This consultation represents an opportunity for Labour Party members to shape an organisation to lead progressive politics in the UK and help consolidate a progressive majority not just at home, but in the wider world, extending out to the European Union, where democratic accountability needs to be strengthened.
The document issued by the Labour Party entitled Refounding Labour does not set out the issues in those terms. But having read it and abstracted all 126 questions posed, that should not inhibit us members from thinking bigger and more clearly.
The five basic options are:
A federated membership organisation (individual members, TUs and socialist societies) with rights, responsibilities and clear lines of accountability based on local/parliamentary electoral boundaries, or a loosely defined supporters club for political careerists funded by rich individuals, large TU donations and increased state-aid ?
Re-establish political education / promotion of democracy forums to reach out to young people, local communities, TU branches and single-issue pressure groups to counter the right-wing media and encourage Labour Party membership, or surrender politics to media tycoons in perpetuity?
Establish ways for members through branches, constituencies and their elected delegates to contribute to and decide policy in partnership with elected representatives, or continue with take it or leave it top-down policy making by diktat?
Accountability of representatives
Require elected representatives to submit to compulsory reselection and ensure local accountability is free of vested interests, or condone a 'jobs for life' political culture?
Identify policies that reflect Labour Values and the aspirations of a progressive majority even if that means admitting errors in government between 1997 and 2010 or continue to deny how opportunities were missed and values betrayed?
There are a some rule changes required at Annual Conference 2011 to establish the future direction of the Labour Party arising from which ever options are chosen.
City of London branch in 2009 proposed, for example, the adoption of a standard Annual General Meeting on the eve of or during the first session of Annual Conference, which was supported by our CLP but ruled out of order by the Conference Arrangements Committee. The point was to make clear to the electorate that in law the Labour Party is very similar to tens of thousands of other voluntary organisations, and its leadership was happy to demonstrate a readiness to be accountable to its members.
The Labour Party will need a small number of headline catching proposals for debate and decision at Annual Conference 2011 to make itself an organisation progressives want to join and stay with as the vehicle for their politics in the UK, EU and internationally.
Let me know if this approach will help focus debate in your branch/CLP, and whether you have ideas for further improvement.