Consultation Response to "Refounding Labour: A Party for a New Generation” On behalf of the Labour Party Irish Society Introduction

The Labour Party Irish Society welcomes the publication of the Labour Party consultation document “Refounding Labour: a party for a new generation”. Following a severe election defeat and in line with societal changes that mean political parties need to reform to remain relevant, this debate is timely. This is an opportunity for Labour to renew, re-organise with the ultimate objective of being an electorally successful party that draws on the knowledge and abilities of its members. We should be careful to learn from the lessons of our recent defeat as well as learning from victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005. We believe that party reform should focus on the following areas:  Delivering policies that work and win  Building vibrant campaigning local parties  Providing national and regional support for local parties and their members  Being a party member matters We have also included a short note on Northern Ireland. We acknowledge the history of the party's existing structures and as the consultation acknowledges, "Formal structures are also important both to prevent abuses and to keep the party going through bad times and troughs in membership. The balance between constitutional structures and encouraging open participation requires careful assessment". Whilst some structural reforms are necessary, reform is not a silver bullet and the nub of the problem is often the behaviour of local parties as opposed to being a structural one. As an affiliated Socialist Society we are proud of our formal position within the Labour Party and of the link which our Socialist Societies provide to communities outside Westminster through to the NEC and the party leadership. Our connection to the Irish in Britain runs deep and our members are Irish by birth or descent as well as consisting of those who are interest in Ireland, Irish affairs and the Irish community in Britain. The Irish emigrant community – and their children and grandchildren – have made a significant contribution to public life in Britain. As well as serving the Labour Party and the trade union movement in a range of capacities. The work of the Labour Party Irish Society in promoting the interests of the Irish in Britain, and promoting the cause of Labour within the Irish community, is vitally important. It is work that will continue and with the support of the party will be successful in ensuring that the age-old alliance between the Irish in Britain and the Labour movement continues well into the future.

1. Delivering policies that work and win Labour's current policy making process is not fit-for-purpose in the modern age. That isn't to say we need a process which debates each and every idea, irrespective of its merits, but we do need greater transparency around the policy making process for the benefit of members and CLPs. A process which empowers members and allows for clear reason why certain policies have been rejected is desirable. As well as listening to our members, an essential part of our policy process should be the ability to draw upon our internal stakeholders, such as the affiliated unions and Socialist Societies and of the Councillors, PLP, EPLP and Leadership who have to advocate our positions to the wider public. A more evidence-based policy making structure, with the NPF Commissions playing a similar role to scrutiny/select committees, hearing witnesses and taking submissions from inside and outside the party (including from NGOs, businesses, experts and academics), would produce good policy and put to good use the skills, ideas and energy of NPF members. Socialist Societies like the Labour Party Irish Society should be able to submit ideas or representatives into the process in an easier manner and NPF should draw on the experiences of the communities we represent allowing party policy to reflect their real life experiences. Central office support for Socialist Societies who wish to engage in the NPF process is also something we would support. 2. Building vibrant and campaigning local parties Even with all of the same national structures in place, some CLPs are renowned as healthy, thriving organisations, regularly canvassing, debating, socialising and engaged within the community they represent and yet the very same structure can produce an unpleasant organisation divorced from its community and hostile to new members. Often it's the people in an organisation that shape its political culture, not the institutional structures that create the culture. We also need to be careful about rejecting meetings as strong spaces for discussions. Branch and CLP meetings should be empowering places to debate, resolve differences, decide policy and plan campaigns as well as being sociable occasions. The opportunity to decide on local actions and priorities is an important part of being an active member of a local branch or CLP. CLPs should decide the pattern of organisation and meetings that best suits their needs and size. There are merits where membership is too small to justify a branch structure and delegate-based General Committee to members having all-member meetings. However where there are a large number of formal affiliates, a GC structure remains the most appropriate way of ensuring they have a voice in the party through sending delegates.

We support the idea of a Community Liaison Officer in CLPs whose role would mirror that of the current TU Liaison Officer but in regard to community groups. They would reach out to such groups, build communication with them, ensure they are invited to relevant Labour events (e.g. tenants’ associations to discussions on housing policy), and explore with them opportunities for joint campaigning and events. We also support the Union link; it provides us with a unique means of communicating with millions of ordinary working people. We should be deepening and strengthening the relationship with the unions not weakening it or severing it. Locally elected party representatives including MPs, devolved body elected representatives and councillors should play a leading role in organising their local parties campaigning activities. Socialist Societies should be encouraged to act as campaigning organisations as well as representative and policy bodies. They should be encouraged to act in the interests of their members to back candidates in key elections in support of the local branch or CLPs campaigning activities. 3. Providing national and regional support for local parties and their members Our current organisational structure is formed largely around branches which select councillors and fight ward elections, CLPs which select PPCs/MPs and fight parliamentary elections and Regions which do the same for MEPs in European Elections. This alongside informal co-ordination at borough and county level for relevant council selections, elections and manifestos all makes sense. However at the regional level, there are often insufficient resources to allow for coordination of a more informal level. We should encourage those party units to organise more socials and more campaigning strengthening the informal side of being a political activist. Regional Parties should work to ensure every CLP has a development and campaigning plan enabling CLPs to plan their recruitment, fundraising and campaigning. League-tabling of voter ID should be made available on a confidential basis to MPs, PPCs and CLP Officers to help them understand their level of activity compared to their peer group of CLPs. High performance should be rewarded at the regional level to keep CLPs active in their areas. It is also vital that we rebuild our grassroots structures and campaigning capacity nationwide so that we can put pressure on our opponents in every constituency. Labour should aim to field as many candidates as possible and regional parties need to play a key role in this capacity building exercise. Funding for Euro Elections needs to be thought through with a more strategic view. The flat rate levy which currently exists for all CLPs to fund Euro elections is a serious barrier for small CLPs as it wipes out all their fundraising

and stops them funding other levels of election. It also creates resentment at the local level of funding a campaign which many CLPs see little impact of. It could be replaced by a per-member levy so that more of the cost of Euro elections is borne by those who can most afford it. Regional Boards and Conferences should act as stronger bodies giving a sense of regional cohesion to local parties and act as forum for debate and discussion as well as ideas sharing across the region. 4. Being a party member matters The members (and the affiliates and their members) are the party. As a Socialist Society we believe that our members are part of a political civic society institution routed in the Irish community in Britain and standing up for Labour values. However, the cost of membership (£41 per annum at full rate) is prohibitive for many ordinary working people. We believe a reduction to £20 full rate and £10 reduced rate would be compensated for by an influx of new members. We also believe we could recruit people more easily if we were more public and transparent about the way in which individual members play a role in policy, selections, election campaigns, community and issue-based campaigns and running for/holding public office. Our recruitment leaflets don't actually explain what being a member can involve if you want it to - it is simply presented as a way of expressing support for Labour when in fact it should be far more empowering than that. New members need to be welcomed into the party by contacting them and inviting them to a good mix of social events, campaigning (including training) and political discussions. New members should also be encouraged to understand their rights and responsibilities as members. Membership is more than turning up to branch meeting and being told you don't have a vote until you're elected on to the GC. Best practice from the best CLPs needs to be rolled out everywhere, with a safety net of email contact and invitation to events by the national and regional parties where a local structure is insufficient. Members should also have a better understanding of the role they can play across the party, not just in their branch. For example by joining a Socialist Society or enabling them to put their expertise to best use so that we draw on all the knowledge and experience of our members, not just their shoe leather. Each CLP is brimming with members whose experience, ideas and abilities are not just limited to canvassing sessions and fundraisers and we should endeavor to make best use of our members' knowledge and talents. The creation of a Supporters’ Network is an idea we would support however the voting rights of existing members should be protected. A supporters' network is a valuable place from which national and local parties can listen to and engage with the views of supporters and would be a useful recruitment tool but it should not supplant the rights and responsibilities of full party membership or membership of an affiliated organisation.

We welcome the indication by Movement for Change that they will seek formal affiliation as a socialist society and believe that their expertise in community organising has potential benefits for many CLPs, particularly as a way back into local civic life in areas where Labour has very few elected representatives. All Women Shortlists have facilitated the selection of many excellent women MPs; however, the way in which they are applied often leads to accusations that they are applied politically or in a way that disregard CLPs’ views. We believe that All Women Shortlists need to be applied in a way which is far more transparent that at present: the rationale for why a constituency is chosen to be AWS need to be published, as do the results of consultation with CLPs, and where there are two or more parliamentary vacancies in a single local authority area in any electoral cycle, at least one shall be an open selection so that local male candidates have an opportunity to seek selection. A note on Northern Ireland Labour has much to be proud of in Northern Ireland. When we were elected in 1997 we understood the complexities of conflicting national identities in Northern Ireland and that meant we understood the core of the political grievance at the heart of the conflict. The Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown negotiated with sensitivity to the needs of all communities. This understanding was routed in a political acknowledgement that the nationalist community will traditionally vote for nationalist parties and unionists for unionist parties, voting to signify their preferred answer to the national question. The lack of a Unionist labour Party and the fact that the SDLP poll low numbers from the unionist community leads some to believe Labour should stand candidates in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that ulster unionists with a social democrat tendency don't have somewhere to go politically and that is certainly something that needs to change and equally that the SDLP are unable to reach out to unionists voters, but British Labour standing candidates isn't the solution to those 2 problems. We know that the small number of people who are Labour Party members in Northern Ireland are good, committed activists who genuinely believe that the party should organise and contest elections because it would make a positive difference to politics there. However, it must be recognised that Northern Irish politics is not the same as devolved politics elsewhere in the UK. The very framework of the institutions which we created working with the parties in Northern Ireland are testament to this. The Labour Party is a British political party, and an electoral intervention in Northern Ireland politics undertaken as a British party would be unlikely to generate support from the nationalist community and would only garner limited unionist support. The previous experiences of two Unionist British political parties standing in Northern Irish elections, the Conservative Party and UKIP display the low levels of support on offer. Their electoral humiliation should be studied with care.

Our view is that whilst standing candidates in Northern Ireland would have a negligible impact on Northern Ireland politics, it would conversely have a hugely damaging impact on the Labour Party and the perception of what we stand for both within Northern Ireland and within the Irish community in Britain. If in the longer term the possibility to stand candidates jointly with the Irish Labour Party and the SDLP representing the values of the labour movements in Ireland, Britain and the north of Ireland, this is a position we would support. We believe that this, and not unilateral intervention from the Labour Party, is the way to go about contributing to politics and progress in Northern Ireland. Conclusion Undertaking this review comes at a crucial time for Labour and for Britain. If Labour can reignite the passion which exists for progressive politics in Britain, it can put itself on the path to government again. Being a party which is routed in the communities it serves can only help us to achieve that. We hope the Labour Party Irish Society can continue to play a constructive role in linking the Labour Party to the Irish community across Britain and that Refounding Labour is the start of the process of getting Labour back to power and the part fit for the modern era.

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