At 10 am next Saturday morning, I hope to be in Birmingham to hear Gordon Brown set out further his vision for Labour in government at the Party's Spring Conference. My hope, although I'm not holding my breath, is that he will take the opportunity to praise active members - the people on whose support many elected representatives depend.
Wouldn't it be marvellous if he talked up the importance of members in the modern Labour Party having a say? It will involve ensuring transparent policy making (just like the total transparency now sought for MPs allowances and expenses). The final round of key policy proposals for any election to be fought by Labour candidates needs to go to an all-member ballot with clear political choices. That approach would offer the prospect of genuine unity ahead of the next British General Election, and pave the way for winning back voters now.
Political cynics would be stunned. Opposition parties would flounder. Labour Party morale would enjoy a big boost.
As a forward-thinking Leader, he will have done his sums. To give members a say means enabling an OMOV ballot for National Policy Forum representatives at the next available opportunity in 2009. As Leader of the Party he is uniquely placed to enable that to happen. It requires a Rule change to be agreed at the 2008 Annual Conference. Only the NEC has the power to table Rule changes at such short notice.
Brown may not be aware. But there is a growing consensus about this reform among members. last Saturday it was debated at the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD). A resolution proposing that all national constituency representatives to the Party's National Policy Forum should be elected by a One-Member-One-Vote ballot was passed unanimously.
STLP has been actively campaigning about this for nearly five years. It is one of the recommendations of the LabOUR Commission, chaired by Angela Eagle MP, now a Treasury minister, that published its interim report last May.
We had hoped that early discussions with the NEC would have led to a consultation in time for Rule changes to be proposed to the 2008 Annual Conference in Manchester next September. Then the next round of NPF elections in 2009 could have conducted in accordance with members' wishes, which I and others hope would mean ALL members. That path was blocked by Mike Griffiths, now a candidate for the post of General Secretary, who to the best of my knowledge as Clerk to the Commission never even replied to Angela's letter setting out the scope for further evidenced based work to enable members to have a say. If Brown and the NEC, of which he is a very important member, continue to sit on their hands members, will have to wait until 2011 at the earliest to have say.
Having inherited a £20 million debt mountain from his predecessors, Brown needs to lead a renaissance of Labour as a mass-membership party representing the many not the few to consolidate his position as Leader and PM. Rebuilding the party will take a generation or more to achieve. But with key electoral tests in London, and English and Welsh local government on 1 May, what better opportunity to start the process than Spring in the centre of England?