NEC backs proposal for rule changes to be submitted year before conference

Elliot Chappell

Members of Labour’s governing body have backed a proposal meaning that local parties will be required to submit constitutional amendments, also known as ‘rule changes’, to conference a year before the annual gathering of delegates.

At a meeting of the national executive committee (NEC) this afternoon, members of the body also voted for a number of other rule changes including – by a majority of 16 to 11 – to limit Constituency Labour Party (CLP) conference delegations to six.

CLPs are allowed to submit one motion and one constitutional amendment for consideration at the party’s annual conference. A Momentum spokesperson said afterwards that requiring CLPs to submit constitutional amendments a year in advance represented “another power grab” by the Labour Party’s leadership.

They added: “Given that [Keir Starmer] last year brought forward a major rule change at barely a day’s notice, it beggars belief that this rule change would force members to propose rule changes well over a year in advance of debate.”

The Labour leader confirmed to his shadow cabinet, the week of the 2021 Labour conference, that he would bring changes to the constitution including a return to an electoral college system in leadership elections, a new reselection process for MPs and reforms to the policy-making process.

Labour’s annual conference is being held in Liverpool this year, between September 24th and 28th. All rule changes but one passed at the last conference were put forward by the NEC, meaning they had the support of the party’s leadership.

NEC members also backed today a return to the election of the conference arrangements committee (CAC), which is responsible for deciding the Labour conference schedule and which topics are debated on the floor, by conference delegates rather than the current one-member-one vote ballot of all members.

The CAC rules on motions submitted to conference by CLPs. The committee last week ruled a motion circulated by Labour for a Green New Deal out of order after deciding that it “covers more than one topic” and was therefore inadmissible.

Members can submit a motion or rule change to be agreed by their CLP and sent to conference, usually at a meeting. This process for motions was moved online during the mourning period following the death of the Queen and cancellation of all meetings. CLP executives were told by the central party that they could agree and submit them by email. The deadline for rule changes, June 17th, had already passed.

Different groups and campaigns within the Labour Party circulate model motions to be submitted by members for consideration by their CLPs. LabourList has summarised the model motions put forward by Labour to Win, Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Open Labour and others this year.

The party is not bound by policy passed at its annual conference – even if motions are passed unanimously. It is Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) and ‘Clause V’ meeting before an election that decides which parts of the party programme are included in the manifesto.

Labour passed a number of policy motions at its party conference last year. Motions are passed by a show of hands or, where a show of hands proved too close to call, by a ‘card vote’. In card votes, each local party and affiliate delegation casts votes reflecting the number of members they represent. These votes are then weighted so that CLPs determine half the result and affiliates the other half.

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