Monday, May 16, 2011

Refounding The Consultation

We can make Christmas come early this year for Labour. What are your own ideas on the following? They would be most welcome in our comment box.

Labour's consultative document "Refounding Labour" came in for a wide range of criticism at last night's Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Meeting. It was described as "a top down exercise, lacking any political perspective", "being like a Government Consultative exercise which provides too little time for independent discussion to take place", "a procedure where those in the know get their ideas endorsed in line with what was planned for all along", "a document that assumes that Labour only faces structural problems, yet it faces fundamental problems which go much wider", "containing nothing on policy issues", "another example of the tail wagging the dog" and even "a crap consultative exercise."

Nevertheless in an attempt to improve matters, a variety of ideas were put forward, including -

1. That because Labour's system of Policy Forums is not understood by the bulk of Labour Party members and tends to be made up of self-appointed people linked in with the leadership, they should be abolished.

2. In place of the National Policy Forum procedure, the Annual Conference of the Labour Party needs to be revitalised in order to involve members in policy-making.

3. The Labour Party should establish a set of Policy Commissions drawn from people with relevant expertise, to draw up reports on key issues such as how to control the operations of the banks and financial institutions. Such reports should then be discussed throughout the Labour Party and its affiliated organisations, with Annual Conferences of the Labour Party deciding what to accept, reject and amend.

4. The Labour Party needs to involve itself with people seeking to defend their quality of life, including their public services, by its members being out in the market places with petitions on issues such the defence of the NHS. The membership also needs to be encouraged to establish links with groups such as Tenants Associations and to be proactive locally in monitoring key issues such as the impact of inflation upon the vulnerable and then publishing their findings.

5. Clause 4 of the Labour Party Constitution should be re-examined, especially in relation to the sub-clause which most strongly reflects the areas in which New Labour's economic failures were concentrated with its call for a "Dynamic Economy" based on "the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition". This sub-clause should be replaced by one that seeks a "Sustainable Economy" which pursues high quality public services operated democratically for the public good.

6. Labour should draw up a "Charter for Young People" which can attract the involvement of young people and thus help safeguard Labour's future. (See the case in "Dronfield Blather" here).

7. There should be a strong commitment to non-dogmatic forms of political education throughout the Labour Party and the wider Labour Movement. (See the case in "Dronfield Blather" here).

8. There needs to be a change in the make-up of the Parliamentary Labour Party, for parliament at the moment contains too may members who belong to a "political class" where MPs often have more in common with each other across the political divide than they do with their own voters.

At our next discussion meeting, we will go on to refine and develop the above points for submission to the "Refounding Labour" consultative procedure. It will be an attempt to lift matters beyond the mundane.


  1. This is from Jon Williams -

    "Thank you and others for another good discussion meeting.

    Ordinary members are the Labour Party and should feel their views are given a fair hearing. Therefore the link between ordinary members and national party leadership is an important conduit for the flow of ideas in both directions. Local resolutions are a means to get ideas up to the Annual Conference and should be debated with a registered vote. Whether majority votes become party policy is open to discussion. How conference is run can be contentious and lead to negative publicity.

    True – most members don’t understand existing policy forums and wonder how they can get their ideas discussed higher up the party hierarchy. Hence policy ideas generated locally aren’t registered as having been considered for national policy. There doesn’t seem to be any feedback. I personally think there are plenty of policy ideas they just need to be relevant and make a connection with people who don’t have an interest in politics!

    Banks / financial institutions – indeed any private company - operating in the community need definite emphasis on being socially and ethically responsible and seen to be engaging with local groups, maybe with some form of representation at board level. Labour should formulate such policies. Indeed successful companies should invest small amounts of their profits back into the community.

    The “political class” tag applies as much to the Tory and Liberals as it does to Labour MPs. British society’s upper echelon is self perpetuating from one generation to the next. Labour should strive to make class descriptions less relevant by including policies that are “for the many, not the few”.

    Attached is an interesting quote from David Davis – a Tory,

    The findings echo comments made last month by the Conservative MP David Davis after the publication of the government's social mobility strategy. “Britain is probably now the most stratified society in the western world,” he wrote on Politics Home. “Equality of opportunity has been declining for at least four decades, and the postwar 'golden era' of social mobility is a rapidly dimming memory.”

    The Labour Party / MPs / members need more confidence when promoting our beliefs to the nation and not to be overly concerned with adverse media reactions. If we have the right policies we shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about them to the electorate. Yes, the party needs to move forward, refine how it operates and reach out to non political people / organisations.

    Jon Williams

    Dronfield Labour Party"

  2. For an expansion of point 5 above see -

  3. Yesterday evening 40 Labour Party members from several constituencies across North Derbyshire met at the Chesterfield Labour Club to discuss the Labour Party Consulative Document "Refounding Labour". It was pleasing to see a number of young people present. The meeting was organised by the East Midland Region of the Party. It lasted for two hours, with those present being divided into four discussion groups who later reported back to the full meeting, with the Region jotting down the general conclusions.

    Although there was scepticism about how much attention would be paid to the ideas that were being expressed, the meeting gave people a chance to do something they felt happens far to little inside the structure of the Labour Party - discuss some of their key political concerns. It was an exercise in what needs to happen on a regular basis in the Labour Party - group discussions and shared political education.

    The basic demand was for the rank and file's views to be found avenues for expression inside the Labour Party and to then come to shape its policies and its general direction of travel.

    At least they met up with each other and established links. The consultative procedure may turn out to be more radicalising then anyone imagined when it was instigated. At least I found a couple of recruits for the Dronfield Blather discussion meetings, and might have found more if I did not have to dash to catch my bus.

  4. This is from Ann Black's Report on the last meeting of the NEC of the Labour Party. It is an extract from what appears under the sub-heading "Refounding Labour / Fresh Ideas". It hardly inspires confidence in the consultation procedure!

    "Peter Hain hoped that members would take advantage of over 60 events to discuss Liam Byrne’s Fresh Ideas and his own Refounding
    Labour paper on party reform. Thousands of online and written submissions will be summarised for the national policy forum in
    Wrexham on 25 June.....

    Peter Hain told us not to worry because everything will go through the NPF and then to conference. But based on past experience the NPF will receive draft documents a few days in advance and meet for six hours without the chance even to comment on all of them, let alone make significant changes. And as members feel they have no working
    communication channels, they, like the NEC, believe what they read and hear in the media.

    Dennis Skinner had no patience with twittering twaddle: policy consultation should be for members. He begged for reassurance that
    there were no plans to reduce the unions’ role in the party. Peter Hain said he was committed to the link, but union membership had
    collapsed over the last few decades and no longer reached into the workforce. The idea of registered supporters was to expand Labour’s
    base, not to sideline anyone. There were issues around the electoral college for choosing the leader, and at conference: was it right that three big unions controlled 40% of the conference vote? Which drew
    the riposte that the leadership ignored conference votes anyway, so did it matter?

    Either way, members still have until 24 June to submit views at, so please use the opportunity."

    Well this Blather has summerized Peter Hain's document, so now we will have to find out what Liam Byrne's "Fresh Ideas" is all about. Whilst the bits I have cut from Ann Black's sub-section,deals with many other official and unofficial think-pieces that are floating around for those in the know. I have only myself read material from one of these, who use the mind-numbing handle of "Blue Labour". Why is Labour's Political Class into an ideas bean feast which the rest of us know little about? Presumably we will be given a pledge card to push onto the votes when it has all been sorted out over our heads.

  5. A couple of items above this one I gave a report of a Labour Party meeting held in Chesterfield to (in theory) give Labour Party members an opportunity to feed their ideas into the consultative procedure on "Refounding Labour" which is the subject matter of this thread.

    Yesterday I attended an equivalent meeting in Sheffield which was attended by around 50 people from a dozen or so constituencies. Several of these were there, however, in an official capacity including a number of officials from the Regional Office.

    I felt that the meeting at Chesterfield had been more worthwhile, but then I wasn't in the best of humour when the Sheffield meeting started as I turned up at the Sheffield Trades and Labour Club for a 6pm meeting only to find the building closed. There had been a mix up in adverts for the meeting and it did not start until 7pm. Some of those who turned up for 6pm left, as they had other arrangements for later in the evening.

    The set up at Chestefield also worked better. There an official of the Midland Region gave a clear explanation of what we were up to and we then divided into four groups. In each group we selected a chair and someone to jot our points down on a large sheet of paper using a felt tip. Later these sheets were stuck on the wall and someone gave a report from each group back to the full meeting and we had a general discussion on each report back. Another Regional Official took notes and at least had the large sheets of paper to take away with him.

    The introduction as Sheffield was conducted by Caroline Flint MP and a member of the National Policy Forum, it was less informative than the one at Chesterfield. Regional Officials chaired the group meetings, whilst a member of each group gave a report back from notes they had taken. There were no large sheets of paper used for this purpose; yet these had been helpful at Chesterfield in that each group had felt a need to get on with things to ensure they had made enough points to fill out the sheet. There was less self-imposed discipline at Sheffield. Then we only got report backs from each group and no subsequent debate in a plenary session. Instead we got less significant summings up from Carline Flint and from a late-arriving Regional Director. We finishing after 90 minutes, a half- hour earlier than at the Chesterfield Meeting.

    The saving grace for both meetings was that people got together and talked about internal Labour activity. Both meetings were a sham as far as any genuine consultative input was concerned, expect that the Chesterfield Meeting had a greater degree of plausability about it.

    We hope to do better at Dronfield Blather when we hold our second meeting on the consultations a week on Sunday.

  6. Whether to vote Blue or to become blue that is the question.

    Not to sure if we are having any meetings in my area, the last meeting only six people turned up, three of them were not human they were disabled people.

    I think in the end a lot of energy will be spent and the Labour top table will not even know about the results or care.

  7. Anonymous : I assume that you are Robert. Others might misunderstand your cryptic comment about disabled people, if they do not realise that you are yourself disabled. I share and understand your disappointment with Labour, which is why I try to keep up the fight for a better tomorrow.