What better way to start the long Labour weekend holiday than preparing for the next cycle of Labour Party activity post 5 May? While activists compete for the electorate's attention with the monarchists' nuptuals, I have amused myself pulling together Peter Hain's 126 questions to see if they make any more sense than his Consultation document, Refounding Labour. The full text can be found on the Home page of the much criticised MembersNet click here if you are a member. Reference to the consultation appears to have disappeared off the Labour Party public home page. As for the interactive consultation on refounding labour.org - perhaps I'm missing something but it appears to have disappeared into a black hole.
But I digress. What I am doing spending such a glorious day glued to my laptop? Well thanks to the control freaks in Victoria Street, my branch and constituency labour party, if it is to make any submission is going to have to get its act together in the May cycle. Ah, but the deadline is not until 24 June. True, but as our CLP meets on the 4th Tuesday of the month - their deadline is before our June meeting which will fall on the 28th of that month.
So my next task is to try as a branch and CLP secretary to make some sense of those 126 questions for our 600 members, sooner rather than later. My hunch three weeks ago on this blog following my first read of the document was that you had to focus on a question, which doesn't feature in Hain's 126; namely, what is the organisational form of the Labour Party as currently constituted? Looking through the abstract, I remain convinced that the answer to that vital question helps put the other questions into proper context. If you have a better way of making sense of this exercise, please use comments to let me, and all my avid readers, know.
In the meantime here are Hain's 126:
Refounding Labour – Abstract of questions
Questions posed by Peter Hain – pg 7 printed version
1. How do we equip ourselves as a party to meet the challenges of the new generation?
2. How must we change to better reflect the modern Britain we aspire to govern again?
Individual members - pg 11 printed version
1. The Voter ID incentive scheme the party implemented for key seats in the 2010 General Election had dramatic results and throughout the 2010 campaign Labour recorded a 37 per cent increase in Voter ID compared to 2005. This incentive scheme is being offered to all CLPs this year, but should it be extended to include membership recruitment?
2. Should the payment of a share of membership fees to CLPs be used as a means of promoting best practice and encouraging local recruitment?
3.Should the payment of a share of membership fees to CLPs be used as a means of promoting best practice and encouraging local recruitment?
Affiliated members - pg 11/12 printed version
1. Much of the potential for engagement and support from Labour’s wider membership in affiliated unions is never realised yet unions still provide a link to working people that no other party has. But how can we re-create a much more organic link between the party and the trade union movement, so that we can spread Labour’s influence throughout the community, especially in workplaces?
2. How can our elected representatives and constituency parties better engage with local affiliated members whose names are not even known or accessible to constituency parties?
3. In addition to Trade Unions, we have a wide and diverse range of other affiliated organisations which do vital work and broaden Labour’s reach into civil society. How can we improve the party’s relationship with socialist societies?
Organising to Win - p 12/14 in printed version
1. Well-run campaigns by local parties with deep roots in their local communities are as vital as national campaigns fought through the media. In today’s much more diffuse, individualist political culture, how can we maximise the potential for participation by ‘Labour Supporters’ – those who would not join the Party, but who could be mobilised to back and work for us?
2. How do we manage this in a way that does not undermine the rights of ‘full’ members?
Local parties – flexible or fatigued? - p 14 printed version
1. In some CLPs admirably dedicated officers tend to occupy their posts for many years rather than welcome new recruits. How can we renew and refresh the pool of people who come forward?
New media and new technology - p 15 printed version
1. The Labour Party is not alone in struggling to adapt to the pace and the pattern of change in today’s electronic era, one in which events can ricochet around the world at the speed of light. Can we remodel the party nationally and locally to respond to the radical changes in the way people – especially young people – organise, communicate and participate in politics using new media?
2. So someone forwarding an e-mail to everyone in their address book can send it all over the UK and beyond at the push of a button. How far can we reasonably hope to interact with the flow of people getting in touch?
3. On Mumsnet, for example, members have an online net configured to enable them to feed views upwards and to each other onto ‘message boards’ where they get attention by the office leadership, especially if they get critical mass. What lessons should the Labour Party draw from such experiences?
Campaigning in the community - p 15 printed version
1. Especially with the limited reach into workplaces which our affiliated trade unions now offer Labour, and the growth of civil society groups both locally and nationally, we need to find new ways of engaging with wider society. Is there a way of granting ‘recognised consultee’ rights to groups who would not choose to affiliate to the party but who would value formal access and the opportunity to put their points of view?
2. Further,could those of their members who chose to, register as Labour supporters and thereby participate in party decisions in a way that did not undermine or discourage fully fledged members?
Community organising - p 16 printed version
1. What can new organisations learn from Labour’s experiences with community and political organising in places like Birmingham Edgbaston and Islington South and Finsbury where Labour candidates over-performed through new methods in community or political organising?
2. How can the party utilise the individuals behind these successes to scale up their work for wider application while at the same time recognising the importance of local energy and knowledge, and what kind of mutual support can exist between these efforts and nationally-led programs?
3. What can 38 Degrees and London Citizens teach Labour about being a force for good?
4. And, again, critically, how can our work with all of these entities help Labour reconnect with Britain (and how can that reconnection be translated into electoral success)?
Councillors and communities - p 17 printed version
1. How do we encourage community activists to become Labour councillors and more Labour councillors to become community activists?
2. What more could the party do nationally and locally to keep those talented people who often decide to stand down after a single term?
3. How do we best add value to the leading role of constituency parties in campaigning, by integrating councillors into local Labour Action Teams and by creating forums for sharing campaigning lessons and experiences?
4. How do we build a culture where MPs and parliamentary candidates, Labour councillors and ‘Labour action team’ members where we do not have Labour councillors, support each other in shared activity with local Labour Groups?
5 Do we need to take a fresh look at the party structures linking local Labour groups with Constituency Labour Parties?
6. What is the appropriate level of subscription to the Association of Labour Councillors?
7 And what should councillors expect from the Labour Party for their subscriptions?
8. What more should Labour HQ be doing to mentor/encourage best practice amongst councillors?
9. Should councillors be given more formal recognition in the structure of the Labour Party, including by being accepted as voting delegates at Annual Conference?
10. Do we need greater local government representation on the party’s governance and policy formation bodies?
1. Although regular selection and re-selection procedures have improved the accountability of our representatives both locally and nationally, there is a strong case for looking afresh at their obligations to the party. Our representatives are elected because they carry the Labour banner. There may be a case for adopting a code to which they must all adhere, requiring minimum levels of participation in Parliament or their Councils and engagement with local communities. Should Labour MPs, European MPs, Welsh Assembly Members, Scottish Parliamentarians and Councillors all operate under a similar code?
2. Should there be a fresh look at the way Labour’s frontbench and the wider PLP relate to the party and the public?
1. Labour has made enormous progress in the last fifteen years to ensure women are properly represented in politics, mainly by all women shortlists, and we are proud of having led the way compared with other political parties. However there is a long way to go. How can we continue to make progress?
2. Are there better ways we can achieve gender representation at all levels of the party, including at the top of the party?
3. What further steps can be taken to improve the greater representation of BAME members at every level of the party and in all elected bodies?
4. How best can BAME members involve themselves in having a impact on policy issues?
5. Especially with the decline of candidates coming up through the trade unions, how do we achieve better working class representation?
6. Additionally, how do we ensure people with a disability have more opportunities?
1. How can we encourage young people of all occupations to join and take an active role in the Labour and Trade Union movement?
2. How can we ensure our young members are better supported and encouraged by existing structures, both local and national?
3. How can our young members be supported in their engagement with young voters?
4. How could new technology assist with engaging and supporting young members?
5. Should the joining rate for members under the age of 27 (£1 for the first year) remain, or do we retain the pilot 1p rate adopted for this cycle of elections?
6. Should the voting system for the Young Labour National Committee, NEC youth representative and Young Labour Chair change?
7. How regularly should the party hold a Youth Conference, and how can greater democratic participation be promoted?
8. What role should Young Labour have in policy making and should it become an affiliated society?
Policy-making - p 18 printed version
1. The number of constituency parties represented at Conference fell from 527 in 2002 to 444 in 2009 and only 412 in 2010, or under two thirds the total entitled to attend. Are too many local parties moribund?
2. Is the reason the cost?
3. Or does it go deeper, with local parties doubting the relevance of their attendance at Conference?
4. How might Labour’s Annual Conference become buoyant and empowering – the place to be – without falling back into the bad old ways which led to near electoral oblivion?
Leadership elections - p 19 printed version
1. How can we involve many more individual Labour members, affiliated members and even registered supporters?
1. Despite devolution to Wales and Scotland which Labour delivered, our Party structure has not adjusted. Is there a case for direct Welsh and Scots representation on the National Executive Committee?
2. Are any other reforms needed in the NEC?
3. Since 2002 we have had a Party Chair appointed by the Leader but who has no constitutionally defined role or remit, alongside the National Executive Committee Chair, a position which rotates annually according to seniority. Is this the best arrangement for the future or can it be improved?
1. However we need to do more to encourage training across the organisation. How do we make training an integral part of every CLP activity programme?
2. Do we make training compulsory for some party roles?
3. How do we make sure we are training the right members in our seats that will make the difference?
4. Within the Training Academy should there be more modules and courses that cover political education for new, and especially young members, covering the history of socialist ideas and the labour movement, our values, and new campaigning tactics and techniques?
5. Should the party also consider with the help of groups like the Fabians, Compass and Progress, to stage an annual summer weekend ‘Festival’ (probably using a University campus in vacation time)?
The Big questions - - p 21 printed version
An outward-looking party
1. Labour’s future success is dependent on our members being active and engaged in their local communities. How do we better encourage their participation in campaigning?
2. Are Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) hamstrung by too much procedure and process from concentrating on political debate and campaigning?
3. If so how should CLPs and local branches be reorganised?
4. Should party rules be more ‘enabling’ so CLPs can adapt to fit their members’ wishes better rather than be hidebound by a bureaucratic template?
5 How do we better engage affiliated trade union members with Labour locally and improve their relationship with Labour MPs, councillors and candidates?
6. Our most successful CLPs, MPs, councillors and candidates are closely involved with local community groups which may contain many Labour supporters: how can these groups and supporters be better linked with the party and our representatives locally?
7.Our councillors and council candidates are in so many places the bedrock of local parties. How can we better acknowledge the important role they play?
8.How can we better define their political responsibilities to the party?
9. How relevant today are County Borough Parties and Local Government Committees or could councillors and members instead priorities campaigning and community organising rather than meetings?
A voice for members
1. Labour’s future success is also dependent on our members feeling involved and listened to. How can we strengthen the voice of members?
2. How can we increase our membership and how can we give our members more say and with that more responsibility?
3. How can we use the new social media and opportunities for online access to give members more direct ways having their say?
4. Most of our MPs are experiencing life on the opposition benches for the first time. How has their role changed?
5. What do we expect from them in Opposition?
6. Should they be playing a more active role in party organisation and policy?
7. Conference is the supreme decision-making body of the party. How do we make it more exciting and relevant, more responsible, less corporate?
8. Who should attend Conference and who should vote?
9.Do we need to change the voting process and system?
10. Should Conference have more debate and take more decisions on policy?
11 How can we improve the member/delegate experience of Conference?
12 Many who are not joiners are nevertheless Labour supporters: should we extend our party’s reach by giving them a voice, and if so how?
13. What do we expect from our policy-making process?
14 What constitutes a successful policy making system for our party?
15 How do we best involve our members in policy-making?
16 What can we do to support our members and local parties in debating policy?
17. How do we best do justice to the involvement of activists in policy making?
18 How do we best communicate the work of PiP and feedback to those who get involved?
19. How can we reach out to and involve the public?
20 How do we ensure the issues raised by members of the public with Labour canvassers are reflected in our policy making process?
21 How can we best engage with external organisations, businesses and other groups on a local and national level?
22 Is the current three year cycle of policy development correct?
23 What do you think of our current system of circulating policy documents for amendment — is it
the best way of engaging people or is there a better
24 Is there an alternative to the current system which focused on one large scale ‘Warwick-style’ NPF
meeting at the end of the third year?
25 How do we decide which policy issues to focus on?
26 How do we deal with current and urgent issues in our policy making process?
27 How do we ensure that the system is flexible enough to allow for speedy decisions where needed?
28 Is the National Policy Forum the correct focal point for our policy discussions?
29 What do you think of the NPF?
30 How could it be improved?
31 What should be the role of NPF representatives?
32 How aware are you of the policy commissions and their role?
33 How successful are they – could they be improved?
34. Does the Joint Policy Committee work effectively?
35. What should its role be?
36 What should be Annual Conference’s role in deciding policy?
37 What is the best way for Conference to debatepolicy and how can we ensure debates are topical and relevant?
38 How do we support policy discussion at regional and local level?
39 With limited resources now and in the future a reality, what should be our priorities?
40 How can we best use technology to support our policy-making?
41 Do you have any other thoughts, comments or ideas not covered in the above?
Renewing our party
1. A lot has changed in Britain since the last time the Labour Party fundamentally reviewed its structures and processes. How does the party need to change to better reflect modern Britain?
2. As party membership has declined, so has our activist base. How do we reach out to the country, engage our voters and supporters, so we can once again truly be called the people’s party?
3. How can we engage more people in Labour decision making?
4. How can we widen participation in Labour elections?
5. Thanks to our relationship with the trade unions, three million people are affiliated to the Labour Party, giving us far greater reach than any other party, so it’s vital that the link is preserved, but how can the party better reach out into workplace life, to involve individual affiliated members more directly?
6. How can we build stronger links with organisations/pressure groups with which we may have much in common but which would not sign up to Labour?
7. How can we involve them in policy-making?
8 How can Labour embrace new methods of community organising and activism?
9 How do we reach out to the new generation?
10. Labour has made enormous progress in the last fifteen years to ensure women are properly represented in politics. However there is a long way to go. How do we achieve gender representation at all levels of the party?
Winning back power
1. The next General Election is our biggest challenge and our biggest priority. How do we need to change the way we campaign to win in 2015?
2. We had some great results in 2010, and deprived the Tories of an overall majority, against all the odds. What can we learn from new methods of community or political organising in places like Edgbaston, Gedling, Barking and Morely & Outwood, where Labour candidates over-performed compared with the national swing against us?
3. How can the Party utilise the individuals and experiences behind these successes, while at the same time recognising the importance of local energy and knowledge, and what kind of mutual support can exist between these efforts and nationally-led programs?
4. How can the candidate selection process be improved?
5. What do you expect of your local Parliamentary, Assembly, MEP or council candidate?
6. Should candidates have to sign a contract with the Party, committing them to levels of local campaigning, community engagement and voter contact?