Labour members need their own trade union….
My attention was caught this morning by Dan Hodges in the New Statesman reporting that proposals for an elected Labour chair are likely to be dropped. I have to say, it never struck me as exactly the world’s greatest leap forward in Party democracy so that didn’t really grieve me that much. However, the second part of this quote did:
“A directly elected chair isn’t going to happen,” said a source close to Labour’s leadership team. “All of the really sensitive organisational proposals are now being toned down.”
In other words, all the proposals that are likely to make our Party more democratic are covertly being junked. I suspect what we will get is the carefully-crafted appearance of change with not an awful lot of substance changing at all. Not surprising. Another in the long and ever growing list of let-downs from this leadership. However, it does bring the issue of Party democracy into sharp focus.
I, for one, am not narrow enough to see this as a purely left-wing concern. I have seen many a Tweet and many an article from people I otherwise regard as being on the right supporting Party democracy and this is because, whatever else divides us, we are all Labour Party members and have a common interest in the extension of our own severely curtailed democratic rights. However, I do think the reason that organisations like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy are, how shall we say this, not really punching with any kind of weight is because they are purely seen as the property of the left and that’s not an altogether unfair characterisation because CLPD is closely associated with the centre-left NEC slate, the Grassroots Alliance; too closely associated for right-wingers to want to be involved, I would argue.
What Labour members really need is an organisation committed to the struggle for inner-party democracy which can have appeal across the left/right divide, which brings people together in this common cause. In that sense, a trade union, which does unite people across political divides who are already organised externally by workplaces is exactly what Labour Party members need. We need a organisation that is otherwise above the left/right fray and is therefore not the property of either side, but prioritises speaking for, representing, defending and extending the rights of the membership beyond everything else. Only then will we make the strides forward we need to in terms of inner-party democracy because we certainly will not be handed anything from on-high.