Posts Tagged ‘refounding Labour’

It’s time for the party to fête our activists like we do our financial donors

19/06/2012, 04:52:43 PM

by  Prem Goyal

David Lloyd-George declared upon the end of the Great War that his mission was to “make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in”.  While we are not at war, fighting in no-man’s land, Labour is engaged in a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the British people, which requires high grassroots morale.

Lloyd-George understood that after years of sacrifice, the country had to improve and mobilise to recognise the value of ordinary men putting their lives on the line. Fast forward, and it’s time for Labour to recognise and reward the many activists who put themselves on the neighbourhood frontline,  in various, hours, days, weeks and months, campaigning for the social democratic cause and empowering their local communities.

All of our members have stories and experiences that have the potential to excite and inspire, so let’s create a club with which we can celebrate this commitment and success.

This club would be an equivalent to the Thousand Club – with the difference that it would recognise members for contributing time and effort rather than money.

It would bring the same benefits enjoyed by our generous donors to members contributing significant amounts of time for Labour, whether campaigning, developing Labour policy and ideas within their local areas or empowering their local community.

While not discrediting the Thousand Club in any way, Labour must be willing think outside the box of traditionally rewarding people for financial capital and recognise the importance of voluntary and human capital – proactively rewarding activists for time and effort put in that is equivalent to the amounts paid to the Thousand Club.


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To boldly go… Ed’s relationship with enterprise

11/10/2011, 10:09:15 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. So, the ship has now set a course and we’ve done the crew changeover. It may be a course that not everyone’s happy with, but let’s face it: they never are, are they? And at least there is a course.

The Tory conference wasn’t a failure, but it wasn’t exactly a runaway success, either. What with Teresa May’s cats and Cameron’s dogs, it seemed sometimes that it was raining very hard last week. And the mess now being caused by Liam Fox has helped us. So let’s be thankful for small mercies and look to the future.

In a year’s time, we’ll be looking to the completion of the policy review. We will be practically at the electoral midpoint, and will know for sure whether regaining the London mayoralty was a real possibility or a pipe-dream (the tea-leaves, admittedly, do not look good on this one). We will then be able to start setting out broad policy lines and start long-term planning for the next election. Things aren’t so bad, right? (more…)

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Friday News Review

09/09/2011, 06:59:13 AM

Cameron’s elitist education

David Cameron will signal a return to “elitism” in schools in an attempt to mend Britain’s “broken” society and secure the economic future. The Prime Minister will attack the “prizes for all” culture in which competitiveness is frowned upon and winners are shunned. In a significant speech, he will outline Coalition plans to ensure teaching is based on “excellence”, saying that controversial reforms are needed to “bring back the values of a good education”. Failure to do so would be “fatal to prosperity”, he will say. The comments mark the latest in a series of attempts to focus on education in response to the riots that shocked London and other English cities last month. They follow the announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, of back-to-basics discipline in state schools. He plans to give teachers more freedom to search pupils suspected of carrying banned items and to let them use reasonable force in removing the most disruptive children from the classroom. – the Telegraph

David Cameron will identify discipline, “freedom for schools” and “high expectations” as the key factors that make for a good education system as he opens one of the first “free” schools today. “We want to create an education system based on real excellence, with a complete intolerance of failure,” the prime minister will say in a speech being seen by some as backing a return to elitism in schools. While there is no direct mention of the recent riots in extracts of the speech released in advance, he will say: “We’ve got to be ambitious too, if we want to mend our broken society. “Because education doesn’t just give people the tools to make a good living – it gives them the character to live a good life, to be good citizens. So for the future of our economy, and our society, we need a first-class education for every child.” Speaking at the opening of one of the first new “free” schools – set up by parents, teachers, faith groups, charities and others outside of local authority control – he will say that the country had been “bogged down in a great debate” for too long about how to provide that first-class education. “Standards or structures? Learning by rote or by play? Elitism or all winning prizes? These debates are over – because it’s clear what works,” he will add. – the Guardian

Co-ordinated action

A strike by millions of workers protesting at Government pension reforms will be called in November, a union leader revealed yesterday. Action by up to 10 unions will be finalised at next week’s TUC conference in London, said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil servants’ Public and ­Commercial ­Services union. The strike would come after four unions staged a day of action on June 30, involving 750,000 workers. Mr Serwotka branded pension talks with the Government a “shambles”. He said: “The Government has a choice – to put its head in the sand or negotiate. We are prepared to talk.” The Government wants civil service staff to pay £1.1billion in extra contributions from April next year.  – Daily Mirror

In an interview with the Evening Standard before next week’s annual congress, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said there was a “very real prospect” other unions would follow suit. He spoke out as sources at the civil service PCS union, which joined teachers on strike in June in a row over the Government’s pension reforms, said its national executive had agreed to hold another one-day walkout in the autumn. Other unions are also threatening industrial action and the PCS it would consult on joint action before setting a date. It is a clear sign that unions feel their concerns over plans to make them work longer and pay more towards their retirement are being ignored, and raises the prospect of widespread disruption before the end of the year. “We have reached an extremely difficult point where at the moment there is absolutely no sign of the Government being prepared to really take a step back on some of the changes that they are preparing to force through which are very, very damaging to millions of public sector workers,” Mr Barber said. “On the industrial action issue, we may be heading towards a more difficult period.” – Evening Standard

Labour’s donations headache

Political parties face a £10,000 cap on donations but would be compensated by a big rise in state funding, under proposals from an inquiry into how politics is financed. The Committee on Standards in Public Life, the anti-sleaze watchdog, wants all parties to become less dependent on big donations. In a report next month, it is expected to propose small donations be matched by tax relief to encourage parties to recruit new members and supporters. The plan to channel millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the parties may prove highly controversial at a time of spending cuts and squeezed household budgets. However, it may provide political cover for Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for political reform, to propose a rise in state funding, a long-standing Liberal Democrat goal. The proposed £10,000 ceiling, ending the £1m gifts from rich individuals, is much lower than the parties expected. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have backed a £50,000 cap. Labour may suffer the biggest headache from the review because of its heavy dependence on the trade unions, which provide about 80 per cent of its donations. – the Independent

Ed’s challenge

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader has been warned by leading Labour figures including Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas that he risks missing a huge opportunity to make Labour more democratic and ensure ordinary party members’ views are heard in planned reforms. The Labour national executive is due to meet on 21 September, four days before the start of Labour conference, to discuss the outcome of the “Refounding Labour” consultation undertaken by the party leadership through the summer. One Labour source involved in the talks with the unions said all options are still on the table. But there are growing signs that Miliband has stepped back from plans to dilute the size of the union vote at party conference, and is instead focusing on a series of reforms designed to make local parties more dynamic, and open up the party to a wider group of Labour supporters. In a letterCompass, the left-of-centre pressure group, together with Cruddas and other Labour activists, said: “It would be a hugely missed opportunity if the party reforms instigated fell short of the mark in making Labour more democratic.” – the Guardian

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A statue of Peter Hain?

07/09/2011, 10:02:59 AM

by Dan Hodges

Can’t we just build Peter Hain a statue? Whack up a giant bronze monument to him slap bang in the centre of Neath and be done with it.

Refounding Labour started life as a good old fashioned vanity project. Peter’s reward for services rendered to Ed Miliband during the Labour leadership campaign. No more, no less.

Fair enough. Such baubles are handed out regularly. Part of the currency of politics.

But then things started to get out of hand. First the process, which was supposedly being driven by Labour party members, was outsourced to private contractors. Then some strange rumors began to circulate about what was emerging behind the closed doors of this open and inclusive consultation.

Non party members were to be given some say in superficial areas of the party’s activity. Like deciding its leader and its policies. At the same time, the role of the trade unions was going to be diluted.  The collegiate nature of this part of the  conversation was underlined by the “insider” who told the papers, “the union leaders are playing hard ball but they need to wake up”.

Members of the PLP were informed that plans for an elected party chair had been dumped. Calls for the refounding Labour submissions to be published were, in keeping with the transparency of the exercise, repeatedly rebuffed. It emerged that party conference was going to be ordered to either endorse the recommendations in their entirety, or reject them.

Then on Monday, via that traditional form of internal communication  – a leak to the Guardian – Labour members learned how they’re planning to transform their own movement. According to the report, the  party’s traditional aim, “to maintain elected office”, is now deemed outdated. Instead Clause 1 of the constitution will be re-written to “explicitly put the principles of community organising at its heart”.  An army of 2,000 “community organisers are to be recruited before the next election, and movement for change affiliated as a socialist society. At the heart of all this is the radical idea of “making formal [the Labour party’s desire] to be attractive to a far greater range of people”.


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Refounding labour: reinventing the wheel

28/07/2011, 07:00:13 AM

by Peter Watt

So the refounding Labour consultation is done. According to the Labour party website there were:

•    3,255 individual submissions
•    20,354 hits on refounding Labour websites
•    66 regional events across the country led by our national and region offices
•    184 party submissions
•    36 submissions from groups or affiliates

It seemed a well-run process with much enthusiasm from many members and some great leadership being shown by some of the more active members of the NEC. There has been a strong sense that the party needed change and there was plenty of energy shown by hundreds of members determined to play their part in delivering it. So far so good.

And then last week saw the publication of “refounding Labour to win” the summary report of all of the submissions. There was a brief bit of “excitement”, as some people seemed worried that a document was published so soon after the close of the consultation. This was a clear indication to some of the new generation that not every submission could have been properly reviewed. A rat was smelt and, in order to check if indeed an injustice had been perpetrated, some demanded that Ed Miliband publish all of the submissions. In a dramatic moment (not) during the one of the twitter “ask Ed” sessions, Ed conceded and agreed to publish. (more…)

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Really refounding Labour

25/06/2011, 01:22:44 PM

by David Prescott

So the party’s consulatation on how it operates has drawn to a close.

I know the cyncial among you might think that it was a waste of time. Personally, I think it has been a significant opportunity to help people who genuinely don’t have many ideas on how to restructure the party. This really was blank page politics and the following was my little doodle.

During the last general election, as director of campaigns for go fourth, the campaign for a Labour fourth term, I helped to organise and deliver a key seats tour of the country.

In a hired Ford Transit, financed by small online donations and Unite, we managed to cover 70 marginal seats in those 30 days of the short campaign and 30 more in the long campaign (from January to April).

It gave us a fascinating insight into what worked and what didn’t work in the key seats.

It became very clear, during the course of the tour, that some were far better prepared than others. A good test would be to see how well organized the visit was and how many activists attended.

The better ones would have more than 20 activists and supporters, a good location with strong footfall and journalists lined-up for interviews. The worst ones would let us meander down a street with no clear direction, purpose or media.

But the clearest indicator was the result and swing. (more…)

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It’s time to change how we operate

24/06/2011, 10:45:27 AM

by Richard Costello

With the refounding Labour review closing today I feel that it is important for us to consider the real issues in our party. We will never win again unless we confront the elephants in the room and for me the major issue is the role of constituency Labour parties CLPs.

Too often, instead of empowering members, CLPs create the feeling of powerlessness and inferiority in our membership – discouraging involvement in our movement. As a party we talk about making the country more meritocratic, well why don’t we start by making the Labour movement a meritocracy.

Many of us remember our first Labour party meetings, the story always seems to be the same, like a tale from a John O’Farrell book. You enter a drafty hall, which is half empty, there is probably a rickety table at the front where the chair and secretary sit and a horseshoe of seats, despite there only being two or three members in attendance. Those members are male, elderly and white, hardly representative of the people’s party.

Acronyms seem to be the order of the day with: CLP, CAC, NPF and NEC being branded about at alarming regularity, with no explanation of what they stand for or actually mean. Worse still there is a rigid agenda that is followed to the letter, despite the glaring mistakes in it. The biggest mistake being that there is no politics or time for open discussion on the agenda.

Despite this we persist and turn up to the meetings, somehow get involved in campaigning and move on from there. Many members do not though. The equally common story is of the young member who turns up once never to be seen again, put off by the rigidity, pointlessness and confusion that typifies Labour meetings. Those people are not just lost members, but lost talent and lost ideas. If Labour is to win again we need all the help we can get. The CLP in its current, archaic guise does not help to facilitate that. (more…)

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Refounding Labour: Will Straw’s Labour loves and loathes

15/05/2011, 07:07:53 PM

by Will Straw

Peter Hain’s Refounding Labour review moves to the next level this week with the launch of its website. The new site has been set up to provide a place for members to “critically review and assess the current structures and processes of the Labour party”. Members are being encouraged to set out what they love and want to change about the party.

The thing I love most about the Labour party is how it is arguably the most diverse organisation in any local community. Wherever I have lived I have been struck by how Labour party meetings, social events, and campaigning sessions bring together men and women from different age groups, social classes, ethnicities, and religions. In my CLP, for example, we bring together people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. That might not seem unusual in London when we all share public transport, doctors’ waiting rooms, and supermarkets with people from a variety of backgrounds. But the Labour party must be unique in bringing such a range of people together for a common cause.

The main thing I would change about the Labour party is the excess of interminable meetings. These can be new members’ first experience of the party, since meetings often outnumber campaigning events. The fixed agendas and arcane rules may provide comfort to party stalwarts, but too often our meetings resemble a Monty Python sketch.

The annual votes for specific positions – often held year on year by the same people – can also mean that energetic new recruits are put off getting more involved. Our structures would work much better if meetings were aimed either at political education by bringing in expert speakers for a discussion and debate, or used to update on campaigning activity and outline the next set of action points. Some CLPs seem to manage this, but it would be good if the rule book were updated to reflect the organising norms of the twenty-first century.

You can have your say on what you love and what you’d change about the party from tomorrow at

Will Straw is associate director for strategic development at the IPPR.

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