Democracy Review to send Labour back to 1970s

Labour is set to hand policy-making powers back to its annual conference, risking a repeat of bitter splits over policy in the 70s and 80s.

Labour is set to hand policy-making powers back to its annual conference, risking a repeat of bitter splits over policy in the 70s and 80s.

The Mirror has already revealed that the party’s ‘democracy review’ will scrap the National Policy Forum (NPF), the party’s elected policy-making body established by Neil Kinnock.

But The Red Roar understands that the far-left Grassroots Labour bloc, which controls nine of the 39 places on Labour’s NEC and is endorsed by Jon Lansman, has secured more radical changes that will place policy-making powers back in the hands of its annual conference.

Foremost amongst those changes revealed in the far-left’s submission to the review was a “rolling programme of policy subject to amendments by conference that should form the basis of Labour’s manifesto”.

This was how the Labour Party produced policy until the establishment of the NPF in the 90s to “ensure that party and government stayed in tune rather than falling prey to internal feuding”. Before that party leaders and conference would regularly clash over policy: Jim Callaghan was accused of betrayal for failing to adopt conference policies in his 1979 manifesto, contributing to the election of Foot whose 1983 manifesto based on conference demands was deemed “the longest suicide note in history”.

The proposals, largely written by NEC members, also suggest that Labour’s Joint Policy Committee drawn from all sections of the party is replaced with a sub-committee made up of NEC members alone.

The far-left submission hints that existing members and staff of the NPF may eke out an existence in support of this reinvigorated policy-making annual conference, with “a very significant increase in support staff” to carry out the considerable amount of work that a policy-making conference would require. Another suggestion is that an NPF-successor act as an enforcer of conference’s policy decisions, “ensuring that Labour’s frontbench is kept fully accountable between party conferences”.

Other unreported features of the democracy review regard the make-up of Labour’s ruling NEC and on the running of local Labour groups.

On the NEC, Lansman’s Grassroots Labour has pushed two options: one that would remove voting rights from MPs on the committee, and a fallback position that would allow them to remain on the NEC while compensating for them with more positions elected from the wider, left-dominated membership.

Labour councillors face an uncertain future too, with the far-left submission describing them as members of “self-interested, self-perpetuating and privileged cliques, largely unaccountable to the membership”. Councillors would be banned from most positions in their local party, pay their councillor levy to local officials instead of the national party, and have their council leader selected by local members.

By sharing the review’s conclusions with NEC members now, well ahead of final votes at conference in September, the party leadership risks months of internal warfare at a time when the government could collapse and Brexit is imminent.

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