Labour First's Submission to the Democracy Review 2018


Labour First is a network of Labour Party moderates. We believe that the structure of the Labour Party should be determined by the purpose of the Labour Party. This is set out in Clause I of the Party’s constitution:

“Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.

The Party shall bring together members and supporters who share its values to develop policies, make communities stronger through collective action and support, and promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process.”

Labour is not an NGO or a social movement campaigning on a single issue, we are a social democratic political party that fights elections with the objective of taking power locally and nationally to build a more equal and just society. We therefore have to balance out priorities to create a programme for government that we can win elections with and implement once in power. Our structures always need to enable us to effectively fight and win elections, and to govern effectively.

Our structure is a federal one, representing the nature of the coalition of trade unions and socialist societies (with the later addition of individual members organised in CLPs, and a formal alliance with the Co-operative Party) that came together to found the party with the objective of achieving representation for working people in Parliament.

Here are our responses to the questions set by the Review:


Diversity and Participation 

How should Young Labour be organised nationally, regionally and locally?

We believe the current rules for Young Labour give sufficient flexibility for an organisation focussed on campaigning, political education and enjoyable social events.

We would not want to see a more rigid structure with multiple layers of office-holders, policy-making and delegates to party structures as the experience with Labour League of Youth, Young Socialists and LPYS was that this made the organisations attractive targets for entryism.

We believe that the important electoral role of students in Labour’s coalition of support, and the unique organisational challenges of voters on campus, student union and NUS elections, mean that Labour Students should be enfranchised in the election of the NEC Youth Rep, either through an electoral college (one third each for Labour Students, Young Labour and young trade unionists and socialist society members) to elect a single NEC Youth Rep or 2 reps, one each for Young Labour and Labour Students.


How can your local Party better reflect the local community?

The cost of membership remains prohibitively high for working class people, which means the party has a membership that is disproportionately white, middle class, southern and graduates. Within CLPs, middle class ward parties are often many times larger than working class ones. The party needs to target recruitment campaigns at working class and BAME communities. Now that we have a larger membership and a culture of many members giving small donations, the cost of joining should be reduced and the rates simplified to £20 for people in work and £10 for people not in work.


How should Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority members and organisations be represented in the Party?

For many BAME members, the principle of BAME self-organisation is an important one. We would therefore recommend the party develops a recruitment and development plan with BAME Labour to enable it to grow into a large and vibrant organisation representing as many as possible of Labour’s BAME members. This will require the party to proactively encourage BAME members to join BAME Labour, and BAME Labour to be supported to absorb this increased membership. BAME Labour should continue to have a seat on the NEC. It should receive a second seat if it reaches 20,000 members.


How should women's organisations operate and be represented in the Party?

We believe the current rules for Women’s Forums give sufficient flexibility.


What role should Women's Conference have?

We support the new formal role in the policy making process of National Annual Women’s Conference.


How do we improve the number of women candidates, and increase women's representation and the involvement of women in the Party?

Quotas and All Women Shortlists are currently the way to ensure the fair representation of women as candidates, in party office-holder positions and as delegates in party structures.


How do we improve the number of candidates from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds and increase the representation and involvement of people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds at all levels of the Party?

An estimated 12.8% of the UK population are from ethnic minorities so the party should be looking for at least this level of BAME representation in its national structures and parliamentary candidates. In the absence of it being legally possible to have BAME quotas and all BAME shortlists, initial progress will need to be made by political encouragement of CLPs and wards to select BAME candidates, particularly in areas where there are multi-member council wards, and use of de facto all-BAME shortlists in some of the constituencies where late or by-election shortlists gives the NEC control of the shortlisting process.


How would we make it easier for people with disabilities to be involved in the Party?

There needs to be a national fund that people with disabilities can apply to to cover the costs of them accessing Labour Party activities, and for CLPs to apply to to cover the costs of making the necessary adaptations to make activities accessible.

Best practice from Oxford, where a group of members with disabilities has encouraged and mentored several disabled council candidates to come forward, should be shared nationally.


How do we improve the number of disabled candidates we have and increase the representation of people with disabilities in the Party?

The level of disabled representation in parliament is lower than that of any other minority group. This is unacceptable. As well as the national fund mentioned in the previous question giving grants to prospective candidates to help them overcome barriers to access such as travel costs, the national party should run weekend schools and mentoring schemes and maintain a central list of candidates with disabilities who it judges would make excellent holders of public office and promote them to CLPs.

There should be a reserved seat for people with disabilities on the NEC, to be elected by Disability Labour members once this socialist society has been supported by the party to recruit 2,500 members.


How do we improve the representation and involvement of LGBT+ members in the Party?

There should be a reserved seat on the NEC elected by LGBT Labour when this socialist society reaches 2,500 members. The party should promote recruitment to LGBT Labour to maximise its membership and the number of people involved in electing this NEC rep.


How do we improve the number of LGBT+ candidates we have and increase LGBT+ representation in the Party?

The Party should work with LGBT Labour to run weekend schools and mentoring schemes to ensure LGBT+ members have the skills and support necessary to run for public office as councillors or MPs and to stand for office in their CLPs.


What other groups should we focus on?

Older people, people from working class backgrounds.


Electing our leadership

How should we elect our Party Leader?

The Leader and Deputy Leader should be elected by an Electoral College that reflects the main stakeholders in the party. We would propose its composition should be MPs 30%, Members 30%, Affiliates 30%, Councillors 10%. There should be no multiple voting within or between sections, and each section should vote by OMOV.


What role should registered supporters have in leadership elections?

None. Now that we have a mass membership party there is no need for a separate category of registered supporters and this should  be abolished.


What should be the nomination threshold to get on the ballot paper to stand for Party Leader?

Candidates for Party Leader and Deputy Leader should require nomination from 20% of the PLP. This should also apply to incumbents in the event of a challenge, which should be triggerable by a vote of no confidence by the PLP.


How should "freeze dates" work in elections for the Leader, the National Executive Committee and for delegates to Annual and other Conferences?

There should be a uniform freeze date of six months for all these cases, in order to prevent recruitment solely for the purpose of influencing an internal election or selection.


Does the current composition of the National Executive Committee need to be changed or not?

In addition to the changes set out in the section on diversity, we believe that the CLP section is not sufficiently diverse geographically, with the particular issue of northern and Midlands regions, which elect the majority of Labour MPs, being unrepresented; and we believe councillors are a key stakeholder in the party as a funder through the ALC levy, as representatives of Labour in power locally, and as the backbone of local campaigning. We would therefore propose:

  • An increase from 9 to 12 representatives for CLPs (with representatives elected by OMOV by pairs of regions, with a second rep for London due to its large membership, in order to ensure gender balance - 2 reps for London; 2 reps for Eastern, South East and Labour International; 2 reps for South West and Wales; 2 reps for East Midlands and West Midlands; 2 reps for North West and Yorkshire & Humberside; 2 reps for North, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
  • An increase from 2 to 4 representatives for councillors.

As these changes and other recent ones would result in a large NEC, we would recommend formalising the role of the Officers’ Group as the inner permanent standing committee elected by and from the NEC, renaming it the Officers’ Committee and defining its membership as the Leader, Deputy Leader, Treasurer, Chair, Vice-Chair, Chair of the Organisation Committee, NEC Co-Convenor of the JPC, Chair of the NPF (when an NEC member), Chair of the Equalities Committee and Chair of the Disputes Panel.


Does the current system of elections for the National Executive Committee need to be changed or not?

In the event that our proposal for regionalising the CLP section is not taken forward, we would recommend a proportional voting system for the NEC so that diversity can be promoted.


Building a mass movement

How do we get our increased membership more involved in the Party?

CLPs and branches need to be encouraged to use their formal meetings to plan a campaign activity at least every month, a social event at least every quarter, and a political education event or debate at least every quarter, as it is these activities that will attract members to get involved rather than an expectation of immediate interest in attending formal meetings. However, many CLP and Branch Officer teams will need training and support to carry out this level of activity and the party needs to be careful not to put people off taking up voluntary roles as local officers by making excessive demands on them, given that the basic functioning of a CLP in terms of internal democracy, finance and compliance, and contesting elections is already an onerous workload for volunteers.


How do we recruit more people into the Party?

The cost of membership remains prohibitively high for working class people, which means the party has a membership that is disproportionately white, middle class, southern and graduates. Within CLPs, middle class ward parties are often many times larger than working class ones. The party needs to target recruitment campaigns at working class and BAME communities. Now that we have a larger membership and a culture of many members giving small donations, the cost of joining should be reduced and the rates simplified to £20 for people in work and £10 for people not in work.


How we make policy

What role should Constituency Labour Parties have in making policy?

CLPs should organise local deliberative forum-style discussion of policy to enable members to input ideas, express their views and increase their political education. The results of these deliberations should be submitted to the National Policy Forum. Resolutions on more urgent issues passed by CLPs should be submitted direct to the relevant Shadow frontbench teams.


What role should Party Conference have in making policy?

Party conference should have the final sign-off on all policy documents.


What role should motions and contemporary motions have at Conference?

We do not believe that the party should return to the pre-1997 model of adversarial debates on motions. This is an artificial, confrontational and divisive way to decide policy. It does not result in developing policies that can command consensus support, and are based on evidence. It runs the risk of creating stories of internal division that damage conference’s role as a showcase for Labour as a potential government to the public. The primary route for policy development should be the NPF and its commissions where proper consideration can be given to evidence, and policies can be negotiated that have consensus support.


How do we develop local and regional economic plans and local policy?

Policy forum structures should be convened for the relevant geographical area that represent all stakeholders in the local party. The final sign-off on manifestoes should continue to be with the relevant Labour Group.


How can motions from Constituency Labour Parties be dealt with more effectively?

Motions on urgent matters should be submitted to the relevant Shadow frontbench teams. Motions or local policy forum findings relating to longer-term policy development should be submitted to the relevant NPF Policy Commission. In both cases there should be a guarantee of a written response setting out what the view of the receiving


What are your views on the National Policy Forum and how it works?

The composition of the NPF is a reasonable reflection of the different stakeholders in the party whose voices need to be heard in policy-making. The actual NPF membership includes many people with a wealth of policy expertise. It is therefore a shame that the NPF is not seen to be carrying out the leading role in policy development. It needs to be meeting regularly, and the work programme of evidence taking, research and drawing up policy documents of its Policy Commissions needs to be clearly publicised so that members, CLPs and affiliates know where and when to feed in their ideas.


Your local Labour Party

What changes (if any) are needed to the way we work at Constituency level?

We believe that the current rules give considerable scope for flexibility in how CLPs are organised, to reflect local geography and very dramatic differences in size of membership. We believe the NEC should issue guidelines on the maximum membership size of a branch, and encourage CLPs to split up branches where they have become unmanageably large; and on the maximum size above which it is unrealistic to have an All Member Meeting model and a delegate-based GC would work more effectively.


The way we work

Do changes need to be made to Annual Conference, and if so what changes?

The current system of bundling debates on different motions and policy documents together, with them all moved and then calling speakers at random produces unbalanced and confusing debates.

We propose that there should be separate debates timetabled for each motion or policy document. Within each debate speeches should be balanced with the same number of speeches for and against the motion or document, with each speech in favour followed by a speech against. Rather than the chair having to notice speakers indicating from the floor, a system of cards requesting to speak would ensure balance in the debate and in terms of gender, geography, CLP vs Affiliate delegates etc.


What changes (if any) should be made to the way we work at a regional level?

We do not propose any rule changes to the regional level of the party.


How do we strengthen links between the Party and the trade unions locally?

CLP trade union officers should be supported by being provided contact details of relevant union branches in their area so they can encourage them to formally affiliate and thence become involved in the life of the CLP.


How do we get more trade unionists involved with the Party?

A substantial database of the trade unionists most interested in the Party already exists in the form of the Affiliated Supporters who signed up to vote in the 2015 and 2016 leadership elections. CLPs need to be encouraged to use this data to invite them to campaigning, political education and social events.


How do we develop the relationship between Labour local authority representatives and the Party at a local level?

We believe that in most local authority areas there is already a very healthy relationship between Labour Groups, the LCF and CLPs.


What changes (if any) need to be made to the Party's relationship with any of our Socialist Societies, Friends Groups or other similar groups?

We do not propose any changes in this area.


How do we harness the potential of social media across all aspects of our democracy and political work?

Individual members should be given every opportunity to submit their views on policy to the NPF and its policy commissions via social media. This will however require staff time to analyse, process and respond to submissions.




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