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Members' debate on building a One Nation Labour Party

Debate at CLP Meeting on 4th November 2013

The development of a new relationship between the Labour Party and individual members of its affiliate organisations.

  • An overarching issue was that, regardless of the forms of membership the Party may adopt in the future, members feel disenfranchised and unable to affect party policy.  Annual conference no longer decides policy.  It has become a rally with more exhibitors and lobbyists than members attending; votes are ignored by the leadership.  Policy forums and commissions appear little more than mechanisms to promulgate leadership decisions.  A key requirement is therefore to introduce greater democracy within the Party’s policy making processes.
  • Some members wanted more MPs to be ‘ordinary’ people; more to be ‘real’ trade union members; and more working class representatives.
  • Decline of trade union membership in private sector noted.  How do we involve workers in the private sector in the Labour Party?  Does close relationship with trade unions bias Labour Party policies in favour of the public sector?  Do a few large unions have too much influence?
  • Many trade union members do not vote Labour and many trade unions do not affiliate to the Labour Party.  By continuing a close relationship with the affiliated trade unions do we jeopardise our relationship with a large part of the electorate?
  • It was emphasised that trade unions need the right to collect a political levy from their members in order to undertake political campaigns whether or not they then chose to affiliate to the Labour Party. Will this continue to be on an opt-out basis?
  • Generally in favour of reinvigorating the Labour Party as a mass membership party by tapping the support of trade union members.  We need to know who our local trade union members are.  We need them to play a part in the local party.  However it may be difficult to persuade them to pay party membership fees on top of their union dues.
  • It was suggested that CLPs and trade unions could hold joint members meetings.  It was pointed out that this had been unsuccessfully tried some years ago.
  • Would trade union members pay the same scale of membership fees as current individual party members?
  • Need to remove ‘double voting’ whereby a member of an affiliated body has an additional vote in some Labour Party elections over and above their vote as Labour Party members.
  • The current rules regarding trade union representation and voting rights has the merit of being transparent.  Removing any collective rights for trade unions within the Labour Party structure could open the party up to allegations of influence through financial contribution.

 

Standardising constituency development plans

  • The meeting was unclear what a constituency development plan actually was!
  • Some trade unions affiliate with our CLP but they do not attend meetings.  View expressed that mechanisms for them to get involved locally already exist but these are not taken up by the trade unions.
  • How do we deal with the risk of trade union members ‘swamping’ Labour Party meetings?
  • Do trade unions at CEC coordinate with Labour councilors?
  • It was suggested that we contact the affiliated unions in our area and invite them to a (special) meeting to discuss our relationship with them and how we might work more closely together.
  • Should trade unions be represented at the LGF?

 

Using primaries to engage a wider public in Labour’s selections of candidates

  • There was some support for the idea of primaries, based on a register of local ‘supporters’ who would pay a nominal fee to finance primary elections.  Would incentivise people to declare themselves as supporters and to possibly become full members subsequently.
  • Full members should be involved in drawing up shortlist of candidates.
  • On-line voting was desirable whenever affordable.  It was used in NEC elections and in the Euro candidate selection ballot.
  • Suggested that pilots should be held in a number of volunteer constituencies.  If successful should then be used in all.

 

Implications of reform: Making the NEC and party conference fit for purpose

  • Reduced need for electoral college if collective trade union membership replaced by individual membership on OMOV basis. Issue of MPs’ position in the electoral college was raised but not resolved.
  • See overarching issue of democratising policy decisions

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