Labour’s 3 year rule

When considering making rule changes in the Labour Party, designers need to take into account the so-called three year rule, and in 2021, need to consider that the rule defines the embargo in terms of conferences and so 2020 will not count. The rule states,

‘When Party conference has made a decision on a constitutional amendment, no resolution to amend the constitution or rules of the Party having the same or similar primary objective shall appear on the agenda of the three following annual party conferences, except such resolutions to amend the constitution and rules that are in the opinion of the NEC of immediate importance.’

Chapter 3, Clause III, 2.H (page 20 of the 2020 Rule Book)

So, let’s dispose of two pieces of pedantry; motions become resolutions on passing. Therefore proposals for change are motions, the use of the word resolution in this rule is legally illiterate.  It’s referred to as the three-year rule, but in effect it’s a five year rule, only rule changes that failed in 2016, or earlier can be considered, and a lot of rules were changed at the 2017-2019 conferences.

Critically, we have the phrase, “the same or similar primary objective”. This is designed to stop factions behaving like children having a tantrum and nagging until they get what they want, but not to prohibit CLP (or affiliate) proposed rule changes designed to review or improve a rule.

The CAC decision as to whether a proposed rule change contravened Rule C3.III.2.H is taken on the recommendation of staff. The CLPs have two representatives, the Unions and other affiliates have five and one member is elected by Conference which seems to mean that the Unions choose them. The fear is that staff will rule out motions that the leadership don’t want and be backed by a compliant CAC majority. Recently we have seen that the Unions will not vote for a rule change not supported by the NEC, on which they have ⅓ of the members. The CAC and staff may well play fast and loose with ‘primary purpose’ and consider any further changes to a specific rule to be ultra-vires.

Careful study of the text suggests that a revoking motion would be in order, as would an orthogonal amendment. I think I might still try my Nolan Principles rule change proposal which seeks to amend C2.II.7 which was introduced in 2018 to see if primary purpose will be interpreted with textual literacy or with factional intent. The ‘open selection’ motion at 2018 was deemed to have fallen because the NEC rule change was carried. Has conference ‘made a decision on a constitutional amendment’? Sadly probably as it carried the trigger ballot reform motion and the CAC report that deemed open selection to fail but the words ‘made a decision’ require conference to have done so, withdrawal means that a decision has not been taken.

It’s a mess but the same as everywhere else, like the sailing the rules are a weapon, unlike sailing, there’s no real independent judge as to what the rules mean. …

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. …

The problem of the bureaucracy

The problem of the bureaucracy

Sky News and Rowena Mason, in the Guardian, have both run stories about a Labour Party document “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance & Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism 2014-2019”. This would seem to catalogue a conspiracy to subvert the party’s disciplinary process and even the 2017 election campaign to the detriment of the elected party leadership and the aspirations of its membership. There’s probably a lot to say, which I will wait to say, but I prepared this rule change last year as I had observed massive factional manipulation throughout the Labour Party and while this wouldn’t stop it, it would give the membership another avenue to hold Labour’s staff accountable to the values of the party. The document shows it’s needed at the highest levels; it’s a shame that no-one is thinking of those whose lives have been marred by the casual bullying covered up by more junior staff. I think the supporting statement needs to be strengthened. If the CLPD can get it’s act together I’ll ask them to support it, but you don’t need their permission.

Member’s Rights and the Nolan Principles

The Labour Party Rule Book 2019 Chapter 2 Membership rules, Clause II Charter of Members Rights, Section 7 (pg 14) reads as follows:

‘Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.’


After Party officers, insert ‘, staff and volunteer role holders’

After ‘good faith’, insert ‘in accordance with the Nolan Principles of conduct in public life’

Replace ‘endeavours’ with ‘efforts’.

Supporting argument

All Party Officers, staff and volunteer role holders are to be held to the Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty & leadership.


Image Credit: Comes from a telegraph article on McNicol’s ‘moving on from the position of GS of the Labour Party. (I would link to it if WordPress allowed featured images to be linked, I have cropped it fit into the blog, i.e. I have not made this image available.) …

Member’s Rights (in the Labour Party)

Fabulous, I found this in the new Rules, the new C2.II Individual Membership Rights

7.   Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members.

I shall be seeking to amend this to include a mandate to abide by the Nolan Principals. …