It's time to take stock of the Party, Ed. On Tuesday, you and the other members of the National Executive Committee will decide who will be the next General Secretary. You will also have a report on the Refounding Labour consultation. That report appears to have been written before the submissions were read or analysed. Furthermore, it is not impossible that someone will raise the fiasco of a National Policy Forum held in Wrexham four weeks ago. On that occasion A better future for Britain was sent to representatives just 36 hours, without NPF elected representatives having sight of submissions either. As one senior parliamentarian put it very bluntly to me last week: "It's rubbish." That was in reference to the content, not its late delivery.
You can not hope to reach out until you tackle the vested interests in our party.
And no, I'm not talking about the trade unions. You need to concentrate this weekend on the other vested interests at work corroding the integrity of our democratic socialist party, and our representative democracy - whether in the Westminster parliament, our devolved nations/regions or our town halls.
The most damaging influence in the Labour Party is a combination of the current senior management team, and those elected representatives at all levels who rely on their services. In the two reviews you commissioned after being elected leader, grassroots members have sadly experienced more of the same. You have been betrayed. And those of us who voted for you now feel that we are being betrayed by you too, unless you can show decisive Leadership and restore integrity to:
- our consultation processes
- our policy making, and
- our selection of candidates for public elected office
You may or may not remember that I personally handed you a copy of the LabOUR Commission interim report in 2007. Accompanying that was a covering letter dated 25 April 2007 written by Angela Eagle MP, to the then National Executive Committee chair, Mike Griffiths. It was an evidenced based interim report. Interim because the Commission recognised it needed access to internal party data to take its work further. This was the key paragraph:
The [LabOUR] Commission would very much like to work with the NEC to build on this body of research; for example, with an audit of CLPs’ organisational capacity, analysis of membership trends, and in consultation with the Party Treasurer the formulation of measures to rebuild the Party's finances. I very much hope that we can work with the NEC on the important task of rebuilding our Party.
The Refounding Labour exercise failed to undertake a systematic assessment of our Party's organisational structures. Why? Because it is not in the interests of staff or those who depend on their services to expose either the hollowed out state of much of our party across the country, or highlight what really works. Good practice is often achieved despite Labour Party staff. If you want to get a whiff of this ask any CLP/or BLP secretary whether they rely on the National Database for membership contact details. Rightly or wrongly, a significant proportion of members do not trust the national Labour Party with their full contact details.
Labour Uncut today published a piece by Kevin Meagher which touches on this issue:
First, we need to create greater incentive for members to be involved locally. After all, the party’s poor bloody infantry are taken for granted – and always have been. Constituency chairs, secretaries and treasurers keep the show on the road, but no-one in their right mind would want to do these jobs. Responsibility without power or prestige is never a winning offer.
Yet these are the people who robustly refuse to be drawn on criticising the party when the Sunday Times phones up now and again inviting them to do so. They are the party’s centre of gravity and deserve a bigger and more defined role and some good old fashioned gratitude.
You may not have been fully aware of it, but the answer you gave to @SarahEvansk on Twitter on Thursday could prove decisive to liberating yourself and your Leadership form the malign forces at work inside the Labour Party.
For those of us with an inkling of how simple and straightforward it will be to publish those submissions, the obvious question is not if, but when?
There are just 10 weeks to go before Annual Conference 2011. To date there is no clear guidance for members about how to contribute to the policy debate so urgently needed in Liverpool in late September. Under the Rules, only contemporary issues i.e. matters arising from 1 August to 16 September 2011 can be cited to be ruled in order by the Conference Arrangements Committee. The NEC on Tuesday needs to ensure that any matter arising from A better future for Britain can be used to formulate a resolution. In addition, the Priorities Ballot needs to be administered so that at least eight issues can be debated under the 4+4 rule.
As for Refounding Labour, the Leader's Office is stuck in a right-wing Blairite/Daily Mail/Murdoch time warp wanting to take on the unions again. As set out above the real enemies of Next Generation Labour are within the heart of the machine. So if you do nothing else this weekend: just ask for the results of an internal audit of organisational capacity CLP/CLP, and a date for publication on Membersnet of all Refounding Labour and PiP submissions. If the answers are: we haven't done an audit, and publication's not possible, then you know who to vote for as the next general secretary.