'Twas famously said by former Labour Party leader Harold Wilson that "a week is a long time in politics". If only.The prospects for Annual Conference 2011 in Liverpool are not auspicious. No one outside a hazy inner circle has a clue what is to be debated and how. Some members are cross. Others have an endearing trust in the leadership, and their elected representatives in Parliament, or on the Party's National Executive Committee and the Conference Arrangements Committee.
In the last 24 hours, NEC constituency party representative Johanna Baxter who twitters @JohannaBaxter told her followers in response to questions, including one from me:
That means CLP secretaries should get a briefing today (Saturday).
This followed her representations to Party leader Ed Miliband on Wednesday evening which she reported on her Twitter site the following day after the NEC's Organisation Committee (aka as Org Sub):
So far so good. However, Ed himself promised publication of submissions to the Refounding Labour consultation back in mid-July. He has been ignored. Of course, that is not how it is being reported by Head Office. It cites staff shortages, technical difficulties. But the truth is there are staff employed by the Party who think they are the Party, and who to date have proved performance-management proof.
Similarly, policy making is as much a mystery. The deadline for submission of Contemporary Resolutions passed yesterday. Why haven't they been published? The official line is that haven't been considered by the Conference Arrangements Committee to establish whether they are 'in order'. Nod, nod, wink, wink - the criteria are so convoluted they make Spaghetti Junction look like a Roman Road. Their purpose - to minimise the risk of embarrassment to the Leadership.
As I asked in my previous blog, "Why would anyone want to join such an organisation?" That's the challenge for Labour's party managers over the next week - to transform the Conference into an event that reverses declining party membership.
In that regard, the Labour Democratic Network (LDN)'s Manchester Declaration sets out a vision of how the Labour Party can become a mass membership party, despite the naysayers agonising over declining political party membership across the so-called established democratic world. That is hardly surprising given the almost universal contempt of politicians for any effective form of accountability, and the corrosive influence of state-funding of political parties.
The basic unit of party organisation for LDN members is the electoral ward. About which there is much to say, but not just now.
Where's that HO briefing about the decisions taken at Org Sub?
UPDATE Email received at 1338 just read - I suspect it's code for more command and control, without sight of the rule changes it poses more questions that it answers.
To all members
As you know, final recommendations arising from the Refounding Labour consultation will be going to the NEC next Tuesday, ahead of consideration by the Annual Conference in Liverpool.
Peter Hain promised to keep you up to date with developments and wanted me to provide you with a summary of the some of the recommendations agreed by the recent Organisation Committee, and which will be discussed by the NEC next Tuesday.
The Committee is acutely aware that delegates will be receiving the final recommendations for consideration quite close to Conference, and was therefore keen for these initial conclusions to be communicated now.
The Committee agreed in principle that rules changes will be proposed in the following areas:
Purpose and objects
- Clause I concerning the party's objects will be updated, giving greater emphasis to Labour's role in local communities.
Rights and responsibilities
- Rights and responsibilities of the party leader will be defined for the first time, including control over appointments to the Shadow Cabinet.
- Rights and responsibilities of Labour candidates and elected representatives will be defined, and provisions made for the use of model contracts.
- Rights and responsibilities of elected members of the Parliamentary Labour Party will be defined, including the right to be consulted on any positions taken by the leadership in the context of a hung Parliament.
- The ALC subscription will be abolished and councillors will instead, in line with other Labour representatives, pay a 2 per cent levy on total income arising from their elected role.
- Local Government Committees will be replaced by Local Campaign Forums (LCF), which will allow for local adaptation and different models of structure and membership. LCFs may apply to the NEC to pilot new and innovative procedures for selections. CLPs will be free to adopt different models of organisation to suit local circumstances, with certain common features, to allow joint working across constituency and geographical boundaries. There will be a new model of CLP finances to help redistribute resources more equally, and lift struggling CLPs out of debt.
- The minimum age for becoming an individual member of the party will be lowered from 15 to 14 years old. There will be a lower local join rate for new members, to encourage recruitment.
- We will open up the process to ensure a greater voice for members in a system that is more transparent and accountable, and which reaches out to the public. We will create a process that ensures the voices of young members, women, BAME, disabled, LGBT and other under-represented members are heard in policy development. One representative from Labour International will be added to the membership of the NPF; and a textual omission regarding the Northern Ireland CLP, which already has one representative, will be corrected.
A bigger voice for councillors
- The Leader of the LGA shall have the right to attend meetings of the political Shadow Cabinet when in opposition and the political Cabinet when in government. There will be better services provided for our councillors with a new website and enhanced online facilities, more training, design support for templates, and increased support for all Labour groups, large and small.
Full details of the actual textual rule book changes arising from these points will be sent to you as soon as the NEC has agreed the final recommendations to be put to Conference. The above recommendations do not represent the full extent of the changes likely to be proposed from Refounding Labour, and further issues are currently under consideration.
In addition, a number of reforms that do not require rule changes, such as new and improved technology for communication across the party, will also be proposed as part of the overall Refounding Labour package, and we will endeavour to ensure that you receive details of the final recommendations as soon as possible.
I hope this information is helpful and I will be in touch with further updates in due course.