The General Secretary has invited CLPs to comment on the implementation of Gordon Brown’s proposals for ‘Extending and Renewing Party Democracy’. These were adopted in 2007 and a review was promised two years after their implementation. The CAC’s amended document voted on at Conference 07 can be found under the Resources/Partnership in Power section of ‘Membersnet’.
CLPD model response
CLPD is suggesting the following model response to this review of ‘Extending ….’ on which CLPs may wish to base their own response. Responses to these questions and any other comments you may wish to make can be sent in via the Membersnet section of the Party web-site (Resources/PiP) section) or by post to the Labour Party at Extending and Renewing Party Democracy, c/o The Policy Unit, The Labour Party, 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0HA. The deadline for responses is 26th June 2009. Please send a copy of your submission to Peter Willsman, CLPD, 10 Park Drive, London NW11 7SH or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
RESPONSE TO REVIEW OF ‘EXTENDING AND RENEWING PARTY DEMOCRACY’
NEC Q A: In what ways can we build on our reforms to Annual Conference and the National Policy Forum process to improve engagement and dialogue within the party?
1) At a time when a General Election was widely believed to be imminent, the 2007 Party Conference agreed to give up debating Contemporary Motions (which could be voted on) in favour of contemporary Issues (which could not).
Now that the agreed two year review period has arrived, Conference should again be allowed to debate motions and to take political decisions by voting on them. At Conference 2008, the process of submitting ‘issues’ was in any case circumvented by organisations submitting Emergency Motions.
2) The artificial criteria of ‘contemporary’ should be dropped. Organisations should be able to make any submission to conference that they think is pressing.
3) The spirit of the ‘4 plus 4’ rule for the Priorities Ballot should be honoured at every Conference – 4 subjects from the Unions and 4 separate subjects from the CLPs.
4) The small number of CLPs who submit rule changes should not be debarred from making a submission for the Priorities Ballot.
5) The 8 subject groupings that have been prioritised should be properly timetabled during Conference week and voted on by Conference (ie a second vote in addition to the priorities ballot), where policy proposals can be agreed and become Party policy. The 8 subject groups would then be fully integrated into the work programme for the final NPF stage and regular reports made by the Policy Commissions/Ministers on the progress being made to ensure that the 8 subjects are properly taken into account. The whole way the Policy Commissions work needs to be reviewed. There is often a problem of poor attendance, key issues aren’t always properly addressed and insufficient attention is given to submissions from CLPs, members etc.
6) Emergency Resolutions – these should remain as before, in order that last minute issues of major concern can be raised at Conference.
7) It would undermine the sovereignty of Conference, be expensive and be divisive to subject the Party’s programme to an OMOV ballot on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, with no opportunity for amendments and no say for the party’s millions of affiliated members.
8) The Conference Arrangements Committee should remain accountable to Conference with its current composition. There should be no ex-officio members who, by definition, would not have been elected by Conference.
NEC Q B: In what ways can we build on our reforms to improve the way CLPs and affiliates ensure their issues are reflected in the discussions of the National Policy Forum and at Annual Conference
9) The threshold for Alternative Positions (AP) at the NPF should be lowered to 15% of those attending the NPF meeting where the vote is taken. Forum members need to be given more time to prepare their amendments. And those involved with the APs should be able to redraft them at the NPF to take account of discussions at the NPF. Once adopted by the NPF, the AP should become the property of Conference. The APs should either be debated and voted on, or only withdrawn with the agreement of Conference.
10) There should be votes at NPF plenary sessions on key issues when requested by 15% of those present – this would be a way of showing the strength of feeling on an issue.
11) At Annual Conference there should be provision for voting in parts on NPF documents, instead of the current take-it-or-leave-it basis.
12) The Party needs to investigate ways to further increase the minority ethnic representation at the NPF.
13) Government Green and White Papers should be submitted to the NPF for debate and possible amendment.
14) At the final stage of the process, alongside any Alternative Positions from the NPF, Annual Conference should also be able to consider amendments to the NPF documents submitted directly from CLPs and affiliated organisations. These amendments would be composited by the CAC and those composites with significant weight would be timetabled. The Party needs to encourage a culture where differences of opinion are welcomed, replacing the narrow control and command culture of recent years.
NEC Q C: How can we make our processes simpler and easier to understand, more open to individual members and local communities, and less administratively cumbersome for parties, affiliates and staff?
15) It is essential in a democratic party to ensure accountability through structures from Branches upwards. New technology has yet to effectively supplant face to face group discussions in political forums where members hone their skills for debates and discussions in a wider arena such as on Councils or in public forums.
NEC Q D: How can we make the most of new technology to enhance our engagement with members and local communities?
16) Until every member is issued with a computer and has free broadband access, current technologies only provide a one way conversation or unrepresentative dialogue for better off and ‘time-rich’ members.