard. That’s what could damage the effectiveness of these plans in the long-term – and a far greater level of communication and interaction with members will be needed if the party is to be truly “refounded”.

In the detail of the proposals I’m told that there’s more interesting changes in the relationship between Labour and the unions – especially when it comes to campaigning. I’ll blog more on those changes when they’re clearer, which should be the case after today’s meeting.

But Ed “diluting” the union link? No, not really. Not in any significant way at all. That seems to be the reality so far.

Stay tuned to LabourList this afternoon for more updates on what conference will be asked to back this weekend,

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