I was told by a No 10 insider six months ago that Annual Conference 2008 was not a time for further constitutional change. I hope in the light of recent events that position is being reviewed as a matter of urgency.
The Parliamentary Labour Party risks being seen as a fickle focus of power in the (s)election of Labour Leaders. Patronage and careerism has corrupted the judgment of too many Labour MPs. Affiliated organisations, CLPs and individual members have no say until too late in the process. That is now clearly evidenced by the way in which overwhelming endorsement of Gordon Brown to the exclusion of a Leadership election has turned to disaffection, discontent and outright opposition to him. Martin Kettle in today's Guardian reports that 90% of Labour backbenchers want a Leadership contest. Not sure about that but it is symptomatic of Westminster village hyperbole now driving the news agenda.
Why did they back Brown so overwhelming that no-one else got a look in when there was an opportunity for real debate? This will not be lost on the electorate, who could be forgiven for thinking of piss-ups and breweries.
Some Labour Party members think the answer lies in reducing the threshold of endorsement for potential leadership candidates. I remain of the view that just implementing Rule 4.2 B (ii) and (iii) will help restore a sense of proportion. The call for nominations from all sections of the Party will allow considered reflection of what is now in our best interests - stability both political and economic. I'm with Rhodri Morgan. A change of leader now would be madness. But a write-in nomination process would restore Gordon Brown's authority and open up a dialogue across the Party to refocus on taking on the Tories.
A Rule change to elect the National Policy Forum by one-member-one-vote is another issue requiring urgent action this year to give members a genuine say, rather than the tokenist approach in the current round of Partnership in Power. Last weekend's National Policy Forum merely endorsed the policy agenda conceived at the centre and so rightly attacked by David Miliband. His was an appeal to Gordon Brown. Without the whole Party behind Brown, rebuilding, campaigning and raising money, more policy rabbits and a reshuffle won't work. Grabbing that opportunity over August would put him head and shoulders above his critics and back where some of us thought he wanted to go last year.
The other reason why MP power should be curbed is their backyards. A close look would leave many of them deeply embarrassed about the hollowing out of vital local links needed to convey Labour messages on the doorstep. As a newly elected member of the NEC constituency section I renew my open invite to any Labour MP to start a crusade to rebuild.