Labour Executive backs plan to abolish conference democracy

Submitted by martin on 18 September, 2007 - 8:10 Author: Martin Thomas

The Labour Party National Executive Committee, meeting on 18 September, has endorsed Gordon Brown's plan to ban unions and local Labour Parties from putting motions to Labour Party conference.

A rule change will go to Labour Party conference, which starts on 23 September in Bournemouth.

The one "concession" by Brown is that the rule change can be reviewed in 2009. Most big union leaders had said they would oppose Brown's plan, but with that "concession" all the union representatives on the Executive voted to ban their own unions from proposing motions on current political issues.

The Executive vote was 23 to 4 for Brown's plan, with one abstention. All the four votes against were from representatives of the local Labour Parties.

As the analysis on this website shows, Brown's plan is a move of epoch-defining import.

If consolidated, it would "destroy the Labour Party as a democratic political organisation based on the labour movement... Labour would be reduced to the status of a US-type political party... The labour movement would [have only]... a junior lobbying role.. The working class would be to all intents and purposes disenfranchised. We would be back to the situation we faced when the [Labour] party was first founded".

It is vital, therefore, that socialists rally maximum support for a drive in the trade unions to ensure that rule changes reversing Brown's plan are submitted for the 2008 Labour conference.

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Comments

Submitted by martin on Wed, 19/09/2007 - 14:02

The AWL has produced a short leaflet - "Call the union leaders to account!" - as an immediate response. Download it here (see "attachments" on this page).

Submitted by martin on Thu, 20/09/2007 - 17:16

Report from Chris Ford: Approx twenty people attended a meeting on 19 September, called under the auspices of the Labour Representation Committee, to discuss a response to the Labour NEC decision,.

Gary Heather, a CWU activist and Labour conference delegate from Islington North CLP, provided a report based on a glossy brochure of the LP NEC decisions which delegates to LP conference had received that morning, 19 September. So it was sent for printing, and maybe even posted, before the NEC had taken a vote!

The meeting last night decided:

1. Call on the LRC Officers to meet as matter of urgency this week to discuss the NEC decisions, the Brown reforms and the way forward.

2. Try and get emergency motions for Labour Party conference from CLPs where possible.

3. Get motions to Union NECs on the action of union reps on the LP NEC in backing the changes without any previous democratic decision to do so from their own unions.

4. An urgent LRC leaflet (based on the current text on the website) should be produced for LP confernce.

5. Time to be given over at the LRC fringe meeting at LP confernce on building the fightback against the reforms.

6. The next LRC National Committee should be another extended meeting preferably on a weekend to discuss the reforms, their consequences and the way ahead.

Overall the feeling was that there was an urgent necessity to start getting the momentum moving for a campaign of oppostion, building within the unions to reject the vote at the LP NEC".

Submitted by martin on Thu, 20/09/2007 - 17:23

Comment submitted by "Anonymous" on 19 September, 2007 - 15:27.

I see your objection on formalist grounds. I can see that the formal erosion of democracy is "bad". But what exactly is the position you're defending?

The Labour Left is a dead duck and hasn't been able to have one iota of influence on the government for a decade, even despite the current "democracy" within the party.

You're simply defending your right to put motions that are either defeated and/or ignored at conference every year.

The rather desperate tone of your campaign is indicative of the vaccuous nature of the entire "reclaim the Party" project. Seriously, get the clue, this is a party of war, privitization and, if you include the PM's latest comments, less than subtle racism.

Get a grip.

***
A response from Martin Thomas to the comment by "anonymous".

Let's concede that the Labour left is a dead duck. The question is, what are the unions? Are they dead ducks, too?

The unions, at present, have the power to get motions passed through Labour conference. In recent years they have done that, on privatisation, anti-union laws, and other issues.

The decisions are ignored? Indeed. The union general secretaries do not want to be put under pressure by the rank and file to fight for such policies, so they keep quiet about them.

If they wanted to fight for them, they could. They still finance the Labour Party to a large extent, and have a big say in the National Executive. It is just the general secretaries do not want to, and there is not sufficient pressure from the base to make them do so.

The general secretaries do not much want to fight for pay rises, either. And often the pressure from the ranks is not sufficient to make them do that.

But I doubt whether anonymous would say: "Dead ducks. No point in organising in the unions to fight for pay rises. Socialists should instead focus their efforts on advising workers how best to manage with lower rates of real wages".

Why a double stand for economic and for political issues? Why should we give the general secretaries a free hand to carry out whatever betrayal they want on the political front?

Submitted by martin on Sat, 22/09/2007 - 00:16

The Labour Representation Committee reports that this year 96 of the 120 contemporary resolutions were ruled out of order by the Conference Arrangements Committee.
Tony Benn has commented aptly on Brown's proposals in the Guardian.

Submitted by martin on Sat, 22/09/2007 - 00:20

You thought you hadn't heard of any democratic decision by your union to support this political hara-kiri? Quite so.

"The joint leader of the UK's largest trade union has warned Gordon Brown he will fight plans to change the Labour party's constitution. Derek Simpson of Unite said proposals to reduce the union's policy-making role would be resisted..." (BBC News, 9 September).

Tony Woodley of TGWU-Unite and Billy Hayes of the CWU billed themselves to speak at a rally opposing the proposals on 11 September.

"Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of T&G-Unite, said that there was 'not a chance' that the unions would support such a constitutional change. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: 'No one in the GMB is up for changing the constitution.'. Asked if the GMB would vote against, Mr Kenny said: 'Unless there is a dramatic change of heart, it is 99.9 per cent certain that we would'." (Times, 12 September).

But now: "Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: 'We have been asked to trust the Prime Minister. GMB will recommend that we try the new system for two years. If it does not work, agreed mechanisms will be in place to restore the current system on contemporary motions'." (Independent, 21 September).

Call these union leaders to account!

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