Coffee House

Labour’s internal reforms will have consequences

6 February 2014

5:42 PM

6 February 2014

5:42 PM

At the end of last year, there was an expectation that Labour’s internal reforms would be one of the big themes of the first quarter of the year. But this week, Labour’s National Executive Committee voted through the changes by the comfortable margin of 28 to 2 and with remarkably little dissent.

The absence of a public row over the issue makes it tempting to think that the changes don’t amount to much. But this would be wrong. Labour is going to scrap its current electoral-college split between MPs, the Unions and members and replace it with a one member one vote system.


Two big consequences stem from this. First, it will be far easier for someone without much support from the Parliamentary Labour Party to be elected leader. Second, the Unions—who have lost their power to send out ballot papers—will find it far harder to influence how their members vote.

Overall, the system is simpler and more democratic than the one it replaces. But it does strike me as dangerous to make it easier for someone without much support in the PLP to become leader. Miliband’s leadership has been dogged by the fact that he lost, albeit narrowly, among MPs to his brother David. It is very hard to see how someone who only had the support of the 15 percent of MPs needed to be nominated could lead the Labour party in parliament.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Tony_E

    What’s the betting that this takes ‘some time’ to implement? There’s going to be a catch here, because Labour cannot afford to lose the money that comes from the unions, so somewhere in the mechanism the unions are going to be able to influence the party more, but less openly.

    Plus, even if the full changes go through to competion, if they get enough union members to sign up to full Labour membership, then they flood the electoral rolls with votes they can influence through their workplaces, shop stewards and internal mail campaigning.

    The last prospect, is that Labour think they are going to be elected, even if they have to use the Lib Dems to prop them up. That means they have the votes for public funding of political parties, and the legislative power to stop large donations from any source, to crush the Tories financially while diverting the union money through direct links with the membership.

    Ed Miliband isn’t stupid, he doesn’t just want to win elections, he wants the left to win them unopposed, for ever. He wants to destroy the Tory party and make successor parties of the right harder to fund. He doesn’t disagree with the Tories, he viscerally hates them. Between 2015 -20 he will attempt everything he can to complete the revolution.

    • Mynydd

      Unions are required by law to ballot their members in order to have a political fund and to which political party it makes donations from such a fund. Public companies are not required by law to ballot their shareholders (the company holders) before making donations to any political party.

  • HookesLaw

    Not sure I agree with it being more democratic since a significant section of the vote will be from cut price trade union members who will still be persuaded and persuarable by national and local trade union interests.

  • toco10

    It seems to me that had these so called reforms been in force at Labour’s last leadership contest David M rather than Red Ed would have been elected.Surely this makes Red Ed’s position untenable.

    • Mynydd

      If a pig had wings it could fly. Mr Miliband was elected leader under the rules of the Labour party, thus is position tenable. If and when the Labour party changes the rules, the next Labour leader will be elected under them, which will make his/her position tenable.

    • James Strong

      No it doesn’t. Your David knew the rules, and he lost under those rules.
      But when the new rules come in he can run again, can’t he?
      Oh no, he can’t. Because after losing your David thought so little of serving his constituents and serving his country that he went to the United States for a job giving him more money and what I am sure he believes is status in the community he wants to be in.
      Your carping about the result, after your candidate didn’t win is only sour grapes, isn’t it? Your David had the courage to brief against Brown, and the courage to suggest in the media that he was ready to challenge him, then he wimped out and people like you have been grizzling ever since he lost the election that he did stand in.
      Get over it.
      Your guy lost in a contest conducted under the rules. It’s time to stop sulking and whingeing.

  • Hello

    We have a simple system of democracy, people vote in a general election to elect a representative. How can it be more “democratic” to deprive that representative of influence?

  • Ron Todd

    Socialist think they can remake society but always run up against the reality of human nature. Their attempts to remake the labour party will run up against the reality of the type of people running the party and the type of people financing it.

    • Rowdie111

      They love to ‘control everybody’……a la Kinnock and Mandleson ‘controlling’ the Lords.

      • Ron Todd

        The socialists just want to control what we do the liberals want to control what we think.

        • Rowdie111

          Couldn’t have put it better……..’they know best’!! They all come out of Universities with degrees in ‘political science’ and have it in their genes …..’to look after less fortunate’, at the same time as ‘creaming’ a good lifestyle for them selves..
          Lates today a Labour MP for St. Helens has stated locally…”.I can’t understand this fixation with my expenses “.he just doesn’t get it ….it’s not his money ,
          it’s our money’! How many Labour Mps are currently in jail?

      • Mynydd

        It’s not possible for Kinnock, Mandleson or indeed the Labour party to control the House of Lords for the simple reason: the total number of peers 771, the number of Labour peers 219.

        • Rowdie111

          Public opinion in this country is very much in favour of an in out referendum on the EU. The Conservatives want to give the people just that, although there are some MPs including Cameron who are prepared to stay if we can get better deals out of it than we currently have…hence the 2017 date.
          Labour and Lib/Dem policy is not to give a referendum to the British people (“only as and when new treaty revision is required”…ie keep kicking it down the road).
          Labour peers 221 and Lib/Dems 99 together out number Conservatives with 221. You know what I meant when I said Kinnock & Mandelson representing their six figure EU pensions and nose in the trough salaries from the EU phillabusting a bill passed by the elected representatives of the Commons to ensure it didn’t get through.
          The Labour Party and the Lib/Dems are a disgrace…and an affront to our democracy to ‘connive’ like this to stop the people of this country having their say.. But then as I have said before on here they are both social engineering …..’we know what’s best for you…we will look after you…while at the same time feathering our own nests.
          Once Labour see the result of the EU elections and the impact made by UKIP; they then will change their policy come 2015,.they won’t risk going into the election without promising a referendum.

          • Mynydd

            In reply to your “The Labour Party and the Lib/Dems are a disgrace…and an affront to our democracy to ‘connive’ like this to stop the people of this country having their say”
            The Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Rome to enable the UK to join Europe, without a referendum.
            The Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took the integration further by signing up to the Single Market and the free movement of labour, without a referendum.
            So I ask, were these two acts by the leaders of the Conservative party “an affront to our democracy?
            When The Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson held an in / out referendum was this “an affront to our democracy” or was it the Labour party upholding our democracy? if so, they are the only party who have done so
            If Mr Cameron was serious about an in / out referendum he would have made it a government bill (just like Mr Wilson) rather than a Private Members Bill which by and large are voted down
            With respect to voting in the House of Lords, the Lib Dem’s and the Conservative are the government and therefore should vote together to outvote the Labour opposition. Because Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg have lost control of their respective parties, and therefore the referendum vote you cannot blame Labour peers.