Socialist Worker

Labour needs more democracy, not less

Pete Firmin, joint secretary of the Labour Representation Committee, explains why the shadow cabinet elections matter

Issue No. 2260

Ed Miliband’s denunciation of the 30 June strikes has been rightly condemned by the left.

But little attention has been given to his pronouncements on Labour Party democracy.

Miliband announced that in future he wants to appoint his shadow cabinet, rather than have its members elected by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

He also announced that in future non-members of the party would be able to speak at the Labour Party conference.

This came despite the fact that the deadline had only just passed for submissions to a consultation on party democracy.

It shows contempt for the views of all those individuals, trade unions and party bodies which had taken the trouble to send in their ideas.

Some may think the issue of the election of the shadow cabinet insignificant, given the electorate concerned.

The current crop of Labour MPs is not going to elect the likes of Katy Clark or John McDonnell.

Yet the announcement signals that Miliband has no more intention of allowing democracy to flourish than Tony Blair or Gordon Brown.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with Miliband’s proposal for charities, pressure groups and community organisations speaking at Labour’s conference.

At least, not if it had been accompanied by a commitment to cut down on the number and time of platform speakers—and if it had included a commitment to accept, rather than ignore, the decisions of conference.

Many readers of Socialist Worker may say this has little to do with them.

However, if you are a member of a union affiliated to the Labour Party these changes, along with any others, will be voted on by the union delegations at Labour Party conference in September.

How they vote there will be a reflection of how they view union democracy too.

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Tue 12 Jul 2011, 17:04 BST
Issue No. 2260
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