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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Labour First Submission to the Collins Review

Labour First 

Response to Interim Report on Building a One Nation Party
1.THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LABOUR 
PARTY AND INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF OUR AFFILIATE ORGANISATIONS.

• What kind of relationship with the party do you think those individuals who choose to affiliate want or expect?

This will vary from individual to individual. The common denominator will be a desire to express support for the Labour Party. As with individual members of CLPs, the extent to which the people who choose to affiliate will want to be involved in the campaigning, political, social and cultural life of the Labour Party will vary from nil upwards – so they need to be presented with opportunities for a deeper relationship and allowed to choose the extent they want to take them.

• What rights should they receive? Should their rights differ from CLP members and if so how?

Affiliated members would continue to have their current constitutional rights plus the opportunities for a greater level of involvement in the campaigning, political, social and cultural life of the Labour Party inherent in the Labour Party having full access to their membership details. 

However, all other constitutional rights over selecting candidates and running for office would remain the preserve of full individual members. 

Affiliated members cannot be given identical rights to full individual members as there would then be no incentive for members of affiliates to pay full rate membership. 

The Labour Party would actively promote to affiliated members the right to become full individual members of the Party, with the right to participate in selections, hold office etc, for an additional payment to bring them from the affiliation fee paid by their union to the minimum rate of individual membership (currently £21.50, but we would support reducing this to £15). 

• What ideas do you have for how members of affiliated organisations might have a closer individual engagement with Labour and a real voice inside the party, particularly at the local level?

The fundamental problem here is that at the moment CLPs cannot communicate directly with members of affiliates and hence are unable to publicise their activities to them or to hear about the support they expect from local Labour parties for their industrial campaigns. Solving this requires the Labour Party having full access to the membership details of affiliated members. 

• How do we ensure that the collective voice of trade unions is still heard in the Labour Party? 
and
• Once individual affiliated members have had an active choice about whether to be part of the Labour Party, do you believe that we would need to consider the consequences for other party structures including conference and the rules for electing leaders?

The weighting accorded to the various affiliates within their sections of the Electoral College, Annual and Regional conferences and elections for the NEC and NPF should accordingly be based solely on the number of their members who opt-in, not on their total membership. This will incentivise each affiliate to promote opting-in. 

We do not propose any change to the collective weight accorded to affiliates in either the Electoral College or Annual or Regional conferences as we think these balances are a durable constitutional reflection of the balance between the different political stakeholders in the Party. For the same reason we would not support reducing the MPs’ and MEPs’ share of the Electoral College. Anyone elected as Labour Leader should be able to demonstrate they have a credible level of support from their colleagues in Parliament, from our affiliates and from individual members. 

However, should the number of members of affiliates who opt-in ever fall below the number of individual members of the Party we would propose that the weighting between affiliates and CLPs should move from 1:1 to a ratio based on the ratio between individual and affiliated members. For example, if there were 200,000 individual members and 200,000 or more affiliated members the current equal weightings in the Electoral College and at Annual Conference would apply. But if there were 300,000 individual members and 200,000 affiliated members the Annual Conference weighting would move to 60% CLPs, 40% affiliates, and the Electoral College to 33% MPs and MEPs, 40% CLPs, 27% affiliates. 

The same principles should apply within each Region to weighting at regional conferences i.e. affiliates affiliate to the region based on the real number of opted-in members in that region, and if the total of all of these affiliated members falls below the number of individual Labour Party members in the region, the balance of votes at regional conference moves from 50% CLPs:50% affiliates to a ratio based on the ratio between individual and affiliated members in that region. 

This mechanism would incentivise affiliates as a whole to promote opting-in. 

The process for trigger ballots for sitting MPs would continue to include votes for locally affiliated branches of affiliates as well as party branches, as this provides an essential element of stability without which some MPs would be constantly distracted by sectarian de-selection attempts. 

The current balance on the NEC between CLP and Trade Union representatives is lop-sided (6 vs 12) and the small size of the CLP section means it is difficult to achieve BAME representation or regional balance, with a disproportionate number of CLP reps from London due to its large membership. 

We would propose an NEC equally balanced like the Electoral College, with 12 representatives of affiliates (11 for the unions and 1 for the socialist societies), 12 for CLPs (with representatives elected by OMOV by pairs of regions, with a second rep for London due to its large membership, in order to ensure gender balance - 2 reps for London; 2 reps for Eastern and South East; 2 reps for South West and Wales; 2 reps for East Midlands and West Midlands; 2 reps for North West and Yorkshire & Humberside; 2 reps for North, Scotland and Northern Ireland) , and 12 for elected members and other interests (Treasurer, Youth Rep, BAME Labour Rep, EPLP Leader, 4 Councillors, 2 backbench MPs or MEPs and 2 frontbench appointees).  The Leader and Deputy Leader would be additional members not sitting in any of the above three groups.

The Treasurer should be elected by the same Electoral College process as the Leader and Deputy Leader to reflect their role as a senior office holder representing the whole Party and all three groups of stakeholders in it. 

We would not change the current composition of the National Policy Forum except in so far as the above changes to the NEC affect it. 

• What views do you have about the practical timeframe for agreeing and implementing changes to affiliation and related issues?

This will be very much dependent on the internal timetable for the affiliates to pass the necessary rule changes, which in some cases can only happen at a biennial rules conference, and to contact their members to ask them to opt-in. We would suggest the process should be completed in time for the 2019 Annual Conference and the biennial election of trade union representatives to the NEC that takes place then.

• Do you have any other ideas you wish to contribute to this review about how to deepen the relationship between Labour and working people?

The annual fee charged to affiliated members is currently only £3, which is rather derisory given the voting rights accorded. We need to consider raising the fee that affiliates pay per affiliated member to a more realistic figure. 

The Labour Party at national, regional and CLP level will need to have access to the 
contact lists of opt-in affiliated members of each affiliate in order to: 
o Establish that affiliation levels are based on the real number of opt-in members 
o Prevent entryism by vetting and barring any applications to opt-in from people who there is evidence are supporters of other political parties or proscribed organisations 
o Contact affiliated members to encourage them to become individual members of the Labour Party 
o Involve affiliated members in campaigning for elections and on issues, and in the wider political, social and cultural life of the Labour Party 
o Encourage affiliated members to vote in local and national elections 

For this reason, in order to be constitutionally valid, the opt-in form presented to members of affiliates will need to include their consent to their membership data being provided to the Labour Party. 

We want CLPs to continue to have the right accorded to them by Refounding Labour to choose whether to have an All Member Meeting model or a General Meeting with a delegate structure. The former makes sense in smaller CLPs but the latter remains a useful and inherently stable model where there are many local affiliates to be represented, a very large membership (making all member meetings impractical) or an imbalance in activist numbers between communities and branches in the CLP which might lead to under-representation of some groups in the CLP at an all member meeting. 

We would like to see the membership fee for all affiliated members, unwaged members and members on less than the national average salary reduced to £15 to equalise it with the rate previously offered to members of affiliates and to enable easier recruitment in working class communities so that our membership more represents our voters. 

In order to prevent recruitment exercises among affiliated members (or anyone else) motivated solely by the desire to stack the membership of a ward or constituency prior to a selection, we would recommend a one year freeze date for all selections (local government and parliamentary), so that everyone who is eligible to vote in a selection has proven they have a long-term rather than selection-motivated reason for joining. 

2. STANDARDISING CONSTITUENCY DEVELOPMENT PLANS.  
• What ideas do you have about the form that such agreements should take?
• What do you think should be the process for signing off and registering such agreements? 
• Do you have any other suggestions about issues raised in this section?

We do not believe there is a great necessity to alter the current arrangements regarding CLP development agreements with affiliated organisations.
3. USING PRIMARIES TO ENGAGE A WIDER PUBLIC IN LABOUR’S 
SELECTIONS OF CANDIDATES.

• Should individuals who register as supporters in London ahead of the mayoral selection be charged a small sum to finance the administration of the primary? In France this was One Euro.

Yes, £1. 

This should be a closed primary with voting rights only accorded to party members, members of affiliated organisations, existing registered Labour Supporters and people who register as Supporters during the process, who are on the electoral register and who declare they do not support another party and pay a £1 contribution towards the cost of the ballot. 

All candidates will need to be given access to the register of eligible participants, on a rolling updated basis as it will grow in the run-up to the poll. 

In the event that fewer than 100,000 voters register to participate in the primary, the NEC shall have the power to cancel the primary and revert to an OMOV ballot of Party members. 

• Should the Labour Party consider the use of new methods of voting, including voting on-line, in undertaking the London mayoral selection primary?

The primary would primarily be conducted by online voting, with provision for postal votes on demand to avoid digital exclusion of voters without personal internet access. 

• Do you agree that primaries should be used in certain parliamentary selections? If so, what criteria should the party follow in deciding when a primary should be used?

We do not think that primaries are an appropriate way to select parliamentary candidates other than in two categories: 
o Vacant Labour–held CLPs that are deemed by the NEC to have membership so low (below 200) that it is unrepresentative of the Labour voters in the CLP, or are in some other way grossly unrepresentative e.g. the membership is disproportionately from one ethnic or faith group when the electorate is not, or disproportionately from one town in a multi-town constituency. There were fewer than 20 Labour-held CLPs with membership under 200 in 2012, one of them is Falkirk. 
o CLPs which volunteer to pilot primaries. 
o In the latter case the CLP would shortlist candidates from those nominated by branches or affiliates. In the former, the NEC would draw up the shortlist. 
o There should be a spending limit of £200 plus 5p per elector who registers to participate in the primary, with a return of expenses provided to the procedures secretary. 
o Every person who registers to participate should receive an A4 leaflet or electronic equivalent from each candidate with their ballot. 

• Who should be eligible to take part in a constituency-based primary selection?

o These pilots would be run under the same rules and electorate as the mayoral model set out above and can be set aside if fewer than 1,000 voters register to participate. 
I.e. this would be a closed primary with voting rights only accorded to party members, members of affiliated organisations, existing registered Labour Supporters and people who register as Supporters during the process, who are on the electoral register and who declare they do not support another party and pay a £1 contribution towards the cost of the ballot. 

• Do you have any other suggestions about issues raised in this section?

Sign-up could be both online and by post, with appropriate levels of declaration of identity. 
o The Party would need rigorous processes, including scrutiny by CLPs, to vet and bar applicants to participate if they were known supporters of other political parties; and using Contact.Creator to verify that each person was on the electoral register. A random sample of applicants would need to be contacted to verify they had chosen as individuals to register and no one else was doing this on their behalf. 
o The Party would need to retain the power to suspend the process or rule out voters if there was evidence of attempts to stack it e.g. grossly disproportionate levels of supporter registration from particular localities, evidence of people being signed-up without their knowledge. 
o A strict code of conduct will be needed to regulate the role that candidates and their campaigns can play in registering people: i.e. they can promote registration and point people to the Party to register, but not actually register people themselves. 

Anyone registering to participate in a primary would automatically be considered a “Labour Supporter” as defined in Refounding Labour with regard to voting rights in future leadership elections, and their registration would be data available to CLPs on Contact.Creator. 

We do not think that primaries are an appropriate way to select local government candidates (including borough elected mayors) in any circumstances, given the low likelihood of public interest, the risk of stacking, and disproportionality i.e. positions at this level do not justify such an expensive or organisationally arduous process. 


4. ENSURING FAIRNESS AND TRANSPARENCY IN LABOUR SELECTIONS.

• What proposals do you have for a new code of conduct for use in candidate selections? 
• In particular, how would you amend or add to the existing code of conduct for selections?
• What do you believe would be a fair level at which to impose a spending cap on candidates, and their supporters, in a parliamentary selection? 

There should be a spending limit of £200 plus 5p per member, with a return of expenses provided to the procedures secretary. Doorstep, email and phone contact with members should not be limited but members should be able to opt out of further calls or emails relating from a candidate. The invitation to the hustings meeting or ballot papers should include 1 A4 leaflet from each candidate. 

• What do you believe would be a fair level at which to impose a spending cap on candidates, and their supporters, in a mayoral selection or a European selection? 

There should be a spending limit of £100,000 per candidate in the London mayoral selection.

The spending limit for European selections should be £5,000 plus 5p per member, with a return of expenses provided to the procedures secretary. Doorstep, email and phone contact with members should not be limited but members should be able to opt out of further calls or emails relating from a candidate. The ballot papers should include 1 A4 leaflet from each candidate.

• What do you believe would be a fair level at which to impose a spending cap on candidates, and supporters of candidates, in elections for the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party?

There should be a spending limit of £1 per member in elections for the Leader and Deputy Leader.

• How do you believe that the code of conduct and the spending limit could best be policed and enforced? 

The NEC should have the power to suspend selections and remove candidates from the process where breaches of the code of conduct or spending limit are proven.

What activities should be banned during a selection?

It should not be possible to recruit members with voting rights in a selection, and hence stack a selection, once a vacancy has been formally announced (in the case of a sitting MP announcing their retirement) or for a period of 12 months before the process starts, whichever is the longer period taking precedence. Members can still join during this period but should not be able to take part in the process. 

Everyone who joins the Labour Party as an individual member should complete and sign a full application form. They should be on the electoral register and all contacts must be through that address. If another person is to pay their membership, the member must sign a form agreeing to this. These won't eliminate fraud and vote buying, but should reduce it substantially. (This should be done not just to address the sort of issues arising from Falkirk, but the reasons why other CLPs are in special measures). 

• Are they any activities that the party should help to facilitate?

The party should provide as many opportunities as possible during the process for candidates to meet members.

• What sanctions do you think should apply where the rules are breached? 

The NEC should have the power to remove candidates from the selection process where breaches of the code of conduct or spending limit are proven.

•Do you have any other suggestions about issues raised in this section?

We support the basic principle that parliamentary candidates should be selected by OMOV, thus ensuring members have democratic control over the picking of the candidates they will campaign for. 

The current process is too long, which adds to its expense for candidates and acts as a deterrent to some participants, particularly those with jobs outside politics, or caring commitments. It means that Labour prospective candidates are usually only able to pursue one selection in any cycle whereas other parties’ shorter processes allow candidates several tries at different seats. We would propose the entire process could be run in a maximum of 4 weeks from opening nominations to final hustings. 

We want to retain the basic shape of the current process: nominations by branches and affiliates, shortlisting and then an OMOV hustings, but reduce the time between each of these events.

We would retain the NEC’s powers to shortlist in by-elections and in very late selections, which given we now have fixed-term parliaments can be defined more tightly than in 2010 as any selection starting after 1 March 2015. 

The recent selection of MEP candidates was too long (4 weeks voting would have been sufficient), involved excessive spending (with one candidate reporting an £18,000 donation) so needs tighter spending limits as set out above, and would have benefited from a more obvious way for members to opt out of receiving emails from candidates. In every region members should have been presented with a shortlist to rank that was longer than the number of candidates to be selected. Prior to shortlisting by regional boards CLPs and regional affiliates should have had nomination rights. Any candidate approved as fit to stand by the panel should be able to seek nominations, and anyone who achieves a threshold (e.g. 5 CLP nominations) should go forward to the OMOV ballot to be ranked. 

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