“CLPD believes that an important foundation to establishing a grassroots democracy is improving our ability to locally campaign. This involves engaging directly with all working and retired people and listening to their ideas and concerns.”
Barry Rodin, Orpington CLP, on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy’s continued resolute advocation of grassroots democracy and socialist policies.
Approaching 50 years ago, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) was formed by rank-and-file Labour activists who were appalled how Annual Conference decisions were continuously ignored on key domestic and international issues, such as Harold Wilson’s outright rejection in 1973 of Conference’s proposal to take into public ownership 25 of the largest manufacturing companies.
History has tragically repeated itself. The current leadership has jettisoned many of the 10 key leadership election pledges, based on the transformative policies developed for the 2017 and 2019 manifestos. Instead, it has tied to its mast the stale and increasingly irrelevant centrist strategies of 20 years ago. Many of the internal democratic reforms recently made are also being rolled back.
CLPD has always prioritised reforming the Labour Party Rule Book, a vital process in winning back power for the rank and file; in particular internal governance and democratic procedures, including greater accountability of elected MPs and councillors. Key objectives include the active participation of members in determining policies and the selection of candidates for both local and national elections, a real policy making Annual Conference, an effective and accountable NEC and the defence of the Trade Union link.
CLPD has encouraged CLPs and affiliated Trade Unions to support submissions to Annual Conference on a number of Rule Changes or Constitutional Amendments, including:
– Removing the power of the Chief Whip and PLP to prevent a Parliamentary Reselection, restricting these powers to only the National Executive and National Constitutional Committees.
– An internal Party Ombudsperson to provide a formal channel to complain about maladministration by the Party.
– Allowing CLPs and affiliates to submit both a motion and a Rule Change to Party Conference.
– Returning longlisting to CLPs for the selection of Westminster Parliamentary candidates, with full involvement by party and affiliates in the selection of candidates.
– Calls for card votes from Annual Conference delegates should not be ignored. For example, to ensure recording policy motions which have achieved at least the ⅔ majority required to be included in the manifesto and programme.
– Constitutional Amendments which can be demonstrated to have support from five CLPs/affiliates should be allowed to be debated in their year of submission.
– The NEC should stop publishing its proposed Rule Changes at the last minute – members need time to consider them.
– To protect members’ free speech and human rights according to those guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition to campaigning for Rule Changes, CLPD is also encouraging party members to consider submitting motions to Party Conference on key political issues.
Topics include radical means for addressing the cost-of-living crises, developing the green economy, protecting workers’ rights and international collaboration to secure peace. The closing date for motions is September 15th.
CLPD believes that an important foundation to establishing a grassroots democracy is improving our ability to locally campaign (not just at election time). This involves engaging directly with all working and retired people and listening to their ideas and concerns. Local activists have first-hand experience of issues in their neighbourhood and beyond, essential knowledge when developing credible, relevant and popular policies.
My recent experience when canvassing for the local elections in St Mary Cray in the London Borough of Bromley illustrates. St Mary Cray is similar in some ways to the ‘red-wall’ constituencies in the Midlands and North of England. Local manufacturing has long-departed with pockets of social deprivation, deteriorating social housing and related community challenges.
Many local residents, including traditional or potential supporters, no longer understand what Labour stands for and how the Party can support them. It helps to explain why election results in the so-called ‘red-wall’ constituencies were underwhelming, despite much campaigning.
Active CLPs, affiliates and locally engaged members are therefore an essential source of knowledge and experience to develop progressive policies fit for the 21st Century. We must reaffirm Annual Conference as the sovereign policy making body. In this way the Labour Party can have a clear and radical identity, with a narrative which is credible and convincing to both traditional and new supporters.
- You can find out more info from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) by following them on Facebook and twitter.
- This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing (Co-operative) magazine and is reproduced with permission. Subscribe by sending a £20 cheque with your address to ‘Labour Briefing Co-operative Ltd’, 7 Malam Gardens, London, E14 OTR.