Monday, July 25, 2011

Refounding Labour Will Not Be Refinding Labour

If you ignore the item below this , there then follows ten threads which are related to this one.

What appears below is taken from Ann Black's unofficial report of Labour's National Executive Committee Meeting which was held on 19 July. It covers the latest known stage of developments in the follow up to Labour's consultations on "Refounding Labour". Much of what is emerging will be presented in a "take-it or leave-it" form at the coming Labour Party Conference. Many of the ideas which are being peddled are in direct opposition to the proposals which were submitted by our Discussion Group, the Dronfield Branch of the Labour Party and the North East Derbyshire Constituency Party. In the final section which appears below, Peter Hain even seems to deny that he ever received our Discussion Group's submission. For we sent him the very idea he says had no support.

Without Ann Black we would have little idea of what is now likely to be foisted upon us.

"Refounding Labour Continued

Peter Hain introduced the latest proposals, after discussion in the organisation committee. An interim report has been circulated to stakeholders, and I’ve attached a copy. The NEC will not agree final recommendations until 20 September, four days before conference, no amendments will be allowed, and Peter will ask delegates to vote Yes or No to the entire package including rule changes. I think this is a bad way to begin a new era. In 2007 Gordon Brown pushed Extending and Renewing Party Democracy through conference, and we spent the next three years removing unpopular and unworkable parts. As a fallback I have asked for constituency NEC representatives to be engaged throughout the summer so we do not end up with deals or
stand-offs between the leadership and the unions, and I will consult as widely as I can. I was also promised, again, the full membership of the shadow cabinet review groups, a request outstanding since November 2010.

There is plenty of good stuff in the paper: welcoming new members, engaging with the community, more flexible local structures and so on, though much of this concerns good practice rather than rules. It recognises that many developments are only feasible with new technology, although these risk widening the digital divide. Development plans for constituencies and contracts between local parties and candidates or elected representatives gained general support but the details will be crucial.

The same applies to registered supporters. Maintaining lists of people who will help with campaigns, and inviting them to social events and local policy discussions, seems uncontentious. While Refounding Labour would not give them votes for council or parliamentary candidates, it does envisage allowing them to vote for the party leader as part of the affiliates’ section. Further, external organisations could apply for “registered consultee” status and gain rights to give evidence to policy commissions greater than those enjoyed by constituencies. Sharing contact information between the party and the unions is
another sensitive issue, and the unions are keen to regain nomination rights in parliamentary selections.

From Each According to their Means …

The paper tries to balance concerns that subscriptions are too high against the need to maintain income. The minimum age for joining would be reduced to 14, paying £1 a year until the age of 20, then £12 from age 20 to 26. Unwaged members and registered supporters would pay £15, and this would also be the first-year rate for new joiners. After that rates would be linked to income: £24 for trade union levy-payers and those earning under £20,000, going up by £12 a year for each additional £5,000 of salary.

Currently constituencies receive 33% of reduced-rate and 22% of standard-rate subscriptions. For some this is less than central charges for election insurance and the Euro-levy, and optionally Contact Creator, so they are permanently in the red. Many have argued that national charges should be proportional to the number of members, and so I will pursue this. It fails to address inequalities in wealth related to property or legacies, but no-one has yet found a way of
grasping that nettle.

On openness the paper is patchy. I agree that women, ethnic minority and young members should be able to work across party boundaries on common objectives, and hope that this will extend to constituency secretaries, and indeed to all members. The section on Young Labour has been subject to exhaustive consultation: among many changes, constituency youth officers and national policy forum youth representatives would in future be elected by young members only. There is a commitment to further discussions with the Northern Ireland CLP, the SDLP and the Irish Labour Party. And it is proposed to change the rules so that constituency AGMs would normally be held in November rather than February, leaving the spring free for campaigning: I would be interested in views on this.

Counting the Votes

Most agreed that multiple votes for the leader were not defensible. MPs could be restricted to their own section, but enforcing single votes across individual and affiliated members would only be possible if the ballot was conducted by a single body. The principle of having a woman in the leadership team was endorsed, but there were doubts about a leadership ticket, where candidates would choose a running-mate of the opposite gender and members would vote for the leader only, so discussion will continue.

Also still unresolved are voting procedures at conference, the make-up of the conference arrangements committee, and the composition of the NEC itself, apart from a proposal that the Scottish and Welsh leaders should each nominate a member of their executive committees with voting status. I am opposed to the idea of giving some of the conference vote to the national policy forum: it does not exist as a collective entity, and the NEC, as part of the forum, would gain a significant share. All these are central to the party’s future, and it would be wrong and dangerous to bounce them through conference without proper consultation. Finally Peter Hain said that submissions supported the continued vital role of the joint policy committee, and that there was no support for restoring any policy-making role to the NEC."

UPDATE 26 JULY: On this theme, see today's important contribution from Peter Kenyon

1 comment:

  1. Hi Harry,

    Just to be clear on the process for final agreement.

    All submissions made from party / non party members were put together by the Organisation Committee (it would be nice to know who are members of this committee), into the document called “Refounding Labour Summary”, and then discussed at NEC Jul 19th meeting (unofficial report from Anne Black).

    I assume the NEC will accept further submissions from local Labour branches up to 20th Sep meeting where the final document will be agreed? Any rule changes only discussed at this meeting? More contentious items will also be discussed at this point. Thus leaving 4 days between publication and conference voting for local parties to discuss!

    This will be presented to Annual Conference where either a yes or no vote is taken. With no amendments allowed will a no vote mean all submissions made are forgotten? If conference votes yes to get the final document accepted it will also have agreed to yet unspecified rule changes?

    It seems the consultation exercise will have been carried out just so the Labour Party hierarchy can say they have “consulted” widely with party members and the public.

    Regards Jon W