Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two Ideas To Transform Labour : Internal Party Democracy and a Democratic Socialist Vision.

(Click on the cartoon to enlarge it). Just as we needed to found a Labour Party in 1895 when this cartoon appeared in "Labour Leader", in order to tackle the Liberal and Tory Parties, so we need to refound what we have today. The preparatory work was done by Keir Hardie and his friends in 1893 in setting up the Independent Labour Party (ILP). How do we prepare today? For the modern ILP see here.

Yesterday evening the Dronfield Branch of the Labour Party in the North East Derbyshire Constituency examined the three consultative documents issued by the Labour Party and determined its submissions. Below we give our two main ones. The first one has already been forwarded to the Policy and Research Department of the Labour Party, as the closing date for submissions is tomorrow. Arising from earlier work on this blog, we had also received the backing of people in eight other Constituency Labour Parties - from Romford to Darlington. This support was also listed in our submission to the Policy and Research Department.

The first submission, is also relevant to the separate consultation entitled "Refounding Labour". As there is still time to contact Peter Hain and company about this, other Labour Party members are still welcome to send in their support to us via the comment box below. Please add the names of your Labour Party Branch and your Constituency Party. As the submission needs to be received by 24 June, we ask you to send your support to us by 20 June.

The second submission will be sent under the arrangements of the consultative document "New Politics, Fresh Ideas" being run by Liam Byrne. On this, the Dronfield Branch is recommending a change to Clause IV of the Constitution and Rules of the Labour Party which deals with its Aims and Values. The logic of this being seen as of importance is that we feel that ideas on policy issues need first of all to be shaped by what should be Labour's general direction of travel. We also welcome support for this proposal, which again should be sent to us by 20 June.

Remember to let us know which of the submissions you support or whether you support both.

First Submission.

"Complex and convoluted systems undermine the operations of supposed democratic procedures. Democratic arrangements need to be straightforward and understood. The current 'Partnership Into Power' system and the functions of the National Policy Forum are not understood by the bulk of Labour Party members who participate in Labour Party Branch and Constituency activities, serve on local councils and/or engage in local electoral activity. The current system is dismissed as being one of "smoke and mirrors". It should be abandoned. In its place we require a clear structure for policy making, in which democratically run units of the Labour Party have a direct link into the activities of the National Executive Committee and into the decision-making procedures of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party".

Second Submission.

The current Clause IV appears below.

Clause IV.
Aims and values

1. The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

2. To these ends we work for:

A. A DYNAMIC ECONOMY, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper with a thriving private sector and high-quality public services where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them
B. A JUST SOCIETY, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work; which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity, and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power.
C. AN OPEN DEMOCRACY, in which government is held to account by the people, decisions are taken as far as practicable by the communities they affect and where fundamental human rights are guaranteed.
D. A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT, which we protect, enhance and hold in trust for future generations.

3. Labour is committed to the defence and security of the British people and to co-operating in European institutions, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international bodies to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all.

4. Labour shall work in pursuit of these aims with trade unions and co-operative societies and also with voluntary organisations, consumer groups and other representative bodies.

5. On the basis of these principles, Labour seeks the trust of the people to govern.

Sub-clause 1 appears on the front of Labour Party Membership Cards and is what many members may believe is the full Clause. But there are four more sub-clauses given above. The first section presses for each person to be given the chance to reach their own potential, rather than seeing people as benefiting by sharing and helping each other. But the overall phraseology is ambiguous enough to be given a general form of democratic socialist interpretation. And the meaning given to the sub-clause depends to some extent on what then follows. But sub-clause 2a has a major drawback. It encapsulates the New Labour approach which came to fail us both morally and electorally by 2010. It is where the concept of the "Dynamic Economy" attempts to marry together the opposing forces of a mainly unrestrained free enterprise approach with that of the public well-being. Below we offer an alternative form of words in favour of advancing the alternative concept of a "Sustainable Economy".

In sub-clause 2b, there is a commitment to promoting "equality of opportunity", a concept which creates the image of us being lined up on the starting line to race against each other, rather than our working together to form an egalitarian, participatory and sharing society. The notion of "social equality" seems to us to point in a better direction.

Our proposed amendments are given below. They limit the changes in the overall wording, whilst trying to get to the heart of the matter, which seems to us to be a practical yet principled approach.

Proposed amendments.

A. Replace sub-clause 2a on “A Dynamic Economy” with the following -

“A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY, serving the public interest by operating through the principles of co-operation and participatory democracy, in which wealth and economic power are fairly shared.”

B. Amend sub-clause 2b on “A Just Society” as follows -
"Replace the words"equality of opportunity" with the words "social equality".


Update 11th June : Yesterday evening the General Committee of the North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party included the two proposals given above in its submission for the consultation on "Refounding Labour".


  1. Labour is a socialist party well maybe in the eyes of some of the people, not in the eyes of many from the bottom of the pile.

    I'm reading a letter to day which states I will attend a new medical and assessment to see if I'm fit to work.

    I've gone through the descriptors for the WCA in which pain does not count, having a catheter stuck in your bladder means it's fine, meaning if you mess your self twice a day it's just like being a baby thats OK, having no legs well come on you can get around on your bum, which states if you can move a computer mouse with your stumps or any part of your body you will be deemed fit to work.

    I'm classed as being Paraplegic and from Purnells new WCA and new labour and labour under brown, actually I'm classed as fit to work with no problems.

    I have to use a catheter to pass water, I have to use a finger to empty my bowels, I have an implanted morphine pump for pain, and both my legs are useless, yet deemed OK to work.

    So you lot tell me Labour is a socialist party, now then you will say OK if you can work you should and I would say give me a job then, because after ten years of writing begging and pleading including to government, I get sorry your disabled.

    The fact is today my chance of getting a job is zero, but I will now go from £96 a week, to £68

    thats your socialist Labour party.

    Why is it that the government and parliment only employs 1.8% of people with a disablity, yet you lot asked Asda and tesco to employ us picking up rubbish or moving trolleys, yet did sod all your selves to employ the disabled.

    Labour moved so far to the right it's passed the BNP

  2. Robert : It is because Labour is NOT a socialist party and is no longer even theoretically leaning in that direction, that some of us have put forward the above proposals in an attempt to get it to chamge its direction. We may never win, but we do not wish to be quilty of not trying to change things.

  3. I wish you well but looking at Balls and Miliband squirming to day after the well known Revelations about the infighting to become Leader with Brown balls Miliband and the spin doctors, the Tories seem like a breath of fresh air at the moment we also knew what they would be like and what they would do, good old fashioned Conservative politics.

    The back biting Labour party which really does look incapable of running a brothel right now.


  4. Robert : Yet the cartoon at the top shows the 1895 version of Clegg and Cameron. Without being ideal, even Ed Balls' economic stance is better than that of Osborne (whatever it was Brown and Balls got up to in the past).

  5. I suspect after Miliband speech about welfare and the disabled will have people thinking he is more to the right then the left.

    I think I was right to leave, nothing socialist about this bunch.


  6. This from JON WILLIAMS -

    Labour Consultations

    "Harry thank you for another good Discussion Group and Labour Party meeting.

    Three policy documents plus Shadow Cabinet MPs individual consultations all with differing aims. I hope all responses are thoroughly reviewed by Labour Party members and not outside organisations with hidden agendas. Many of the responses asked what Labour now stood for: where was the ideology, how could we implement the theory and put it into practice. Members’ views are being ignored on pensions, wages, welfare, NHS, sustainable communities, the economy...

    Language / words are important and what / how they are interpreted by the electorate need further discussion. Some words have so much historical baggage voters don’t want to see they still have relevance today. They need to be “re-phrased” for the present. For example the word “nationalise” is perceived as negative, rightly or wrongly. Nationalisation was recently used successfully to rescue failed banks and the East Coast Main Line railway. Another example is Network Rail once a nationalised monopoly (British Rail), privatised (Railtrack) and then turned into a not for profit company. There are many examples of historical Labour policies that can be used today to work with the market economy.

    A pillar of a modern democratic country that wasn’t mentioned during the discussion, has enormous influence in how politics work, is the Media. Where political institutions are regulated and scrutinised, media has a free hand, even self regulation and hide behind unnamed editorials / proprietors. Ideas are never fully debated before being rubbished in the media. If politics need updating for the 21st century so does the media. New Labour worked with media outlets that have opposing views, the Labour Party again needs to formulate a media policy that helps us convey our message to the electorate."