Tensions grow within Labour

Submitted by martin on 24 September, 2009 - 12:29 Author: Martin Thomas
LRC

As the Labour Party approaches its annual conference (Brighton, from 27 September), tensions within the party are increasing.

Whether they will find expression on conference floor is another thing. Successive restructurings have turned the "conference" into a glorified photo-opportunity. The "Partnership in Power" rule changes of 1997 was followed in 2007 by the banning of current political motions from trade unions and local Labour Parties in favour of "issues" to be safely remitted to the National Policy Forum.

Even the Labour Party conference was usually lively, conferences coming just before General Elections were usually muted, with the leadership telling everyone to shelve their differences for fear of losing the election.

However, with Labour steadily heading for a wipe-out in the general election due before June 2010, morale at the top of New Labour is low, and dissent is bubbling on all sides.

From the "Blairite" wing of New Labour - reputed to be more right-wing than Brown, though the real political differences are obscure - Charles Clarke came out just before conference with a call for Gordon Brown to resign, claiming that otherwise Labour would be in opposition for "ten or fifteen years".

The Trade Union Liaison Organisation (TULO), the body organising the unions affiliated to the Labour Party, has called for the 2007 ban on motions to be reversed. Since the unions still have 50% of the votes at conference, and the ban is due to be reviewed this year, that should settle the matter. The unions can just vote it through. If the union leaders have the will, that is.

However, as we understand, the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Tuesday 23 September was deadlocked on the issue. It has been remitted to an emergency NEC meeting on Saturday 26th.

Insiders say that Gordon Brown said he was willing to concede one small democratic reform - either restoration of motions, or direct election of constituency delegates to the National Policy Forum by Labour Party members rather than indirect election from constituency delegates at conference - but not two.

The best guess is that the "review" of the ban on motions will be adjourned to 2010 conference, and that the unions will go along with that. Whether 2010 conference will be an easier ride for Brown's successor, however, remains to be seen.

Left-wing voices within the Labour Party remain feeble. The Labour Representation Committee, the major such voice, has its annual conference coming up on 14 November.

Click here for LRC conference.

Comments

Submitted by martin on Mon, 28/09/2009 - 19:45

The latest information, as of 28 September, is:

* Insiders say that the Labour Party leadership has definitely conceded on restoring the right for unions and local Labour Parties to put motions to Labour Party conference, and motions will be restored as from the 2010 conference.

* The Guardian on 28 September, however, reports that a further emergency meeting of the Labour Party National Executive is to be called to discuss this.

* The same article in the Guardian says that the unions are backing the call for direct election of local Labour Party reps on the National Policy Forum, and it may be voted through. This change could be more significant than at first appears, opening the way to regular challenges to the Labour Party leadership at conference around "minority reports" from the NPF.

* The top Labour Party leadership does indeed give every sign of being demoralised. Peter Mandelson told the Sunday Times on 27 September that he would like to get a top government job - though not actually as a minister - under a Tory government. Alistair Darling told the Observer that the people at the top of the Labour Party had "lost the will to live".

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 01/10/2009 - 14:34

So Tony Woodley tears up the Sun and Harriet Harman attacks its sexism. Pathetic - after years of the Labour government being in bed with the right-wing press.

Woodley has, in effect, gone along with the policies which originally won Murdoch's support and supported the Blair and Brown governments at every step. Gate Gourmet, McDonnell, Bournemouth, Vestas... again and again he and his ilk talk left and act right. Tearing up the Sun - but only after it breaks with the Blairites - is typical Woodley histrionics.

Now we read that the government is considering compulsory institutionalisation for teenage mothers (see here) - a piece of crazy Victorian authoritarianism that is also, btw, BNP policy. Even by the low standards of New Labour, I'm genuinely shocked.

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by Janine on Thu, 01/10/2009 - 16:09

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