The first wave of Refounding Labour reforms were voted through yesterday after deals were done between the leadership and the unions. But does any of this amount to much at all? The watered-down proposals on restored supporters really does not amount to much at all to the point that I wonder what on earth is the point of it all?
By all accounts the NEC itself had precious little time to debate the Refounding Labour proposals so I suppose we can’t be surprised that conference didn’t either. At the NEC meeting three members voted against the proposals, Ann Black, Christine Shawcross and Johanna Baxter. All three did so because of the weight of heir (e)mailbags — all of which were massively hostile to the proposals. Given where the Party is at the moment it may seem weird to ignore such hostility but in reality this was nothing like Ed’s Clause 4 moment.
Just how practical is any of this stuff? Registered members get 3% of the electoral college come a leadership election. Is this really significant? There are real practical problems in opening up more localised selections — Councillors and MPs — to include registered supporters. A selection meeting in my part of the world can take hours because of the problems in verifying membership. This is also a part of the world in which we have constant problems with the buying of mass memberships, particularly amongst those who qualify of the reduced weight. What’s to stop anyone using community organisations registered with Labour to do precisely the same thing?
Last night I put some of these concerns to a long-standing member of the NEC. I was told that in all probability these changes will never actually happen because they will be so difficult to implement in practice. Indeed, the NEC has spend much of the last few years quietly disposing of the ideas of Gordon Brown for Party reform which were simply impractical.
Which brings us back to members. Remember the great days of last year when membership was booming? Not so now, in fact, the Party has lost over 10,000 members I believe since the early summer, despite Ed’s heroics over Murdoch, etc.
Membership will continue to fall while Members themselves get nothing for their Membership and where their views and opinions have such little value.
Labour must see Members as one the key building blocks in Party renewal. This will mean doing things differently and no doubt reforming our structures and procedures. But it has to be seen that members are seen as important partners and not just cheap Labour for leafleting and voter ID (as important as those are).
With membership falling again this Party faces the same problem that it has faced for a decade or so now, that more and more work falls on less and less people.
I have no sense that Labour supporters — let alone members — really favour a US style system and presidential politics. Nor is there any sense that the vast number of members are anything but massively opposed to the State Funding of political parties, and suspicion remains that we are holding on for Christopher Kelly to recommend such a system.
Our renewal — our future — will depend on members. Our task is to make their voice count and to the inspiration from their passion and political drive.
More than ever — despite refunding Labour:
Labour = members.