[Pete Firmin, Political Secretary, Labour Representation Committee (LRC) ]
It’s easy to be cynical about the Labour Party’s policy making process. Most of the time there appears to be no “process” at all, merely announcements from the Leader’s office, such as the appalling decision to support the Coalition governments’ proposed welfare cap. There is no hint of democratic decision making even among MPs, let alone the wider party. And when the Party does express its view, such as when Conference votes unanimously to renationalise the railways and Royal Mail, the leadership immediately tells the media it won’t happen.
This is all despite the fact that opinion polls show the overwhelming popularity of such policies. No wonder Labour is falling in the polls and having difficulty persuading many party members to campaign. Timidity is an understatement.
Policy is sometimes shifted by other means. So, the welcome commitment to scrap the Bedroom Tax came because of the uproar its unfairness produced. The LRC believes the pressure needs to be kept up on both fronts – industrial action, community campaigns etc., linked to a fight to change the Party’s policy. If we don’t submit proposals to improve policy, we will be told that no one bothered – and we can’t let the leadership and its supporters get off that easily.
The Party is currently consulting on a whole range of policy areas in advance of drawing up the manifesto for next year’s General Election. Party members can submit comments. CLPs and affiliates can put in up to ten amendments, all of which are supposed to be considered by the National Policy Forum in July before going to Party Conference in September.
The total inadequacy of what passes for current leadership “thought” on policy is perhaps best shown by the lack of any reference in any of the documents to trade unions or workers’ rights, perhaps reflecting Miliband’s statement that he would outlaw “the worst aspects” of zero-hours contracts.
A further problem with the process is that submissions have to be made by June 13, despite the fact that many party organisations have been suspended in recent months because of pending local and Euro elections, leaving little time – if any – to organise submissions.
However, despite all this, it is important that party members and, wherever possible, organisations, submit proposals and campaign for them to be adopted.
Many organisations have produced submissions and amendments covering their areas of particular concern which individuals and organisations can use.
» The LRC has attempted to bring many of these together on its website at: