Conference votes to strengthen role of 600,000 ordinary members
DELEGATES to Labour conference voted yesterday to boost the role of the party’s 600,000 members and millions of affiliated trade unionists.
Left-wing MPs have praised the rule changes as strengthening the voice of ordinary people in the party and making it easier for Labour to win power as “a party for the many and not the few.”
There will now be three more seats on the party’s national executive for constituency party reps and one more for trade unions, taking the total number of members to 28.
They also voted to reduce the amount of MPs and MEPs needed to nominated a leadership candidate from 15 to 10 per cent, known as the McDonnell amendment, after Labour MPs shut the leftwinger out of the 2007 and 2010 contests.
Supporters of the change — including grassroots group Momentum — have said this would make it far more likely that leftwingers would head the party in the future, reflecting the vast new membership. They have argued that MPs currently have an undemocratic veto on candidates.
The 10 per cent threshold was a compromise, with the original proposal being 5 per cent.
Leeds East MP and shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon told the Star that it is right that the party is taking steps to “modernise itself” now that its membership has tripled since before the 2015 general election to around 600,000 people.
The changes should go further in allowing members the choice on who makes it onto leadership ballots, Mr Burgon said.
“If Labour is going to be a party for the many and not the few then members should be given as much of a voice as possible, including on what the choice is when it comes to leadership elections in the future.
“I think it’s very important — that now we have a review coming up of future party rules — we ensure that Labour as a party is fit for purpose for the modern age in the way it functions.
“I would like to see this review consider a way that all constituent elements of the Labour movement – MPs, [constituency parties] and the trade unions and affiliated socialist societies — can all have a say in the future over who is on the leadership ballot.”
Rejecting the moaning of rightwingers, Mr Burgon noted that “MPs have an important role to play but so does everyone else.”
Derby North MP Chris Williamson said the changes will make the party more democratic.
“Involving Labour’s mass movement in developing policy will strengthen our party and make it easier to win power to change the course of history and create a new consensus that will radically change political discourse.