Far-left push for £5m spending spree including SIX extra annual conferences

An influential far-left pressure group is pushing for Labour to go on a £5 million spending spree that would see the party hold six extra national conferences every year.

The demands have been submitted by the far-left Grassroots Labour bloc as part of the party’s internal Democracy Review announced by Jeremy Corbyn last year. Grassroots Labour is dominated by figures from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy led by Peter Willsman, and controls the pro-Corbyn slate in the party’s NEC elections, typically handing them nine positions on the party’s 39-strong ruling committee.

Amongst the group’s most expensive proposals is one to double the amount of money handed to local parties from £2.50 a member to £5, with a further £1 top-up for local parties “in the top 35% of relative membership increases”. Ignoring another proposed bonus for marginal constituencies, that equates to an extra £1.6 million for local parties, based on estimated party membership of 570,000.

That money would be in the hands of a proposed ten elected officials in each local party, up from the six required at present, with local Labour councillors banned from having any official say on how it is spent. The move would be see cash pour into far-left strongholds in London with high membership.

Another proposal is for the party to hold up to six national conferences every year, on top of Labour’s annual conference in autumn. The submission demands that “disability, BAME and LGBT Labour should each have … an annual conference”, plus two more “delegate based” conferences for BAME Labour.

In a sign of the influence of Grassroots Labour on the party leadership, it’s sixth proposed conference – an independent, two-day Annual Women’s Conference to replace the day-long event that usually precedes Labour’s annual conference – is already being organised for 2019.

Labour does not publish figures on the cost of its annual conference, but official records show the Conservatives spent more than £4.5 million on each of their last two.

New events and structures would be supported in part by five extra full-time staff: one for BAME Labour, three for Young Labour and one “ombudsperson” to hear complaints against members. On a rock-bottom annual wage of £20,000, the new hires would cost £100,000 a year.

Various other demands would add five reps to Labour’s already unwieldy NEC, including two for a resurrected “Labour Party Black Socialists” group, and appoint three new Shadow Ministers to work specifically on disability, BAME and LGBT issues.

There is one proposal from Grassroots Labour that many in the party will be happy to get behind: catering at conference should be “reasonably priced and plentiful”.

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