by Atul Hatwal
It started as an attempt by sections of the union movement to target Progress. But Uncut understands that a rule change, submitted by ASLEF and initially intended to outlaw Progress, has been drafted so broadly that it would in fact wipe out a range of Labour party groups.
These include Labour Women’s Network, all of the Labour Friends groups (such as Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of India) and even TULO – the trade union and Labour party liaison organisation.
Under the terms of the amendment, all of these organisations would have to transfer half of donations received, above the first £25,000 per annum, to the central party, crippling their ability to operate. The amendment states,
“Delete rule 5.B and insert:
B. Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party, but whom engage in internal activity, shall be required to:
(i) Notify the national party of all legally reportable donations received.
(ii) Transfer 50% of all donations received beyond the first £25,000 per annum to the national Labour Party.
C. Incorporated organisations that engage in internal activity shall be required to provide upon request all legal, constitutional, and financial documentation to the National Executive Committee to ensure that they meet acceptable standards of democracy, governance and transparency. These organisations are expected to abide by the authority of the NEC in such matters.
D. The NEC shall be responsible for the interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of these rules.”
Labour party officials have confirmed that this drafting has an extremely broad application. On this basis, if the rule change were passed, thousands of pounds would be slashed from groups, as funds would be appropriated by the national party.
This would have a major impact on the operation of the Labour party.
The party’s level of international engagement through the Labour friends groups would plummet, efforts to promote gender equality within the Labour movement would be hit by cuts to Labour Women’s Network and moves to increase the voice of ordinary union members within the party would be set back through the reduction of funding for TULO.
The amendment was discussed at the 16th July NEC meeting but rather than reject it, the NEC resolved to defer discussion until the next meeting on 17th September, the week before annual conference.
The NEC was split on the decision, with 14 votes supportive of keeping the amendment alive, and 10 in favour of throwing it out.
Now, just one week before conference, the NEC will make a final choice. If they approve the amendment, it will proceed to annual conference for ratification, where union votes are likely to ensure it is passed.
If they reject it, Labour groups across the movement will breathe a sigh of relief.
Ed Miliband is known to oppose the amendment. Its rejection, and the size of the majority against, will be a test of how strongly the leader’s writ runs on his NEC.
Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut