31 January has been set as the deadline for consultation over part two of “Refounding Labour”, the Labour leadership’s botched promise of a review of Labour Party structure.
Part one ended with the Labour Party conference in Liverpool at the end of September being presented, at only a few hours’ notice, with a slew of rule changes from the leadership, and instructed to vote yes or no to the whole package with effectively no debate, while rule change proposals from local Labour Parties were ruled off the agenda on spurious grounds.
However, the unions stood firm on most of the bad changes wanted by the Labour leadership, and they didn’t get to the conference. A further “consultation” was scheduled.
At the executive meeting of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) on 12 November, contradictory rumours were reported: some, that the Labour leadership is only going through the motions of “part two” as a face-saver; others, that Ed Miliband’s office is continuing to press hard for bad changes.
It is wise to prepare for the worst. CLPD will be issuing advice for local Labour Parties to draw on and urging them to respond to the consultation.
The meeting also reviewed Labour Party conference 2011. The number of Constituency Labour Party (CLP) delegates increased from 530 to 630, and the number of CLPs sending delegates, to 522.
There was a more feisty and left-wing atmosphere, reflected in applause, booing, and bigger minority votes for some challenges to the platform.
However, the changed mood was not reflected in bigger left votes for National Constitutional Committee and Conference Arrangements Committee positions, or in a bigger vote for the one democratic rule-change proposal which got to the floor in 2010 and in 2011. The left share of those votes remained almost unchanged.
71 out of 181 contemporary motions submitted by CLPs were ruled out of order, and no significantly left-wing composites reached the floor of conference.
The conclusion of the discussion is that the diehard-Blairite wing is still very strong in the Labour Party machine and among Labour MPs, but is more on the back foot than it was. The trend around Ed Miliband, seen as “more traditional right-wing social democrat”, has control for now.
There is promise in the conference-floor stirrings, but they remain to be built on.