Monday, October 31, 2011

You, Me and the ILP

Independent Labour Publications (ILP) is an educational trust, publishing house and pressure group committed to democratic socialism and the success of a democratic socialist Labour Party. The ILP was formed in 1893 as the Independent Labour Party (by Keir Hardie and others - his portrait appears above), which then became a co-founder of the Labour Party at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today it remains committed to Labour's aim of creating 'a society for the many, not the few' and seeks to engage with others in discussing how this vision can be turned into reality.

The statement below was drafted by the ILP’s National Administrative Council and received broad endorsement from ILP members and Friends at the ILP Weekend School in Scarborough on 7/8 May 2011. I was one of those present at Scarborough and the statement expresses an approach to politics which I share.

You can contact the ILP at welcome contributions to their website as well as comments on the articles they post. If you’d like to contribute please send submissions or ideas for articles to

The ILP: Our Politics

The ILP comes from a long tradition of organisations on the left of the political spectrum that have sought collective solutions to the inequalities and destructiveness caused by capitalism. We seek to continue that tradition today, to extend cooperative solutions to human problems by democratic means.

In seeking social justice and equality, a broader and deeper democracy, and more co-operative and mutually supportive ways of living, we set our sights high. We believe it is possible to improve the quality of life for many, not just the few; that a humane society is possible. We want to widen the recognition that human society is based upon our interdependence. We are not isolated individuals, communities or states but mutually dependent on each other for our futures.

But in aiming to create a good society, the left faces challenges as formidable today as at any time in its history. We recognise that we are embarking on a lengthy journey.

Ours is a damaged society where political disenchantment is tangible – and quite understandable. Both at home and globally, too many lives are governed and wasted by poverty, inequality and deprivation, or by fear and insecurity, or bigotry. While many are governed by the mindless pursuit of materialism, others turn to religious or nationalistic zealotry. None of this is simply due to fate. Instead it is the outcome of how our world is organised, a product, ultimately, of political choices.

We cannot embark on this journey too soon. Humanity is approaching a crossroads. The actions taken and the choices made in the coming years are likely to be of great significance not only to us but to future generations. To create a sustainable society will, of necessity, demand curbing and controlling those forces that propel us towards environmental catastrophe. It will be vital to overcome the sense of powerlessness that so many people feel, both in their own lives and about the wider world, not least because it can lead to desperate and destructive reactions, political and personal.

Broad political and moral movements for change are key elements in this process. But we also need a progressive political party or parties to enact wide-ranging reforms, and progress will depend on alliances and sometimes tensions between these two. Incremental gains along the way can highlight both what is possible and how people can become part of a process of change.

The context

Writing about contemporary western society, the historian Tony Judt sums up his view this way: “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue of the pursuit of material self-interest; indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes what remains of our collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea of what they are worth…”

“Much of what seems ‘natural’ today,” he says, “dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth.”

His comments are particularly applicable to Britain today. We face a Conservative-led coalition government which, in flagrant disregard for its election pledges, is hell bent on a brutal programme of public sector cuts. It combines this with promises to build the ‘big society’ and to ‘free’ people from the state. It doesn’t promise freedom from the market. Indeed, the government hopes the private sector will be able to mop up the large numbers made unemployed by the cuts. The poor, women in particular, public sector workers and students form the new front line in the coming conflicts over cuts.

But this programme of attacks on public, collective provision has not come out of the blue. Rather, it continues more than three decades in which the free market has been promoted over state intervention. After 1979, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher embarked on a programme of radical change, restructuring the post-war welfare state, diminishing the power of working people, and expanding free enterprise, in particular by loosening controls over banking and finance.

The new Labour project was the product of successive election defeats and the deep desire of many to get the Tories out of office, regardless of the political cost to traditional left politics. To win power in 1997, Labour largely accommodated itself to this neo-liberal framework. While committed to some redistribution of wealth, it relied on taxes from a deregulated and rampant financial service sector to fund the expansion of state expenditure. Labour often devalued the public sector even while it further centralised state power. It continued down the path of privatisation, creating markets within public services on an unprecedented scale. Yet, after promising ‘no return to boom or bust’, the Labour government used the state to bale out the banking and financial sectors when economic meltdown was imminent.

Despite the use of taxpayers’ money and despite the crisis, the Labour government, and the left more generally, failed to present a credible narrative for progressive change. Instead, new Labour paved the way for many of the Tory policies that are now unfolding – in the economy, in the NHS and in education. The result is a Tory-led government intent on the wholesale subordination of public provision to the market and private sector.

Capitalism, markets and democracy

This Tory programme reinforces the natural tendencies within capitalism. For ours is a capitalist society and the logic of capitalism is to turn everything into commodities to be bought and sold in the market. It is a system that violates our humanity and the environment; it devalues and debases human beings and social life. Unregulated, it destroys all in the pursuit of material gain, whether families or forests. While we recognise the historic advances in human development brought, to some, by capitalist development, in terms of life expectancy and material well-being, we also recognise that these come at a colossal price, paid in inequality, social upheaval, political oppression and environmental destruction.

More recently, we have seen the ruin that modern banking and finance leave in their wake, leaving others who can ill-afford it to pay a huge price for decades to come. This should not come as a surprise. By their very nature, unfettered market forces lead to excess, encouraging greed and selfishness at the expense of others, putting possessive individualism before collective endeavour. Capitalism corrodes and corrupts, eating away at our social fabric.

The basic character of capitalism cannot change. It is defined by the pursuit of profit at the expense of collective social needs. Its agents will always balk at ‘red tape’ and attempts to restrict their freedom of action. They will always complain of ruination when they do not get their way, as the employers did in the 19th century when the long working day was restricted. They will always threaten to up sticks and find places where their actions can go unchecked. They will always seek to exploit cheap labour across the globe, and to divide and rule, and use their vast resources to cut corners and bypass democracy. They will always seek to avoid paying taxes.

Markets can be very creative but they have a destructive, dark side. Markets in the capitalist economy are capable of doing great damage because, put simply, people are subordinated to the pursuit of profit.

Moreover, there is a fundamental conflict between capitalism and democratic society. Never has this been more obvious than in the wake of the financial crisis. Despite colossal bale-outs by democratic governments and the enormous human costs of the crisis, our political options are still subordinated to the interests of the bankers. As Doreen Massey wrote: “The judgement of ‘the markets’ hangs over everything, setting the parameters within which political debate can operate.”

Having said this, we do accept that markets in some shape or form are necessary to how a democratic society operates – the evidence of Communist societies in the 20th century suggests as much. But a more democratic society would subordinate markets to the collective, democratic interests of the country; in our society, it is democracy that is subordinated.

The conditions in which markets are allowed to operate should always be closely monitored and carefully regulated. In some social democratic systems – in Scandinavian countries and some other western European countries at various times – restrictions on markets have delivered real benefits such as reduced inequality, greater social provision and fairer distributions of wealth and opportunity. They show some of the direction in which we want to move, not a utopian end point. But these gains are always fragile and are easily undermined, especially at times of economic crisis. They require more active support and defence than top-down social democratic systems have typically encouraged.

Some areas of life should be removed from the influences of private profit entirely – health, education and public transport, for example. In part, this means defending the role of the state in regulating the market, redistributing resources, coordinating public services and ensuring the needs of all members of a community are met.

The Tories characterise the state as overbearing, all-powerful and interfering – and at times parts of the public sector have been too inflexible and unresponsive to people’s needs. But the state in a democratic society is the means by which we collectively provide for our needs, and those of each other, out of our common wealth. It is our protection against the free market.

Yet the Tories’ goal is to marketise the public sector and shrink the state. We need vigilance and a democratic culture to counter their destructive aims and the destructive tendencies of free markets. This will have to be undertaken at several levels – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It will also involve more democratic, co-operative ways of organising business and production.

In fact, while capitalism exists, a struggle has to continue. The battle may ebb and flow in different directions. This is why it is vital movements and progressive parties counter capitalist values with social values based on human relationships and a respect for the natural world. Of course this is not to deny that we also need vigilance and a democratic culture to prevent excesses by the state.

Our recent history has seen us move in the wrong direction, creating in the words of Paul Mason, BBC economics editor, an “abrasive, selfish, unequal society”. Indeed, as the academic Edward Skidelsky wrote, “…economics and its jargon have penetrated every corner of social life… Doctors, priests and scientists are lumped together as ‘service providers’ … school teachers are urged to ‘add value’ to their pupils’…” And as the centre-left group Compass pointed out, even childhood has become commodified. The current attacks on public provision will, according to academic John Gray, “leave people more exposed to the turbulence of world markets than they have been for generations. Inevitably they will seek protection.” We agree and believe it is time to change direction.

Political parties and Labour’s role

The ILP started life as a political party in 1893 as a reaction to harsh working conditions and the widespread poverty that unregulated capitalism brought to Britain. The perspective of the ILP has inevitably changed and developed as the world about us has changed and developed, but our essential humanitarian concerns have remained. We hold fast to the ethics and principles relating to care and compassion, fellowship and fraternity, mutuality and cooperation, social, political and economic equity, and democracy, which constitute the foundation of our politics.

We believe there is a need for a plurality of political movements, experiments in alternative ways of organising society, and for cooperative and democratic businesses. Indeed, it is to be hoped that protests against the current cuts will galvanise into a broad movement. But we also recognise that there is a continuing need for political parties.

Sooner or later any campaign or movement for change in society has to deal with the process of government, how collective decisions, whether national or local, are made and upheld. Actions by national governments have a vital and potentially crucial role in addressing many of the problems we face, whether nationally or, by acting collectively, internationally.

In Britain, that means we have to engage with the Labour Party. While many on the left wish to avoid the Labour Party, to denounce or live outside it, we think this is a cul-de-sac. Any attempt to progress radical change will have to go through a social democratic agency.

However, we have no illusions about the current political and organisational state of the party, about the corrosive effects of new Labour’s dominance over 16 years. Now is a time for the Labour Party to reflect upon its record in office, to see whether it can present a credible narrative for progressive change. It has a long distance to travel to win back public trust. There is much debate in and around the party, by the left and centre-left, which is showing clear signs of creative thinking about how the party and its politics might be transformed for the better.

We see ourselves as part of that process. We want to encourage Labour to reinvent itself as a more radical party, to democratise itself and to make party membership matter in ways that it has not done for decades. However, unlike many on the centre-left, we are sceptical of the notion that there is a ready-made progressive majority in the country waiting to be led. Unfortunately, we have further to go than that – the foundations of a progressive majority still have to be built.

The extent to which Labour’s politics can become imaginatively social democratic will therefore depend on the forces and movements that align with it, with the political space that they can create for Labour to become more radical and yet electable. It also means that Labour has to do its part – defending, supporting and encouraging those involved in campaigns up and down the country, and leading them too. The challenge this presents should not be underestimated, but it has to be faced.

The future left

It should be said that the left bears much of the responsibility for its failure to offer a credible politics for our times. True, it has faced a barrage of opposition from various vested interests, not least in the media. But it is also true that while it has fought many a good fight, it has not been at its best when offering pathways to a better society.

Many have abandoned any hope of a changed world and surrendered to the the politics of the present and the next election. Others promise a glorious dawn in some unimaginable future with no sense of how to get there. Between them, we need to find ways to be both practical and visionary at the same time.

Our political actions must also uphold the principles by which we stand. We believe that the character, actions and morality of political movements prefigure the change they will create. Social movements are a vital component of securing change but they have an obligation to act with morality, honesty and self-criticism.

The weakness of the left, and the dominance of market values today, means any progressive change in the short term will be hard won. But in lessening social inequalities, we may see a range of social improvements in society, in health, social solidarity, and general well-being. It will never be perfect, however. There will always be arguments and conflicts and, in a society based on democracy, that is absolutely necessary. The imposition of harmony from above is the road to dictatorship and not one we should ever contemplate. While people deserve respect, no-one and no organisation is above criticism.

Living democracy is a lively business; controlling capital is a constant process. One thing is certain, if we look at the world as it is then we can surely do better than this. We should certainly try to. And, along the way, perhaps we can rebuild the kind of movement which, as well as fighting for a better world, conveys the collective joy, humour and warmth which helped sustain earlier generations of socialists.

Labour's 2011 Five Point Pledge Card

For Labour's Five Point Programme for Jobs see here.

Hat Tip : Grahame Morris.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why The Economy Has Gone Wonga

Yesterday's 'Independent' reported that Adrian Beecroft, the author of the report proposing the scrapping of unfair dismissal legislation "chairs Dawn Capital, whose portfolio includes which offers short term loans to tide people over until their next pay cheque. A recent probe by the consumer watchdog 'Which?' found it quoted £36.72 interest on a 30 day loan of £100 - equivalent to a 4,394 per cent annual interest rate."

You couldn't make it up - could you? sponsored the above Blackpool team in last year's Premiership. Which is a pity as there was much to admire about the Blackpool team's season. I saw them play three times.

Hat Tip - David Connolly

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Still Needed - A Full Franchise

In addition to the three and a half million people who are missing from electoral registers as assessed by the Electoral Commission prior to the last General Election, there are many additional problems about the accuracy of existing registrations - let alone the mass problems that would arise from current Government proposals to make registration a purely voluntary matter.

How accurate are the forms which are currently returned to electoral registration officers? How many people just confirm the information sent to them on the registration forms either in error or to hide the details of all the qualifying residents within a household - a habit which was given a boost by the poll tax and has not died out. There are also shortcomings in the range of people who are entitled to register. Surely anyone who is established as a resident in the UK should be entitled to be enfranchised as they are subject to the nation's legal requirements as established by Parliament, including taxation - what of "no taxation without representation?" The only limits on enfranchisement should be (a) a qualifying age and (b) a carefully monitored exclusion of those with a very serious mental impairment. Yet residents from overseas are only currently entitled to registration if they come from Commonwealth nations or the Republic of Ireland. Why not others?

A proactive electoral registration system needs putting into operation. It would help if the vote was given to 16 year olds. Whilst "attainers" at 15, they could first be registered via their schools. This would make them easier to be tracked for registration purposes later in life. Regular canvassing should also take place by electoral registration officers to gain more accurate registration. Then modern technology could be used by electoral registration officers to help in the compiling of registers and to make effective use of the provisions of the Rolling Registration system - i.e. to see that names are placed on the relevant registers as people move their residence within a mobile society. This would also end the dubious need to allow some people to have their names appearing on more then one register.

Tom Paine and the Chartists (with the important addition of the Suffragettes) knew the significance of the franchise. A full franchise was thought finally to have been achieved in the UK in 1928, but we have allowed it to wither on the vine. Establishing a full franchise should be a priority for all democrats and especially for democratic socialists who have a special belief in the importance of social equality.

When I was an MP I sort to tackle the matter via a Private Members Bill in the 1992-3 session and became involved with a body called "Full Franchise". Then I pushed various Ten Minute Rule Bills and amendments to legislation, especially to what became the 2000 Representation of the People's Act. But the only success I can claim (as the Government took it up) was the initial and perfectly inadequate provisions on Rolling Electoral Registration. Since those times information technology has bounded forth and the hopes contained in my proposals could be considerably polished and advanced.

Labour should be pressed to take these matters on board. Ideologically they don't need even to frighten middle England by saying that it is a socialist measure. If they need a vested interest before they can take up a principle, then a full franchise would lead to a future redrawing of constituency boundaries. This time in Labour's favour. For the Electoral Commission shows that those who are missing from the registers are a high percentage of the poor, ethnic minorities, the young and the highly mobile such as those in bed-sitter land. The only problem for Labour is that it would have to start paying serious attention to the well-being of these categories.

Added 5 November - Professor Iain McLean of Oxford University, told the Guardian in May 2010: “…to move straight to individual registration risks moving straight to mass disenfranchisement of the young, the urban, the mobile and ethnic minority voters. The rot dates back to Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous decision to make the electoral register a source of the poll tax register. It is also a source of jury lists. In the late 1980s, millions of people looked at the costs and benefits of being on the register, and rationally decided to disappear. They are not yet back, nor are their sons and daughters … At worst, a move to immediate individual registration could make Britain in 2011 like Florida in 2000.” Hat Tip - Grahame Morris MP.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Death Of Party Democracy

Peter Hain, Chair of Labour's National Policy Forum and Guru of "Refounding Labour". Architect of this death of Labour Party Democracy. At one time he claimed he was a "libertarian socialist", but is now neither. And to think that some 5 years ago, I argued that he should stand for the leadership of the Labour Party. Well even at my age, you can live and learn.

Mass Changes Made To The Rules Of The Labour Party.

I was not present at the Labour Party Conference, but it seems to have carried out a mass of changes to its rules on the basis of only one card vote which was carried with a Yes vote of 93.9% (88.3% of CLPs and 99.5% of affiliates). Given the wide ranging complexity of the changes concerned (even though many were mundane), these are percentage votes which are normally associated with totalitarian or whipped structures.

My understanding is that the amendments were made on the back of a last minute report entitled “Refounding Labour to win – a party for the new generation”. This was a 39 page report which appeared in a pack containing a total of some 100 pages which delegates were only first able to collect on the opening day of Conference, when the rule changes were themselves about to be voted upon.

The rule changes were based upon 40 sets of recommendations made in the above “Refounding Labour to win” document. On a rough count, there were no less than 138 separate points contained in the 40 sets of recommendations.

A further key 100 page book entitled “Labour Party rule book – including Refounding Labour amendments” was also made available on the day and in the run up to the vote. Between a fifth and a quarter of what are now the old rules of the Labour Party appeared in red with lines through them. It was being proposed that these should be replaced by lengthy sections which appeared in purple. Perhaps the colouring had an ideological significance. I doubt whether many delegates had the opportunity to digest the relevant documents which had just been made available to them. As they covered some 200 pages, how could anyone engage in an assessment of what was being proposed when they needed also to be in the Conference itself to keep an eye on developments?

Ignoring what seem to me to be minor and repeat changes, I give below a bare-bones summary of the main changes in this new rule book. I have truncated these into 22 items and may well have missed matters of importance – yet unlike delegates needing to vote, I have spent a few days looking at the key documents. At the close of my summary, I also add a three point NEC Statement which was issued to clarify or adjust what was put to the delegates.

It should be noted that (1) although many changes were given justification on the grounds that they arose from a consultation procedure within the Party about “Refounding Labour”, many of the proposals had never appeared in the earlier consultative documents relating to this process and the ordinary membership of the Labour Party had had no means of knowing they were on the cards, (2) as a matter of natural justice and internal party democracy, all the proposed rule changes should have been circulated well in advance of Conference to CLPs and affiliated bodies to enable them to mandate their Conference delegates, and (3) the matters placed before Conference were so huge that they should have been put off to a special Conference; this could also have allowed amendments to the rules changes to have been considered.

I don't object to losing a vote, but I do object to being disenfranchised. It is even worse when I am disenfranchised as part of a procedure that seems to help guarantee my future disenfranchisement.

It should also be noted that we are not at the end of the above “Refounding Labour” procedure. The NEC Statement given at the close of my summary, states that these consultations will now continue until March 2012. We need to push for democratic procedures this time round; including the clearing up of what happened at this Conference. For a start, we need to know exactly what ideas were submitted to the supposed consultation by the much maligned rank and file. For the style of the claims in “Refounding Labour to win” are merely that earlier consultations had given “widespread support” to x, “throughout the submissions” y was clear and “an extensive number of the submissions highlighted” z. Yet none of the x,y and z's came out of any of the six consultative, Party and Labour Discussion Group meetings I attended. So excuse my scepticism. It would be appropriate for us to be provided with hard evidence of what came out of such meetings.

I will not pass judgement at this stage on the nature of the changes which are summarized below. But I do contest their democratic legitimacy. My case is that non-democratic procedures were followed and the rights of the membership were violated.

Addition 21 October : Ann Black of the NEC states " Policy-making seems to have moved not only beyond the NEC but beyond the national policy forum and conference." See the rest of her revealing report here.


p 1. OBJECTIVES - “the party will bring together members and supporters”.

p 2. FINANCIAL SCHEME – this spells out accountancy arrangements for CLPs and others.(See also pp 99-100 below).

p 4. PARTY LEADER – gives the leader additional powers and responsibilities.

p 10. MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTIONS – includes reduced rates for new members from affiliated Trade Unions and a minimum allocation to CLPs of £1.50 per member.

p 12. CONFERENCE DELEGATES – 6 added from the Association of Councillors (ALC) and 2 from Young Labour (YL).

p 14. CONTEMPORARY MOTIONS TO CONFERENCE – can now be up to 250 words. Nominating and voting rights are spelt out.

p 17. LEADER OF THE SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY – gives the procedure for his or her election.

p 18. PROCEDURE FOR FILLING NEC VACANCIES – this relates to posts which are appointed by Conference on a two yearly basis.

p 19. NATIONAL POLICY FORUM – additions to its membership.(These changes are minor, yet the “Refounding Labour to win” document devotes four pages to the NPF. It is supportive of its role, whilst wishing to develop it. This gives a hint of the shape of things to come.)

pp 21-22. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF ELECTED MEMBERS – a new clause II relates to all elected representatives. The NEC can introduce candidates contracts and there will be a 2% levy on their salaries and on set personal allowances, including all payments resulting from elected office and on salaried positions in the Lords.

p 23 and pp 69-82. SELECTION OF WESTMINISTER PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES – covers new arrangements arising from the current Boundary Commission's proposals for the redrawing of parliamentary boundaries.

p 26. DISCIPLINARY RULES FOR CLPs – relates to those who operate in a CLP which has no Executive Committee.

pp 29-35 and pp 97-98. CHANGES TO THE RULES OF CLPs – These are wide-ranging and allow CLPs to “adopt any method of organisation currently approved by the NEC” whether delegate structures or all member meetings. The changes available include establishment of workplace branches and forums for interest groups. Whilst "The annual meeting should no normally be held before May in any year" and a “team of officers and coordinators, together with the parliamentary candidate and/or member of Parliament and the campaign co-ordinator, shall provide a strategic lead to the development of the Party in the constituency” (p 33).

p 36. ARRANGEMENTS WHERE CONSTITUENCY AND DISTRICT/COUNTY BOUNDARIES ARE COTERMINOUS – these are deleted. (Some of us were looking forward to the convenience of joint CLP and District Meetings in NE Derbyshire which has arisen under the Boundary Commission's proposals, but now these are ruled out.)

p 37. RULES FOR BRANCHES – This includes “to provide an opportunity for members to participate in the activities of the Labour Party within its area with the approval of the Executive Committee of the CLP and in line with the development action plan; to play their part in the Party's policy-making processes; to work together to run effective election and issue-based campaigns; to maximise the Party's engagement with organisations and individuals in the branch area and join with them in working for social justice. Work to meet these objectives shall always have high priority in the branches plans and meetings.”

p 45-46. YOUNG LABOUR - given Regional Representation and additions to its National Committee.

p 47-50. LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEES – are replaced by “Local Campaign Forums” with the NEC given the role of providing guidance on model structures. The membership of the LCF shall be focused around campaign delivery, the recruitment and selection of candidates and the development of opportunities for wider engagement with council issues.”

p 52. RULES FOR LOCAL LABOUR GROUPS ON PRINCIPAL AUTHORITIES - “Members of the Labour Group shall pay an annual levy to the Labour Party of 2% of their total income from the Council and joint body sources....For the purpose of effective and vibrant electoral organisation , members of the Labour Group shall pay an annual contribution of a recommended minimum of 5% of their total income from council and joint body sources.”

p 60. MODEL STANDING ORDERS FOR PARTY UNITS – in certain circumstances people resident in an area but who are not on the electoral register can be delegates. Plans for campaigning on local issues and strengthening links with members, affiliates, supporters and communal groups will be central to all business.

p 83- 89. PROCEDURES FOR THE SELECTION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT CANDIDATES - “The timetable should be set so that, as far as possible, candidates are selected six months in advance of the election (12 months where the council elects on a two or four yearly cycle)” An LCF may apply to the NEC to pilot new or innovative procedures.”

pp 99-100. MINIMUM GUARANTEE OF SUPPORT TO CLPs - “Every CLP will receive a cash payment based on the number of paid up members in that CLP....A minimum payment to every CLP and no national deductions.”

NEC Statement - Refounding Labour.

(A) Electoral College - Leadership Elections.

1. Registered Supporters.

It is our aspiration to extend the reach of our party by registering people who are Labour supporters as the first step towards turning them into full members. As a sign of our willingness to embrace a wider span of Labour supporters, we will create a new section for Registered Supporters within the Electoral College for electing the leader of the party. In so doing we are clear that the existing sections of the College should retain the primary shares of the College. Hence three key principles will underpin NEC procedural guidelines regarding the leadership election:

1. The Registered Supporters section of the Electoral College shall only come into being when there are more than 50,000 supporters registered with the party;

2. The supporters section shall, subject to point 3, constitute between 3% and 10% of the Electoral College, and shall never constitute more than 10%;

3. A member's vote shall always be worth more than a registered supporter's vote.

So the Electoral College for future leadership elections shall be comprised of:

- Affiliates
- Party Members
- Supporters (maximum of 10%)

(B) Multiple Voting.

Clear expressions of concern have been made about the ability of party members to cast multiple votes; particularly in respect of MPs and MEPs who already have the ability to nominate candidates in addition to having their own section in the Electoral College. Other multiple votes exist within the affiliate section and submissions voiced support for the universal application of "one member one vote" in this section. It is therefore proposed that MPs and MEPs should be restricted to just one vote in their own section and not permitted to cast any ballots in any other sections. It is also proposed that affiliated members shall cast no more than one vote in the affiliates section.

(C) Partnership in Power.

Discussions during this consultation have focussed on the need to make a reformed policy making system more accessible and responsive to Party members, with a fresh empowered annual Conference with even greater democracy. We are determined to take a new approach to policy making which meets those objectives and will take more time to develop the details. The NEC therefore agrees to further consult between now and the end of March 2012 on how to make the policy and decision making processes more dynamic, open, and democratic with a view to taking forward proposals to the NEC next spring, ahead of Conference.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Birth Of Easington Colliery.

This photo was taken at Easington Colliery around 1902, some three years after the start of the sinking of the pit. The single storey huts in a terrace on the right were known as "Sinkers' Hut" and were for the families of those working on the sinking of the pit. There were 36 huts in all, in two rows. In numbers of cases these were also occupied by lodgers, who also worked as sinkers. The dirt track which a number of people are standing on is Seaside Lane. It ran for a mile and a quarter inland to an ancient settlement which became known as Easington Village and whose detailed history (in contrast to the Colliery area) goes back to Anglo - Saxon times. The handful of terraced houses on the left are probably the start of a large estate of similar permanent houses for miners. The huts on the right were later replaced by similar housing. Some 700 yards to the back of the photographer are cliffs leading down to the beach and the sea. The pit seams would eventually operate both under the bed of the North Sea and inland.

Under the title "The Birth Of Easington Colliery", a 6,000 word article of mine has recently been published in the Journal of the North East Labour History Society,Volume 42 (2011). The article covers the period from 1899 when efforts were first made to sink the pit, until 1911 when the local Miners' Lodge was finally established. In that time, the population around the immediate mining area grew from less than 50 people to almost 800. However, the bulk of the newcomers arrived only from 1909, when technical problems in the sinking the pit had been overcome. The first coal was drawn in 1910.

1899-1911 was very much a pioneering period for Easington Colliery. In the following 20 years its territory expanded and its population peaked at around 10,000.

I am now researching a follow-up article for the period 1912-26, which contains a series of dramatic events within a period of rapid growth. These include the Minimum Wage Strike of 1912, unofficial strikes, the impact of the First World War, the 1918-19 Influenza Epidemic, a start of Labour Politics via a local Branch of the Independent Labour Party, a significant Methodist leadership of the Lodge, Jack Lawson being the unsuccessful Labour Candidate in 1918, the impact of the Sankey Commission's Report, the 1921 Lock Out, Sidney Webb as the successful Labour Candidate from 1922, whilst Beatrice Webb organised the local Women's Section, ending with the General Strike and Lock-Out of 1926. It was also in 1912 that my paternal Grandparents and their established family of seven children settled firmly at Easington and were solidly part of the period I am now researching.