Unions and local Labour Parties have voted to ban themselves from submitting motions on current political issues to Labour Party conference. All the formal powers that conference once held to determine party policy will be transferred to the leadership, which will only have to ‘consult’ with the National Policy Forum, itself a well-controlled and largely impermeable body. These proposals have finished off Labour Party conference as a serious political event. They are an attempt to finally destroy the Labour Party as a democratic political organisation based on the labour movement.
In recent years, trade unions have used Labour Party conference to challenge Labour leadership policies on privatisation, anti-union laws, council housing, the health service and other issues. The union leaders have then kept quiet, without complaint, when the LP flatly ignores conference votes. Maybe they are sick of being ignored, but instead of fighting for their policies they’ve decided to avoid embarrassment by gagging themselves. Whatever their motivation this is a criminal act which must be reversed at LP conference in 2008.
Hopefully ASLEF will play its part in efforts to nullify this decision but not if their experience of the past two years is anything to go by. Remember the fiasco at Labour Party conference last year: the delegation was refused entry because they didn’t have the proper accreditation? Well, they had another problem this year. Although they managed to get in this time, they couldn’t take their seats because somebody had already taken them; away that is, to make room for TV cameras!
This was on the first day of conference, which just so happened to be the day the vote was taken to end conference democracy. Maybe Gordon Brown had got wind of the delegation’s opposition and wasn’t going to settle for anything less than 100% acclaim (North Korean style) for his proposals? It might have worked if UNISON hadn’t voted accidentally against him.
Meanwhile, TSSA voted for the rule change to take away their own right to submit resolutions. TSSA: Too Scared to Submit Anything?