The following is my submission to "Building A One Nation Labour Party : Interim Report."
I am deeply worried about two out of the four main areas covered by the Interim Report on "Building A One Nation Labour Party". The problem is that if Ed Miliband is defeated on these proposals at the Special Conference called for 1st March 2014, he will look like he is a weak and losing leader. I, therefore, hope that the whole of the Report can be kicked into the long grass until after the General Election and that the Special Conference can be postponed until at least 2016.
On Issue No.1 in the Interim Report. Trade Unionists and the Labour Party
The way to encourage outside trade unionists and others into Labour Party activity is not to start out with rule changes. We should, first of all, adopt policies and programmes which appeal to these groups' best instincts. That is how to attract members and activists. Yet we will have to wait until the Labour Party Conference in September 2014 before we finally adopt a range of policy programmes, which will emerge via the National Policy Review procedure. It is only after we get the programme in place, that we will see if it works and attracts activists into our ranks. After this, we will be in a better position to judge if some rule changes will then help. The way matters are currently being approached is to put the cart before the horse.
The case for delaying matters is added to by the shortcomings of the proposals which we are being asked to discuss. There is no current evidence that significant numbers of trade unionists who aren't currently members, will suddenly sign up via their trade unions to take out a form of Labour Party Membership. Even if their trade unions pay the affiliation fees on their behalf. Nor is there any evidence to show that people will readily pursue such new procedures. Nor that they would then become active at Labour Party meetings or in its campaigns.
There is a good chance that the new procedure to be used to try to attract trade unionists into this new category of membership, will backfire. Labour would then lose much of its current union funding. Given current problems with funding from the Co-operative Movement, a loss of funding from trade union sources could be a serious financial blow for our operations. Alternative forms of funding which might then be looked for, would be worrying - arising from the private market.
Then numbers of current individual members of the Labour Party could decide to adopt the new form of affiliated membership instead. As all Labour Party Members are expected to be members of trade unions when they can, this could lead to a further loss of party revenue. Some might move from individual to affiliated membership as that will be cheaper. Others might do it for ideological reasons, preferring to enjoy a looser arrangement with the Labour Party than the one on offer to them at the moment.
On Issue No. 3 in the Interim Report. Using Primaries to Select Candidates.
I understand that between 10,000 and 20,000 registered supporters have signed up since the 2011 Labour Party Conference. However, this is done mainly via a web-site and the Labour Party operates essentially via a collection of e-mail addresses from these people. As time passes they may have moved, died, ceased supporting Labour or got themselves fresh email addresses. Indeed some may never have supported Labour in the first place, but just fancied voting for a future leader. This all matters, because when there are 50,000 of them they will get a 10% share of the votes in electing the Party Leader and Deputy.
The proposals in the Interim Report seeks to add to the Registered Supporters Scheme. It is proposed to select our next candidate for the London Mayoral elections, by making use of the Registered Supporters Scheme. This could bring in enough people to obtain the 50,000 figure to trigger their rights in Labour Leadership Elections. This would then essentially mean that the Registered Supporters from London would dominate the vote of this section; compared to an estimated 25 such voters from my own constituency. But once the London arrangement is up and running, it could then be exported elsewhere: including for the selections of Labour Parliamentary, European and other candidates. These are arrangements which are currently voted upon only by the individual membership of the Labour Party. Again some current individual members of the Labour Party might feel that they might as well settle for just being Registered Supporters.
It would be best to put the whole of the current Interim Report onto the back-burner, to avoid the form of changes which are dealt with above. But if these matters remain virtually unchanged when put to the Special Conference on 1 March 2014, then these items should be rejected.