On 4 February, over 200 Labour Party members gathered for the Haringey Labour local government conference.
The conference passed all the motions submitted to shape the Labour manifesto for the next council elections. Those included: • setting up a wholly-owned development vehicle to replace the discredited Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) • campaigning for the restoration of the local government funding cut by central government since 2010 • reinstating council tax support and ending the use of bailiffs • bringing waste management back in-house • initiating an empty homes audit and deploying compulsory purchase powers to buy properties to rent as required • resisting academisation • keeping all libraries open, with the same opening hours, for the next four years.
The event, perhaps the first of its kind in recent years, deserves to be more widely known about and imitated in the Labour Party. All too often, Labour Party local government manifestos have been written by a clique around the Council leader, with little or no consultation with the rest of the party or the trade unions.
The victories of the left in recent months and years in Tottenham and Hornsey and Wood Green CLPs made something different possible in Haringey. Labour Party branches, the Women’s Forum, Young Labour, etc. met to discuss motions to send to the conference. The trade unions had a separate event on 6 February to feed in their proposals. The manifesto will still be written by the Labour Group and, in theory, all the proposals from members could be ignored.
Not only would this be an affront to democracy, but it would be extremely short-sighted and politically damaging to the local Labour election campaign. The decisions of the conference should set the tone for what Labour promises to do if, and it is very likely, it remains the largest party on Haringey Council after May.
In future, we should investigate a national-level rule change to cement democratic members’ control over the manifesto process. The organisers of the Haringey conference should be congratulated for a well-organised event, and for setting down an important precedent, which the left in other boroughs should take up in future. Ahead of the next local elections, a sign that the democratisation of the party is moving forward would be to see Labour local government conferences across the country, with democratic discussion and voting.