A roadmap for bringing democracy back to our Party
If I am elected to Labour’s National Executive then Party democracy will be my top priority. Indeed, it is this issue more than any other which motivated me to stand in the first place.
This is not an abstract matter. Party members are the organic link between the Party and the wider electorate and in our case, the wider labour movement. The disenfranchisement the members of political parties has dove-tailed with the crisis of faith in our democracy and this is no accident. Party leaderships of all stripes have become aloof, distant, unrepresentative and unaccountable to even their own members.
So, I will be making the return of democracy to our Party a top priority because it is not only a matter of principle but also electoral expediency. A Party that can’t respect its own members can scarcely be expected to show any for the electorate.
I want to propose some bullet-point suggestions to get the ball rolling. This is by no means a finished or final list but a starting place for discussion and dialogue.
The electoral college I recognise the democratic legitimacy of Ed Miliband’s victory but the manner of his victory has been a huge contributory factor in the instability surrounding his leadership. Somewhat unusually for a left-winger I support the introduction of One Member, One Equal Vote in electing our leader.
The multiple votes issue obscures the democratic scandal of vote weightings which accord far too much power to the Parliamentary Labour Party. Constituency nominations should also count in this contest – a certain number of constituency nominations should be required to make it onto the ballot paper.
National Policy Forum Peter Kenyon has recently exposed the scandal of the non-existent meetings of this body. This is entirely unacceptable. The NEC must instruct the leadership to convene a meeting at the earliest possible date.
Meetings must be regular and the deliberations of the NPF must be widely accessible to members, utilising new media especially. CLPs must have proper facility to amend and shape the deliberations of NPF. Party members, utilising the model adopted and practised somewhat imperfectly during the Refounding Labour consultation must have the same opportunity.
The National Executive 6 CLP representatives is nowhere near enough. The NEC must be expanded if necessary to make it truly representative of our Party. My proposal is that each region be given at least one seat on the NEC although in practice there probably be more than one. Elections to these seats should be based on regional contests – this means the NEC will be more representative of diverse experiences and stronger for it.
Party Conference Part of encouraging greater participation in our policy making process and our democracy is opening-up Party conference; too that end I have two proposals.
One is too make extra subsidised places available to new joiners. We must bring new members right into the heart of our Party to show them this is a political Party which takes its members seriously. Secondly, I propose that the potential for involving the wider membership via new media be explored. Properly utilised, new media can be a powerful tool for returning this Party to its members – many can’t make conference but still want to be involved.
The era where centralised command-and-control of this Party is acceptable is over – its time to send a clear signal to the leadership that we will no longer be bridled. One of the lessons we should have learned from our time in government is the central importance of being a Party that listens to its members and involves them at every step of the way. As I said, this list is by no means an exhaustive or final one. It is merely meant to start the ball rolling. I look forward to receiving feedback and participating in the upcoming discussions and debates.