The odds on a Refounding Labour quick fix to change the Labour Party's rules at its 2011 Conference are lengthening rapidly. A ham-fisted attempt by the Lib-Dem media mouthpiece, the Guardian on Tuesday to lock Labour Leader Ed Miliband on a collision course with the affiliated trade unions, aided and abetted by unnamed sources is doomed to failure. The fingerprints of antediluvian-Blairite apparatchiks were all over the front page splash by political editor Patrick Wintour, and a pompous editorial, headed 'Brotherly love'.
Time to move on. Refounding Labour as a consultation with members has been bungled from start to date by Labour Party staff, not helped by the absence of weak direction from Ed Miliband's personal appointee, whoops, nominee for the post of National Policy Forum chair and i/c Refounding Labour. It is alleged that Peter Hain has had a' Wizard of Oz' moment, found courage, and is now seeking publication of the submissions.
Even if he succeeds tomorrow, we are now less than eight weeks away from the start of Conference in Liverpool. Given the brouhaha, serious consideration will undoubtedly being given to simply deferring any decisions arising from Refounding Labour consultation a year until Conference 2012. Most local Labour Parties will not be meeting again until early/mid September. Scope for formulating compromise positions has all but gone.
There is an alternative approach. No doubt Ed Miliband himself and his advisors will be keen to show firm leadership. But of what sort? Authority that is going to help reposition Labour as a national electoral force is needed. At the same time Ed needs the Party behind him in support, not wielding daggers. One strand of opinion evident in informal discussion concerns London-domination of the Labour Party. This reflects the absence of representation on the Party's National Executive Committee from the devolved nations, or any English regions, north of London and the South-East. But it also reflects frustration with London-centric policy making, and rigged candidate selections.
Immediate publication of all submissions both to the Refounding Labour consultations, and those to the multitude of policy reviews undertaken under another Ed appointee, Liam Byrne, would abruptly end the farce of current Labour Party policy making and belatedly herald an era of openness and transparency. That has to be done within days for maximum effect. Prospects of members actually being heard will take time to filter through into new membership interest, and greater activism. But that would set the scene for more open debate in Liverpool about the issues that matter to voters.
In parallel, consideration is needed of how the Party is structured and governed. My immediate reaction to the 'appointment' of former ITV chief Charles Allen to review management structures and commercial activity was somewhat jaundiced: what does he know about branches and constituencies? However, a professional business-like review as set out is to be welcomed. Outstanding is how do members fit in? If reform of the party's national executive committee to create parity between affiliate and CLP representatives is seen as part of the answer, then the Party's rules will need to be changed before the end of 2011. NEC elections are on a bi-annual cycle and the next ones are due in 2012, the call for nominations will start in December. Delay consideration of Refounding Labour a year and that means the new rules would not apply until 2014.
That is why a special conference in late 2011 focussed on Refounding Labour might be the way forward. Two weeks ago I deluded myself into thinking that there would be time for due consideration if draft proposals were circulated to members at the same time as to the National Executive Committee's Organisation Sub-Committee due to meet on 6 September. I drafted an emergency resolution to that effect. Today I learned the risk of a fix had been picked up by Bridgend CLP general committee (GC). After due deliberation, it decided on a different course of action; namely, a special conference in November. The full details are available on the Labour Democratic Network website. In Bridgend CLP GC's view, and in this regard I am speculating, there is simply not enough time between now and Conference 2011 to enable ordinary mortals time for proper consideration of the outcomes of Refounding Labour.
Hopefully, this idea will not escape the attention of the Member of Parliament for the neighbouring constituency of Neath, Peter Hain MP.