A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A positive contribution from Compass

Bet that heading surprised you.

Very belatedly I got round to reading the Compass pamphlet by Jon Cruddas MP and John Harris about Labour Party organisational renewal.

It's actually rather good - I assume Cruddas who actually is renewing his CLP was responsible for the content rather than Mr Harris who as you will see from a post below wasn't actually in the Labour Party until very recently.

My thoughts on their proposals:

"too many local parties are moribund, and the morale of members is at an unquestionable low"
The second part of the sentence depends on where you are in a CLP which is moribund. I would dispute that morale is low in either Hackney CLP or in other active CLPs that I know of like Mitcham & Morden. We need to look at how to get all CLPs as active in campaigning, debates and social activity as the best ones.

"Labour’s decisionmaking bodies – the National Executive Committee (NEC), the National Policy Forum (NPF), the annual conference – should be founded on a model in which a third is given over to the membership, a third to the unions, and a third to a new force made up of MPs, MEPs, Labour representatives in local government, and socialist societies."
I agree with the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 settlement for electing the leader, as the leadership have to have the confidence of the PLP, but I'm not sure I buy into it for other party bodies - why should MPs and Councillors necessarily get any more representation than a party member who does not hold public office?

"A revival of the National Policy Forum, based on opening up the election of its constituency section to a vote by the entire membership; allowing members and affiliates to engage with its proceedings via the internet and making sure submissions are subject to an ‘audit trail’;
ensuring its documents are more options-based; and commencing a regular renewal process, whereby a debate and restatement of Labour’s aims and values always takes place immediately after a general election."

All good stuff.

"An opening-up of the annual conference" etc.
Actually I would leave conference as what it is - primarily a rally/shopwindow/networking event and do the debating behind closed doors at an NPF revitalised and democratised as above.

"re-constituting Young Labour as a socialist society"
Bad idea. Look what happened to the LPYS, YS and LLY. The current status ensures it is an organisation of young Party members and not open to take-over by outside forces as it's 3 predecessors were - a socialist society can have non-party members in it. Tom Watson wrote the constitution when he was National Youth & Student Officer with that in mind - and a focus on doing things - campaigning, political education and social events - rather than being an organic part of the party bureaucracy with GC delegates etc.

"A cutting-down of Labour’s national bureaucracy"
Difficult to see how this could be done given that recent redundancies mean the 39 Victoria Street staff could now fit in a proverbial phone box. There's nothing left to cut.

"reinvention of the role of party chair, based on election by the membership"
No problem with that but I would be voting for the incumbent, Ms Blears, to carry on doing the reinvented job but with an electoral mandate to give her more sway. And how about restoring the full influence of the General Secretary?

"new statutory limits on national party spending"
Good. Let's stop wasting money on billboards and newspaper ads at election time.

"the local ‘voter voucher’, whereby £3 of public money would be allocated by each voter to a party of their choice, exclusively reserved for activity in their area"
Good idea, helps overcome public distaste about state funding, but how would you deal with the influx of public money to the BNP in areas like Barking & Dagenham where they have a base of support?

"A reinvention of Labour’s campaigning role, so that electioneering is complemented by activity focused on local, national and international issues – from a living wage to trade justice."
Er... we are in government. Why not just do these things rather than campaign about them? I'm busy enough being a councillor and electioneering without having to campaign on single issues too.

"Allowing flexibility when it comes to local structures, offset by minimum requirements so that the constituency voice within the party remains strong, among them a re-emphasis on the local union link."
Agree with this.

"A re-aligning of the Supporters Network project, involving its administration and control by local parties, a firm rejection of proposals for Labour’s embrace of US-style primaries, and a
restatement of what formal party membership entails, and why it is important."

Agree with this too.

While we're at it, let's change the membership fee structure to one of £1 per £1,000 of salary so that we don't exclude people that can't afford the current £36/£12 rates.

With revitalised local parties and cheaper membership we could get back to building a mass-membership Party. And my hunch is (I suspect John Harris disagrees with me) that a large membership would be inherently more representative of Labour's voters, and therefore more moderate, than a small one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't really matter either way; it would be more democratic (though still within the bounds of reasonability) which is the most important thing.

I think their idea on Young Labour is good, because an awful lot of people are pretty discontented at the moment. They should follow the example of Laabour students, which remains trot-free.

Either way, the idea is a lot better than Peter Hains's idea in his last Compass pamphlet; making LS the same as YL is now...

9:52 pm, October 16, 2006

Anonymous Jasmin said...

So can Cruddas count on your support for DL?

10:00 pm, October 16, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me? Yep.

Dunno who for leader though.

2:32 am, October 17, 2006


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