Conference should reject Refounding Labour…..
I started out wanting Refounding Labour to work. I was skeptical, to be sure, but I wanted to believe that it would be a genuine exercise in consultation and would represent something of an improvement on the horse-and-rider relationship that has been the norm between the members and leaders of the Labour Party over the previous period. Sadly, all that has changed is that the leadership feels somehow obliged to offer a appearance of a consultation which, in its own way, is more deceitful than when one wasn’t on offer. This is pretty well illustrated by two events at yesterdays National Executive Committee meeting.
It seems (from the report I read) that Peter Hain informed the meeting that the whole package would be subject to just one vote – I am sure the NEC are grateful they were asked. This is a fait accompli; it is the leaderships desperate attempt to bulldoze through some measures it knows to be unpopular (like, for example, giving registered supporters a vote in our leadership elections) by packaging them with less controversial and more broadly accepted measures. Secondly, the controversial issues were postponed with a final decision to be made at the NEC on the Saturday of conference itself. Quite unbelievable and this reflects the fact that nowhere near enough consultation has taken place. Delegates will see the proposals for the first time when they are voted on – words really do fail me as to how totally unacceptable this is.
We have yet to see the actual submissions themselves. Something that is a clear broken promise from Ed Miliband himself. What, we should ask, is the point of seeing them after the vote has been taken other than a train-spotterish like exercise in political record keeping. Since the leadership has put us in this position, it has given serious proponents of party democracy no choice but to advocate rejection. Lamentably the NEC has failed to do what it should have done and force a longer period of reflection upon the leadership and therefore delegates are faced with the unenviable choice between rushing into these changes and forcing the leadership back to the drawing board by rejecting them.
When it comes to the specific proposals themselves there are numerous concerns and not just with the new powers being given to registered supporters, but also the abolition of Local Government Committees. I am sure, if Refounding Labour was subject to the scrutiny it should be more would emerge, in fact, I am sure if we rush at the breakneck speed the leadership want into these changes then we will find numerous problems and it will only be a matter of time before the whole thing unravels. The Party has not had the appropriate time to reflect and digest the concrete proposals and they therefore have not been subject to the proper democratic scrutiny they should be.
Over and above the mistaken nature of any singular proposal this is the reason I feel that the only correct course Conference can take for the good of the Party is to reject Refounding Labour. This is not to say that some of the changes within Refounding Labour should not be implemented, they should, but this should be done in a way that allows its contents to be properly scrutinised and decided upon in a way which carries the whole party forward together.