Picture the scene. It’s Britain, in the year 2006. The Prime Minister of the day announces he will preside over one more major party conference, then step down before the next.
You’d think then, that that the governing party’s conference would be a natural place to discuss his sucession – perhaps even a place for (gasp!) leadership hustings. But no. Labour’s Conference Committee has thrown out more than 140 attempts by Labour constituency parties to discuss issues such as the leadership on the grounds that – get this – the issue is not contemporary.
Delegates are also railing against the Labour Party’s decision not to hold an Annual General Meeting:
“The Labour Party with debts of over £25 million and membership down 10% in 1H 2006 is NOT holding an Annual General Meeting when members can hold the Leadership to account for its stewardship in the past 12 months.” says website LabourConference.Net
In the Liberal Democrats, even our smallest accounting unit – a local party – can be suspended if it fails to hold an Annual General Meeting. In our party, had our leader announced his intention to step down between conferences we would have laid on hustings at our conference (as, for that matter, even the Conservatives managed to do during their most recent leadership change!).
And perhaps the most important thing Labour party supporters should note is that if you turn up to our conference as a member, you have the opportunity to get up on our conference stage and change representatives’ minds. If your local party elects you as a voting rep, your vote is of equal weight to our party donors, MPs, and even the leader – in the Labour party you’re competing against the four big unions (Amicus, TGWU, GMB, UNISON) who hold 40% of the vote – you and your member friends have only 50%. If your view contradicts that of the leadership you must be 100% united, and have backing from a block vote holder to defeat them.
Labour has increasingly been movoing its policy making away from conference and in to ‘Policy Forums’ – which meet in private. Liberal Democrat policy is always voted on at conference. Some policies, such as the outcome of Meeting the Challenge, involve extensive pre-vote member consultation.
Are you a Labour party member fed up with the fact that your party doesn’t listen to you – even at party conference? Don’t waste your time joining the “save the Labour party” campaign – you’re already too late. Join us.
Hat tip to Recess Monkey for pointing out the decision to rule out the leadership motions.