Annual Conference to review 2007 changes
In summer 2007, shortly after he became Leader, Gordon Brown submitted a document (“Extending and Renewing Party Democracy”) to the NEC recommending a number of changes to Annual Conference procedures. Both the NEC and later Annual Conference accepted these changes. The main thrust of these proposals was to replace “Contemporary Motions” by “Contemporary Issues”.
Before the advent of New Labour every CLP and Union could send motions and amendments to Conference and the whole agenda of Conference largely revolved around these motions. Tony Blair changed all that. Conference was downgraded to little more than a glorified rally, with only four motion subjects allowed onto the agenda for debate and vote. A further restriction was introduced in that these motions could only be “contemporary motions”, in other words they had to cover an issue arising after the end of July in each year.
Gordon Brown went even further. In 2007 Motions disappeared altogether. Their replacement, “Contemporary Issues”, cannot be voted on. They are debated and then remitted to the Policy Commissions of the NPF for further debate. The Policy Commissions then report on the progress of their deliberations to the following Annual Conference. These reports can either be voted on or remitted again to the NPF for yet more discussion and then another report the next Conference. Perceptive readers will have concluded that these new arrangements are far from perfect. For this reason in 2007 the Unions insisted that in 2009 there would be a review. The 2009 Annual Conference should therefore be presented with a range of possible options and amendments to vote on.
A number of CLPs and Unions have made submissions to the review and the following are among the main changes they have proposed:
· That Conference must have the opportunity to express its clear view on matters of major political concern. This can only be done by voting on motions. Motions should therefore be reinstated.
· The artificial criteria of ‘contemporary’ (restrictively interpreted as August onwards) should be dropped. CLPs and Unions should have the right to submit a motion on any matter of major political concern.
· The spirit of the ‘4 plus 4’ rule for the Priorities Ballot at Conference should be properly honoured at every Conference – 4 subjects from the Unions and an additional 4 separate subjects from the CLPs.
· At Conference there should be provision for voting in parts in relation to the lengthy NPF documents, instead of the current undemocratic practice of conference having to vote on a whole document on an “all-or-nothing” basis.