National Policy Forum showdown? – Rachel Garnham, CLPD


“All the signs are that the leadership will continue to drive home its right-wing adherence to Reeves’ fiscal rules, Streeting’s privatisation agenda and Cooper’s reactionary approach to asylum and policing.”

By Rachel Garnham, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

Labour’s National Policy Forum meets this weekend in Nottingham in the wake of a huge row over Starmer’s abandonment of the commitment to end the two-child benefit cap, but mixed progress in the by-elections. The meeting is likely to bear all the hallmarks of the current leadership’s approach to Party management – right wing, top down policy combined with anti-democratic practices designed to silence dissenting voices.

All the signs are that the leadership will continue to drive home its right-wing adherence to Reeves’ fiscal rules (which will stifle economic growth and deepen austerity), Streeting’s privatisation agenda and Cooper’s reactionary approach to asylum and policing. Nevertheless, left CLP reps have been working hard to ensure mainstream popular amendments have been submitted, in most cases in line with the policy of Annual Conference, that would support investment in public services, the reduction of inequality and a more progressive foreign policy.

The left will be working with comrades across the movement to promote the policies that Labour needs in government to succeed – to achieve success it would need to seriously address the multiple crises we face. For example the NPF should be looking to strengthen Labour’s climate commitments and reject recent attempts to water these down – we only need to look at the heatwaves currently hitting the entire northern hemisphere – and increasingly worrying signs in our oceans and Antarctica to recognise how necessary it is to take action now, not delay action as is now suggested.

We will be asking for a Labour commitment to renationalisation of water, which is the only viable and serious solution to the crisis in our waterways – ensuring money is invested in improvements, not lining the pockets of shareholders. And in light of the recent high profile case of jailing a woman for having an abortion, I have submitted an amendment calling on the Labour leadership to commit to the decriminalisation of abortion when in office – this was a commitment in the 2019 manifesto and is long overdue.

Left CLP reps will work with the unions as far as we are able to back the demands of workers in struggle – pay rises for our key public sector workers, an end to NHS privatisation and for rights at work. We will also do our best to defend civil liberties and human rights – including the right to protest, the introduction of safe routes for asylum seekers, and support for UN resolutions on Palestine. And we will highlight the progressive policies of Labour in power in Wales and in London and call on the Leadership to learn from these and implement policies such as free school meals across the whole of England.

Rumour has it that in the absence of proper procedures, the Chair may decide whether we are even allowed to vote on key topics. This would be typical Starmerism – if you can’t win the argument then shut down the discussion and democracy. I have no doubt we will win the arguments, if not the votes.

The National Policy Forum, introduced by Blair, is purposefully stacked against grassroots members. But the commitments we are fighting for should be basic building blocks of a Labour government. You have to invest to grow the economy, and we have also proposed a series of wealth tax measures that would fund the introduction of universal free school meals, the abolition of the two child cap and pay rises for public sector workers many times over as well as reducing inequality overall – surely the fundamental purpose of a Labour government. It is Reeves’ ideological commitment to austerity that will be the issue and it is timely to ensure that this is highlighted. Most of all, I hope we will send a clear message that Labour must abolish the barbaric two-child cap on benefits.  

Featured image: Press photographers at the 2016 Labour Party Conference. Photo credit: Rwendland under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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