The Party have asked 10 questions, some of which seem very similar; I have not had time to decode many of them. I have submitted my answers which are based on the CLPD model answers but in some cases mine are shorter because argument is taken out and in some cases I have added new content.

  1. What constitutes a successful policy-making system for our party and what do we expect from our policy-making process?

 A successful policy-making system is one in which all members and affiliates are able to genuinely influence Party policy and know how to do so.  Knowing that they will be able to have a meaningful input into the Labour Party’s policy making is one of the reasons for which people join the Labour Party, particularly those for who have no hope of electing a Labour MP.

Central to any future policy-making system is Annual Conference as our supreme policy-making body at which all[1] CLPs and affiliates are democratically represented. Motions passed by more than a two-thirds majority must be included in the Party’s programme, which should exist and be available to the membership, as specified in the rulebook, and eligible for inclusion in the manifesto. It should be clear to all stakeholders that motions passed at Annual Conference are Party policy. 

  1. How can we ensure that the Party’s policy making process oversees genuine and meaningful policy development

The current ‘twin-track’ system must be improved.  

Conference should be able to consider amendments and both one motion and one rule change permitted. The current choice between policy and rules inhibits a wider source of policy initiatives.

As well as each CLP and affiliate being permitted to submit at least one policy motion to Annual Conference, there should be the re-introduction of the ability to submit one amendment to a motion, as well as the right to submit an additional constitutional amendment.  Card votes to establish the required ⅔ majority for inclusion in the Programme should be able to be called from the floor.

Policy submissions from CLPs and affiliates submitted direct to the National Policy Forum should receive a meaningful response from the appropriate policy commission.

The extension of the number of topics discussed at conference is a huge benefit to the policy portfolio e.g. mental health has never been debated at national conference before 2019 and almost certainly would not have done so, if only eight topics had been discussed.

The NPF, or something like it, should be maintained; we need a continuous policy development capability beyond the shadow or real cabinet.

  1. How can we make our policy making process more inclusive?

 The National Policy Forum needs serious reform if it is to engage and represent our diverse membership.  Its membership should be more representative of grassroots members, and they need to be more effective. Staff and officers of the NPF should not be accountable to the NEC as this can inhibit their accountability to the NPF.

Conference reference back of NPF report must be retained.

The role of CLP policy officer needs to be defined and clarified.

The NPF web site should be rewritten to allow compositing i.e. the aggregation of proposals into topics smaller than a commission; at the moment the same proposal can be made several times and its support spread across each copy, and thus underestimated.

  1. How can we make our policy making process more transparent, democratic and engaging?

 Starting with Annual Conference procedures, the majority of time available should be allocated to debate involving elected delegates. The increase in the number of motion-based topics discussed and the removal of arbitrary criteria has been a welcome step forward in enabling conference to discuss the key issues prioritised by CLPs and affiliates.

Card votes to establish the required ⅔ majority for inclusion in the Programme should be able to be called from the floor.

A system must be found for selecting speakers for debates which is both fairer and more transparent than previously, possibly through the use of ‘speaker slips’.   It will assist the democracy and coherence of proceedings if motions / topics and Constitutional Amendments are debated and voted on separately, not bundled together in packages.

 If policy commissions are to be retained, there should be much greater transparency about how they operate – who is involved, what impact they have, decisions made, when and how often they meet etc – and how submissions have impacted on policy documents.

 As mentioned above, the National Policy Forum, or any replacement democratically elected body tasked with continuous policy development and engagement, should be much more representative of the grassroots members with a higher proportion of the membership allocated to CLP and trade union representatives.

We do not want to return to the position under New Labour and to some extent Ed Miliband where policy was made by shadow cabinet commissions, it is both undemocratic and fails to take account of the wisdom of crowds and will lack popular socialisation as shown by the emergence of the free broad band promise.

  1. How can we ensure that our policy making process addresses the fundamental challenges of the future, while also responding effectively to the immediate policy changes that we are facing now?

In order to ensure that we as a Party address the fundamental challenges of the future, we should trust our membership through Conference and our elected leadership.

Something like the NPF needs to be retained to ensure continuous policy developments and an appropriate rection to events.

  1. How can we use our policy making process to ensure that Labour reflects the values and priorities of the country and of the communities we serve?

 A mass membership party is harder to ‘capture’ and will be more likely to reflect the communities in which they serve. Our members are our greatest asset – based in their communities and in touch with voters in their families, workplaces, educational institutions and voluntary groups.

Any future policy-making process must recognise the important role of a mass membership from across our diverse communities.

This must be valued and nurtured, with CLPs and their democratically elected officers given support to function as hubs of political discussion, campaigning and voluntary activity, enabling them to play an active role in the policy-making process. A development programme should be established, properly funding CLPs with a targets for members/vote and contact rates; thus the CLP capitation fee should be reviewed with a view to increasing it.

  1. How can we best use the expertise of our members and affiliates to develop policy?

 The NPF (or its successor) and it’s web site have a role here. The voice of members and their expertise needs to be made available to the policy process, possibly by holding open commission meetings where evidence can be presented to the NPF.

The role of Policy Officers needs to be codified and included in enabling a democratic, inclusive policy process.

If NPF members are to have any manageable role, they would need a very significant increase in support-staff.

The NPF should continue to be able to produce Minority Reports (and be encouraged to do so on an annual basis, not just in the final year) in order to give Conference more options.

  1. How can we ensure our policy development process delivers a manifesto that can win elections so that we can transform the country in line with our values?

 This question is redundant unless it’s code for in what circumstances can or should the parliamentary leadership drop democratically developed policy in order to win. E.g. free movement, Brexit, and for instance, the Spycops bill.

Good, democratically developed policy will win an election.

  1. How can we best engage with external organisations, communities, businesses and the wider public at a local and national level?

 CLPs should also be encouraged to engage with local organisations and support local policy-based campaigns.

The NPF or its successor should invite external organisations to give evidence to it. 

  1. How can we best use technology to reach a bigger audience in a more meaningful way?

 The current Policy Forum website has not been used to its optimum utility with submissions not receiving responses (either via the appropriate Policy Commission or from (volunteer) NPF members) due to their volume and to many being hostile to the Labour Party’s principles and philosophy.

Classification is too narrow and there is no collection/aggregation facility, there is no karma system.

There should be categories for CLPs and affiliates to record their submissions so that these can be easily identified and considered by the appropriate Policy Commission.

Overall the current site is very unsatisfactory for ordinary members as what they say appears to vanish into a void, and there is no social dimension. Technology should be better used to enable online discussion but within the Party and the blog service which was in place and discontinued with the broken promise to restore author’s content might be best restarted within a private community. i.e. not facebook nor linkedin.

We can’t replace large conferences, or general committees with video conferencing, too much of the interpersonal communication is lost; we’d be just as useful if we just swapped youtube playlists.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

This submission was based on the CLPD model template. I have made a number of changes, eliminating duplication and focusing on changes needed rather than arguments.

[1] Actually not! A large number cannot afford to send people to conference, and elsewhere I have argued for it to be a central cost, and to be a day shorter to allow people in work to more easily attend.

Making Policy in the Labour Party
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