Labour’s governing body makes some changes in its pre-conference meeting

Elliot Chappell
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Labour’s governing body backed a number of proposals, at a meeting yesterday afternoon, that make changes to the way in which local members shape the party and its conference agenda.

National executive committee (NEC) members voted to reinstate the ‘one-year rule’ for constitutional amendments – also known as rule changes. This means that Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) must submit any proposed changes to the constitution of the party that they want to see considered by conference one year in advance of the annual meeting. This was a rule abolished under the last leadership. The move has not gone down well with the left of the party, perhaps predictably. Making reference to Keir Starmer’s last-minute proposals for Labour’s conference in 2021, a Momentum spokesperson said it “beggars belief that this rule change would force members to propose rule changes well over a year in advance of debate”.

The NEC also voted in favour of limiting CLP conference delegations to six people and opted to return to the election of the conference arrangements committee (CAC) – which is responsible for deciding the Labour conference schedule and what topics are debated on the floor – by conference delegates rather than the current one-member-one-vote ballot.

As an example of the sort of power wielded by the CAC, Labour for a Green New Deal’s motion on public ownership was ruled out of order last week after the committee decided that it “covers more than one topic” and was therefore inadmissible. The same thing happened to the group’s motion last year, although the motion was later ruled back in after an appeal – this time, the appeal was unsuccessful. Chair of the group, Chris Saltmarsh, described it as a “disgraceful, anti-democratic decision” and argued that “Labour’s bureaucracy is being used to shut down debate”.

One NEC member told me that the package of changes voted through yesterday represented a “clear attack on members and member participation”. Labour First secretary Luke Akehurst, however, said the “minor changes” will “stop the mood on conference floor being distorted by huge delegations from very wealthy CLPs, who should be spending the money wasted on a 7th, 8th or even 20th delegate on campaigning against the Tories and mean the NEC gets the time it needs to scrutinise properly often badly drafted rule changes from CLPs”.

Elsewhere in Labour news, Rosie Cooper announced her resignation yesterday. The move by the West Lancashire MP will trigger a by-election this autumn. Cooper won the seat for the fifth time in the 2019 general election, securing a majority of 8,336. Labour is expected to retain the constituency and that therefore makes it one to watch for any wannabe MPs who come forward to replace Cooper in a selection process.

Also on LabourList for you lucky readers: we have a piece from the co-chairs of Labour for the Long Term on bringing “cathedral thinking” to policy making and explaining why they have launched the group. And the Labour Foreign Policy Group has opened a survey to collect members’ views and share them with the party, telling readers: “Have your say and help craft Labour’s message on its foreign policy priorities in the run-up to the next general election and beyond.”

Finally – LabourList will travel to Labour conference later this week to bring you all the latest news from the annual meeting. We are also hosting a number of events with some brilliant speakers. We will: explore MRP analysis provided by Savanta exclusively for LabourList; take a deep dive into Labour’s position on public ownership and picket lines with the FBU; welcome speakers from across the party and movement to our flagship rally; and, of course, sing and dance the night away with our legendary karaoke night – get your tickets here.

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