Democracy is an essential ingredient of a healthy party – Rachel Garnham, CLPD


“Enabling members – individually and collectively through trade unions and socialist societies – to select candidates and make policy is not just right in principle, it is essential to a healthy, vibrant and inspiring Party.”

By Rachel Garnham, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)

The last few weeks have plumbed some new depths in Starmer’s offensive on Labour Party democracy, including Jamie Driscoll’s exclusion from the longlist for North East Mayor despite (or perhaps because of) an impressive track record as a Labour Mayor and strong support in the region, allegedly for appearing alongside one of Britain’s most famous film directors discussing his films. And on top of this some new ‘legal’ advice appears designed to stop members even discussing the exclusion for no apparent reason at all, other than a lack of being able to win the political argument and a tendency to authoritarianism.

Meanwhile in Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon, a bizarrely constructed super-quick online selection, with a whole batch of irregularities alleged, has apparently done its job in excluding current Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter – one of the very best MPs to join parliament in 2019, doing an absolutely brilliant job while also leading on key issues, such as the outrageous treatment of staff at a national level in higher education.

These new outrages come on top of the ongoing suspension of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, the removal of excellent union-backed candidates from parliamentary shortlists, failure to implement some of the key recommendations of the Forde report, an apparently non-existent appeals process for those unfairly expelled and flagrant ignoring of the rulebook in lack of implementation of disabled and BAME members’ structures, alongside a running down of Labour’s women’s organisation.

On top of this, Labour is ignoring its democratically agreed policy, which will do it no favours in upcoming by-elections and a future general election – and means it does not have the transformative policies needed in government to improve people’s lives and start to undo years of Tory neglect and mismanagement.

Just this week, Rachel Reeves rowed back from an already minimal pledge of £28 billion a year investment in green jobs and industry. This is absolutely essential to tackling the existential threat of climate change, as well as attempts to grow the economy. Reeves’ arguments are woeful. Wes Streeting is insistent that the private sector provides solutions to the crisis in the NHS when what is needed is proper investment, an end to privatisation and a decent pay rise for NHS workers. And while Labour is rightly on the attack about water companies’ under-investment causing sewage to be pumped into our waterways, the front bench is ideologically opposed to the obvious and necessary solution – re-nationalisation.

This is why left members of Labour’s National Policy Forum are working together to try to ensure members’ and trade unions’ voices are heard, and Conference policy is adhered to, when the body meets in Nottingham in July. We have submitted a whole host of amendments to the draft document to strengthen Labour’s policies on such issues as ending private sector involvement in the NHS, reversing academisation of schools, ending tuition fees, building more council housing and repealing regressive Tory legislation on migration and asylum rights, voter ID and the right to protest. While the odds are stacked against us in this deeply undemocratic process, we can but try to ensure common sense prevails on these key policies.

Enabling members – individually and collectively through trade unions and socialist societies – to select candidates and make policy is not just right in principle (and in the rulebook), it is essential to a healthy, vibrant and inspiring Party. It ensures we draw on the strengths and knowledge of hundreds of thousands of people who are in touch with the hopes, needs and concerns of their communities. It should be an enormous strength – not the millstone it is apparently seen as. Without democracy, the Party becomes sclerotic and out of touch. Members’ voices must be heard.

Featured Image: Conference hall at the Labour Party Conference 2016

2 thoughts on “Democracy is an essential ingredient of a healthy party – Rachel Garnham, CLPD

  1. Very difficult to remain a Member of Starmer’s “Labour” Party. If we cannot alter the direction, we need a NEW PARTY? A massive amount of work and dedication, but there MUST be an alternative? We’ve not managed to to get rid of people like Starmer, Streeting, etc.
    There’s a massive lack of Labour values, and it no longer feels temporary. They also seem to share that total lack of morality/common-sense/competence that the Tories have displayed for the past 13 years.
    Many actual Labour Members have already left in disgust, plus the large number that have been kicked out… STARTING A NEW, REAL, LABOUR PARTY would attract a large ready-made membership?

  2. Wrecking the NHS = more dodgy non-Labour basic values. Combined with the total lack of democracy within the Party, we have to face it: the Labour Party now exists in name only.

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