How to make Labour’s policy and manifesto

How to make Labour’s policy and manifesto

Consultation is currently taking place as part of Labour's review of the way it makes policy.

Below are set out suggested responses to the questions the party is asking in the consultation. They are also attached as a word document here and a PDF file here.

Responses can be made up till 3 February, either on Labour's website here or emailed to here.

These will be more powerful if you could get a party unit to approve a submission, but there is not much time left.

The Labour Party web site offers the ability to upload the document, if you do this do not forget to add the name of your organisation to this document and to the relevant fields on the website. Otherwise, you can paste each response into the relevant question and amend it if you see fit.

The text of the submission is below/overleaf ...

Electing the GS? Not such a good idea!

Electing the GS? Not such a good idea!

So Momentum have decided that unlike in their own internal affairs, that the best answer to the crisis in democracy in the Labour Party is to elect its General Secretary.   I think this is wrong, critically, without a recall, this would be worse because the individual elected would have a mandate to do what they wanted. It would be poor even with a realistic recall mechanism. This article summarises my proposals, and republishes the idea of a member’s ombudsperson.

In my article, Labour Leak – Closing the Stable Door , I look at a series of reforms that Ithink would make things better. I argue that the Party needs better “controls”, segregation of duties, and better record keeping. I also argue for a new disciplinary system that needs a segregation of duties between, investigators, prosecutors, judges and a right of appeal and that it conforms to the principles of natural justice guaranteeing the right to a fair trial, innocence until proven guilty, the proportionality of any sanctions and that our rules respect the rights to privacy and free speech. The powers and inclination of the NEC to hold the GS accountable to policy, rules and law needs to be examined, there may be some changes that can be made but this is a cultural change, without a change of culture most of the rest of the reforms will fail. I also argue for a more professional management of money and financial controls, greater transparency on staff management, recognition of Chakrabarti’s comments on staff recruitment and management and accreditation by “Investors in People” and “A great place to work”.

There are a number of roles that should be examined to ensure they are sufficiently independent of the GS and the NEC and accountable to the law or their professional ethics. In this part of the article, I note, that proposals for an Ombudsperson were made to the Democracy Review but didn’t make it to the final report. I have with help retrieved the Ombudsman proposal as I think that it’s worth reviewing and should be part of a reconfiguring of the compliance function where the Head of Compliance is made independent of the NEC & GS and accountable to the rules and law. Compliance should tell organisations what they can’t do, while they retain the right to legal advice.

What’s needed is a renewal of a culture of decency so that the bureaucracy and the elected NEC members behave properly and fulfil their duties of trust. I have argued to change Labour’s rules to incorporate the Nolan principles as duty on all role holders but especially the NEC members, but unless recent wrong doing is punished, it’ll become just another policy to be ignored and circumvented. …

Icy determination to control

Icy determination to control

I am struggling through Minkin’s “The Blair Supremacy”, and have come across Eric Shaw’s reviews, which I plan to skim through today, but on the first page, Shaw states,

Minkin locates the origins of Blairite managerial thinking in the formative historical experience of its central protagonists, the internal strife that tore the party apart in the early 1980s. Blair, Brown and their allies were resolved to end what they saw as the party’s ‘dangerous proclivity to public exhibitions of internal conflict’ (p.131). Obsessed by what they saw as the party’s ‘lurch into extremism’ ‘New Labour’ was driven, Minkin cites one minister as saying, by ‘an icy determination that it was not going to happen again’ (p.130). Hence the core New Labour principle of party management: an electable party was one that was tightly managed and regulated.

Eric Shaw – The Blair Supremacy: A study in the politics of Labour’s party management

Looking at the disgraceful shenanigans going on at the top of today’s Labour Party, it’s clear we’ve been here before, although the New Labour project persuaded the Party to turn off it’s democracy; it didn’t impose it. Is this another example of “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”?

You might look at New Labour and Party Management, on my wiki, where I host and comment on Emmanuelle Avril’s paper …

Political Interference

I have now finished reading the EHRC Report into Anti-semitism in the Labour Party, and while doing this, Corbyn has been suspended, reinstated and then had the whip withdrawn, by it seems a small coterie of staff, in the Leader’s Office and General Secretary’s office, specifically the Leader and GS themselves. In looking at my blog article to remind me what I said, and what remains unsaid, I came across this quote, which is a recommendation; some work to do, I think.

Acknowledge, through its leadership, the effect that political interference has had on the handling of antisemitism complaints, and implement clear rules and guidance that prohibit and sanction political interference in the complaints process.

EHRC – Antisemitism in the Labour Party (P13)
 …

On the EHRC report

The EHRC have  issued their report into Antisemitism in the Labour Party, they say that Labour needs to rebuild trust & confidence in the antisemitism complaints handling process, reform and provide education & training, most importantly to complaints handling staff, and monitor and evaluate the changes. Everyone has committed to doing this and the proposals are not controversial. They also found that unlawful acts under the Equalities Act had occurred and therefore served an unlawful act notice on the Party. The Labour Party is now legally obliged to draft an action plan by Thursday 10 December 2020 to tackle the unlawful act findings that were made in the report. The action plan should be based on the EHRC recommendations to avoid such acts from happening again. With good will, this should be possible, but with the remaining actions taken that day, we have to question if the Labour Party actually wants to move on. The rest of this blog article looks at the report and selects some quotes, it concludes, with the statenebt that, "The Labour Party will not fix the problem of anti-semitism or other appalling behaviour whether it be based on a protected characteristic or just straight forward bullying and cheating, until it recognises the corruption of the disciplinary process caused by factionalism. This diversion i.e. the suspension of Corbyn will make the task of making the Party a welcoming place for all who wish to join much harder. I have signed the petition that he should be reinstated, and the CLPD have published a solidarity motion to put to CLPs and Union Branches."

Reeves on the EU

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, made a speech/webcast about Labour’s current Brexit policy, reviewed in Labour List, with the headline, ‘“We won’t be back in the EU”: Rachel Reeves sets out Labour’s Brexit policy’. It just raises the question, where did she get the mandate? It seems she believes that we have returned to the days when Labour’s policy emerged from the back pockets of the front bench spokespeople. This is not why I joined the Labour Party and to go from remain, to only leave if the terms are acceptable, to saying that the UK would not be back in the European Union under a Labour government, without even stating why the Tories deal and strategy is harmful, is shameful and gives evidence to those on the left who say that the people’s vote was merely a trojan horse to undermine the Corbyn project.

Her statement ignores, of course, freedom of movement, Erasmus, flight regulations, and the European Medical Agency and it all assumes that we get a trade deal. We can see the Tories, are not going to sign a reasonable deal and Labour should be putting our stake in the ground, otherwise any deal will seem a victory and even if shite, people will ask where we were.

This policy position will also test the theory that a pro-brexit promise will win more votes than it gains. It’ll go down like a ton of shit in a fan factory in Scotland and London. It must be remembered that Reeves has form for stretching Labour’s consensus, her time as shadow spokesperson on welfare include some disgraceful speeches and I have previously reported on her channelling of Enoch Powell. Giving her a second chance was a mistake. …

STV & the Labour Party

STV & the Labour Party

There’s a sudden revival of interest in STV as the LP adopts it as a means of electing the CLP reps. There are in my mind, three problems with STV for party managers and one for voters. The fact that “order” can be critical in the results is important. When combined with the degree of discipline within Party voting blocs and the propensity to bleed votes from the block, getting the quota early is of advantage to parties/slates. The problem of avoiding having large numbers of your votes trapped in the losing quota is also critically important for party/slate managers particularly if the quota is high.

The Order based nature of STV counting leads to a series of well-known problems with STV in that it is one of the easier systems to game and has a number of design features which encourage manipulative or gaming behaviour. Voting systems have properties, categorised by academic writing. STV is not monotone, participative, consistent nor does it meet the No-Betrayer criteria.

There is no strategy that can compensate for a bloc’s voters not voting for all the candidates in the slate. Even within the activist or membership layer, many are more committed to their faction than to the Party, which may lead people to desert their first choice slate for another as the individual candidates become distasteful to the voter. I am curious if we could model the effect this ‘bleed’. The speed of desertion may well be determined by the slate construction as some on the slate might be exceptionally unacceptable to the otherwise loyal electorate. We should also note that not transferring reduces the quota[1] and so is equivalent to a (part) vote for all remaining candidates and acts as de-facto vote in favour of the highest remaining contender.

Early success militates against having votes lost in the losing quota, particularly as the STV transfers surpluses before eliminating candidates.

If running a complete slate, the offer of a recommendation to support as a second choice is not worth so much.

The disadvantage to voters is that their optimal strategy may not involve voting in a straightforward way as it may be best if someone likely to pick up a lot of transfers is eliminated before the transfers occur. This is more acute in instant run-off elections and depends on whether they want a candidate to win or prefer that others lose.

I can’t see what to do about weak discipline. If we take the example of the UK where we have Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the Tories, we can see how people, who’s first choice might be, say, Labour might switch to the Green list after one or two votes for what ever reason and the Greens might go in both directions to Labour or to the LibDems. The system is designed to have this effect.


[1] This is the failure to meet the Participation Effect. …

On Labour’s Money

On Labour’s Money

I was looking through the LP’s finance report presented to#Lab19, which has the 2018 7 2017 figures in it. I had previously discovered that at the end of 2018, the Labour Party had £20.8m “cash in hand” and so it had become a surprise to me that we had only spent £8m on the General Election, when we had spent £11m in 2017.

But this time round I found some other things that piqued my interest

  1. The Labour Party made a surplus of £1.4m in 2017, the year of a General Election that we lost by 2,500 votes. Why is this?
  2. Income from Affiliations is the third largest source of income, after membership fees, and the front bench “short money” grant.
  3. On the expenditure front, they spent £3m (6%) on “Grants and payments to CLPs”.

For context, total income in 2018 was £46.3m and membership fell by 8.1% (45,914) from 564,433 to 518,519.

There’s a chart of the sources of income oveleaf/below … …

Compromise?

Parliament is putting itself in isolation by not meeting for another month and so yesterday was Jeremy Corbyn’s last PMQs in the House of Commons. He spoke about the corona virus and it started up a spat on twitter which led me to think about Wilson, the Referendum on the EEC (1977) and how he managed the Party. He put the issue to bed in the Party for 39 years.

Was it because the SDP, whose politics on this issue had won left the Labour Party or that the Left in the Party granted loser’s consent? Also on the Left, many of those that could not compromise with the Party consensus left and joined the extra Parliamentary left.

However the divisive nature of referendums and the idea that MPs could campaign against the Party on referendum issues bedded down and  was shown by Labour’s divisions over the Alternative Vote Referendum in 2011.

But Corbyn will be remembered as an almost man; he saw off two Tory Prime Ministers, but we failed to jump the 2017 hurdle. The 2016 coup against his leadership will be seen as an act of treachery against the Party on the same scale as the SDP split and there are some who will see the mismanagement of Labour’s 2017 campaign as an act of sabotage; in my view it’s a charge to be answered.

Meanwhile, Corbyn’s legacy will be a programme that seeks to create an economy that works in the interests of the majority and not just a plutocratic minority and their servile minions, rejecting Britain’s imperial legacy and its role as America’s Gurkhas will take a little longer. …