Collins Review

“Let’s Build a better Labour Party, so we can build a better Britain” is the cumbersome title of a three-page brochure published by the Labour Party to drum up support for the party ‘reforms’ proposed by Ed Miliband in early July.

It begins with the boast by Miliband that “under my leadership, Labour has begun to change: opening up our party and policy-making to people outside.”

But there is nothing new about Labour policy-making being open to “people outside.” In fact, it’s a long-standing problem, with Labour leaders constantly following the wishes of bankers and big business instead of individual members and affiliates. 

Miliband promises a new way of “doing politics”: “One that takes the big money out and allows the people back in.” But his proposals would have the opposite effect. 

They have nothing to say about taking out the “big money” given by people like Lord Sainsbury to organisations such as Progress. But they would mean that “the people” – in the form of three millions affiliated union members – would have less of a say. 

After a lengthy paragraph highlighting the support which Tories get from rich people, Miliband draws the illogical conclusion: “That’s why we need historic change in Labour’s relationship with (affiliated trade union members).” 

The fact that rich people have always backed the Tories explains why the working class needs its own party. It does not provide a reason to suddenly change the relationship between the Labour Party and its affiliates. 

Hilariously, Miliband (or whoever wrote this nonsense in his name) goes on to say: 

“These three million people (i.e. affiliated union members) should be at the heart of everything Labour does. I want to hear their voices louder and clearer than ever before.”

But replacing ‘opting out’ by ‘opting in’ would have the opposite effect. The three million people would no longer be able to have their voices heard, however imperfectly, though collective affiliation by their union. Instead, probably less than 10% of them would still be affiliated to the Labour Party. 

“It is time Labour also heard each trade unionist’s own individual voice,” continues Miliband, as if collective affiliation by trade unions was in some way an obstacle to union members joining the Labour Party as individuals. 

In any case, when union members have joined the party in any numbers – as was the case in Falkirk – then the party leadership’s response is to suspend the local Labour Party. 

With unconscious irony Miliband concludes with the words:  

“All of our country’s history shows that change does not come just from a few people at the top … from Prime Ministers or party leaders. Change comes when individual people come together to demand it.” 

But “individual people” are not coming together to demand the proposed changes. The ‘reforms’ are very much coming “from a few people at the top” and then being foisted onto the party and its affiliates.

The timetable outlined in the brochure is: “interim consultation” led by Ray Collins; report by Collins to 2013 annual conference; a “major consultation exercise” after conference; a special conference in the spring. 

Submissions to the interim consultation should be sent in by 13th September. But the report on the “interim consultation” is to be presented to party conference just a week later. 

This would suggest that Collins will not be attaching any great weight to submissions which he receives local Labour Party and union branches.

 Even so, if branches were to agree to send in a submission to the “interim consultation”, it would be a useful way to promote discussion and lay a basis for future campaigning.  

Brochure, and information about proposals and sending in submissions, at:

http://dnwssx4l7gl7s.cloudfront.net/labouruk/default/page/-/Let%27

s%20build%20a%20better%20Labour%20Party_Final.4.pdf

Stan Crooke