The left-wing former MP Katy Clark will be leading on the Labour Party democracy review but the terms of the review are not yet clear. Rule change motions that were remitted by conference will all be left on the table. Similar promises of a democratic review were made in 2010 ,with bad results. However with the Corbyn leadership firmly at the helm, there is hope for more thoroughgoing and democratic reform.
As selection procedures will not form part of the review, there will be no discussion of mandatory re-selection or reform of the trigger ballot procedures. It is unclear if CLPs will be asked to make submissions, exactly what role the National Executive, leadership, Parliamentary Labour Party, unions and so on will play. What would thoroughgoing democratic change in the Party look like?
In 2011, the Labour Party launched Refounding Labour. Chaired by Peter Hain, this process was ostensibly able to review everything including the “Partnership in Power” structure introduced by Blair in 1997. Unsurprisingly it failed to deliver very much at all. At the time the Labour Party Democracy Task Force was set up by CLPD and others, including supporters of Workers’ Liberty, to write its own submission and to campaign for real democratic change. Many of its broader proposals are still relevant today.
The task of the review should be to empower members to run the party. This means it should discuss not only selection procedures for MPs but move towards a conference that is focused on discussing policy and debates. This means being able to discuss actual policy resolutions and not contemporary motions that must refer to an event on a specific date. Rule changes should be heard the year they are submitted and implemented following conference. Conference should have the right to not just refer back the National Policy Forum documents but to delete and amend whole sections. If an elected policy development is needed, the opaque and poorly functioning NPF would not be it!
The current review will report directly to Corbyn and to the Party Chair Ian Lavery and should be completed before next September in time for the 2018 conference. It is vital that activists start to argue in the local branches and CLPs to have control over the process and to start a debate on the kind of reform we need now.
• “A Living, Breathing Party” submission to Refounding Labour