Every rule change at Labour conference 2021: what it means and how it passed

Labour passed a number of constitutional amendments, known as rule changes, at its party conference this year. From those mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to more controversial changes, we go through all the successful ones here.

Delegates did not vote on each separate rule change. Instead, they were grouped into packages, which were then subject to card votes. Except one Momentum-backed reform, all of the rule changes approved by conference 2021 were put forward by the national executive committee (NEC), Labour’s ruling body, which means they were championed by the leadership.

Card votes are used for policy motions when a show of hands is too close to call, and always used for rule changes because unlike policies they are binding. Each local party and affiliate delegation casts votes reflecting the number of members they represent, and these votes are then weighted so that CLPs determine half the result and affiliates (mostly trade unions) the other half.


Card vote one: “national equalities structures”. This created a National Labour Party Women’s Organisation, a National Labour Party Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic Members Organisation and a Labour Party Disabled Members’ Organisation. (See CAC Report 1 for full details.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 342,921 (97.5%)
CLP, against: 8,723 (2.48%)
Affiliate, for: 1,810,113 (99.73%)
Affiliate, against: 4,825 (0.27%)

Overall percentage:
CLP, for: 48.76%
CLP, against: 1.24%
Affiliate, for: 49.87%
Affiliate, against: 0.13%

Total, for: 98.63%
Total, against: 1.37%


Card vote two: “national student structures”. This made provision for the establishment of a new National Labour Students, after the old one was scrapped by Jon Lansman in 2019. (See CAC Report 1.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 343,012 (98.12%)
CLP, against: 6,588 (1.88%)
Affiliate, for: 1,815,455 (99.79%)
Affiliate, against: 3,825 (0.21%)

Overall percentage:
CLP, for: 49.06%
CLP, against: 0.94%
Affiliate, for: 49.89%
Affiliate, against: 0.11%

Total, for: 98.95%
Total, against: 1.05%


Card vote three: “updates to language”. This was uncontroversial, bringing the party’s rulebook up to date. For example, swapping “Welsh assembly” for “Welsh parliament” and removing references to the European Parliamentary Labour Party. (See CAC Report 1.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 345,375 (98.3%%)
CLP, against: 5,967 (1.7%%)
Affiliate, for: 1,813,099 (99.79%)
Affiliate, against: 3,825 (0.21%)

Overall percentage:
CLP, for: 49.15%
CLP, against: 0.85%
Affiliate, for: 49.89%
Affiliate, against: 0.11%

Total, for: 99.05%
Total, against: 0.95%


Card vote four: “membership rules”. (See CAC Report 1.) The changes mean that:

  • members can participate in NEC elections and national and regional one-member-one-vote ballots provided they are fully paid up by a date set by the NEC, which will be no more than eight weeks before the ballot opens (this does not apply to leader and deputy leader elections, as specified in another new rule change);
  • the NEC can issue guidance on the standards of behaviour of elected Labour representatives and consider any behaviour not in line with it as “prejudicial and grossly detrimental” to the party; and
  • new members are subject to a period of provisional membership during which time their application for full membership can be rejected for “any reason which the general secretary sees fit”.

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 194,461 (55.44%%)
CLP, against: 157,928 (44.56%%)
Affiliate, for: 1,058,115 (58.09%)
Affiliate, against: 763,346 (41.91`%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 27.2%
CLP, against: 22.28%
Affiliate, for: 29.05%
Affiliate, against: 20.95%

Total, for: 56.76%
Total, against: 43.24%


Card vote five: “party democracy”. This codifies that local party NEC representatives are elected using a single transferable vote (STV) system. It also determines that there will no longer be by-elections for CLP representatives on the NEC: if someone needs replacing, the person who did next best in the last STV vote is chosen. (See CAC Report 1.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 207,787 (58.98%)
CLP, against: 144,484 (41.02%)
Affiliate, for: 1,081,668 (58.96%)
Affiliate, against: 752,820 (41.04%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 20.49%
CLP, against: 20.51%
Affiliate, for: 29.48%
Affiliate, against: 20.52%

Total, for: 58.97%
Total, against: 41.03%


Card vote six: “party meetings”. (See CAC Report 1.) These changes:

  • introduce a “political education and training officer” role to local parties;
  • transfer the power to set a local party meeting quorum from the regional board to the regional office on the NEC’s behalf;
  • mean local parties cannot affiliate with any group without the prior permission of the NEC.

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 209,984 (59.69%)
CLP, against: 141,823 (40.31%)
Affiliate, for: 1,092,761 (59.21%)
Affiliate, against: 752,820 (40.79%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 29.84%
CLP, against: 20.16%
Affiliate, for: 29.6%
Affiliate, against: 20.4%

Total, for: 59.45%
Total, against: 40.55%


Card vote seven: “local government”. (See CAC Report 1.) These changes:

  • strengthen links between Labour and the Co-op Party at the local level;
  • give Labour group members the right to participate in meetings and voting remotely;
  • allows a Labour group to change its standing orders to increase diversity if it has the prior agreement of regional director and Labour’s governance and legal unit.

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 315,245 (90.91%)
CLP, against: 31,533 (9.09%)
Affiliate, for: 1,684,525 (94.48%)
Affiliate, against: 98,486 (5.52%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 45.45%
CLP, against: 4.55%
Affiliate, for: 47.24%
Affiliate, against: 2.76%

Total, for: 92.69%
Total, against: 7.31%


Card vote 15: “snap parliamentary election candidate selections”. This was the only CLP rule change that passed. Backed by Momentum, it means that a five-person panel including representatives from the local party must undertake shortlisting when there is no time for a normal process (i.e. when there is a by-election or snap general election). The panel must comprise: three reps from the local party, appointed by the local executive committee; one representative from the regional executive committee, appointed by the chair and vice-chairs of the REC; one NEC member. (See CAC Report 1.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 214,724 (61.63%)
CLP, against: 133,704 (38.37%)
Affiliate, for: 776,187 (43.96%)
Affiliate, against: 989,478 (56.04%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 30.81%
CLP, against: 19.19%
Affiliate, for: 21.98%
Affiliate, against: 28.02%

Total, for: 52.79%
Total, against: 47.21%


Card vote 16: “EHRC”. These were mandated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and passed on Sunday. The changes allow for a new complaints process to be set up, which will apply to all complaints about protected characteristics. (See CAC Report 2 for full details.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 257,123 (64.74%)
CLP, against: 140,028 (35.26%)
Affiliate, for: 1,207,016 (82.53%)
Affiliate, against: 255,463 (17.47%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 32.37%
CLP, against: 17.63%
Affiliate, for: 41.27%
Affiliate, against: 8.73%

Total, for: 73.64%
Total, against: 26.36%


Card vote 17: “safeguarding and disciplinary procedures”. (See CAC Report 2.) This group of changes included:

  • updating Labour rules to include all protected characteristics;
  • introducing a requirement for members to go through an NEC process before taking legal action against the party;
  • automatic termination of membership for a proscribed act and setting out the proscribed acts, such as standing for election for another party;
  • allowing exclusion based on committing a prohibited act, such as being involved with a group proscribed by the NEC; and
  • allowing the NEC to suspend any member suspected of committing a proscribed act.

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 252,278 (61.88%)
CLP, against: 155,413 (38.12%)
Affiliate, for: 1,218,109 (61.30%)
Affiliate, against: 769,148 (38.70%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 30.94%
CLP, against: 19.06%
Affiliate, for: 30.65%
Affiliate, against: 19.35%

Total, for: 61.59%
Total, against: 38.41%


Card vote 18: “conference”. The number of motions debated at annual conference was cut from 20 to 12 and  the representation of trade unions and socialist societies on the national policy forum (NPF) was increased. (See CAC Report 2.)

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 208,350 (50.84%)
CLP, against: 201,473 (49.16%)
Affiliate, for: 1,215,201 (61.40%)
Affiliate, against: 763,896 (38.60%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 25.42%
CLP, against: 24.58%
Affiliate, for: 30.70%
Affiliate, against: 43.88%

Total, for: 56.12%
Total, against: 43.88%


Card vote 19: “getting Labour election ready”. (See CAC Report 2.) These changes did the following:

  • increased the proportion of MPs that a candidate needs to secure in order to get on the ballot in a leadership election from 10% to 20% of MPs;
  • raised the threshold needed for a ‘trigger ballot’, whereby local parties can submit incumbent MPs to a full selection process ahead of an election, to a majority of party and affiliate branches (these form an electoral college, with party branches voting with a weight of 50% and affiliate branches with a weight of 50%);
  • scrapped the ‘registered supporter’s category; and
  • introduced a six-month freeze date, meaning members must have six months continuous membership prior to the timetable being agreed for the election of national officers of the party.

Actual votes cast:
CLP, for: 192,868 (47.14%)
CLP, against: 216,219 (52.86%)
Affiliate, for: 1,189,038 (60.20%)
Affiliate, against: 786,083 (39.80%)

Overall percentage (CLP and affiliates each amounting to 50%):
CLP, for: 23.57%
CLP, against: 26.43%
Affiliate, for: 30.10%
Affiliate, against: 19.90%

Total, for: 53.67%
Total, against: 46.33%

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