LABOUR IN BLACKPOOL: Party signals end to free debate

A radical change to Labour's policy making process so that the party conference will not be able to dictate to a Tony Blair government was signalled yesterday by Tom Sawyer, Labour's modernising general secretary.

During a prickly session on party organisation and policy making in which one delegate complained of "dark forces" plotting the conference's demise, Mr Sawyer said Labour could not afford to repeat past conflicts.

"We cannot afford to squander the work we have done now and throw it away with arguments and differences between the party and the [Labour] government."

Moves are already underway to trim the power of the National Executive Committee, but Mr Sawyer yesterday focused on the deficiencies of the conference as a policy making body. "I don't believe that hundreds of people out there, hopefully waving their hands in the air for the possible, but remote, opportunity of having three minutes at this rostrum really does add up to a democratic conference process," he said.

But after several pot-shots were taken at the "centralist" tendencies of the leadership, Mr Sawyer, on a return to the rostrum, said the only way the role of the conference could be altered was by a decision of the conference itself.

"Conference is the policy-making body of the Labour Party. It is set out in the rules and there are no plans to change that," he told sceptical delegates.

For the first time in the party's history, all 400,000 members and 2.5 million union members will have an opportunity to vote on the draft manifesto.

Karen Price, of Neath, said it was "ridiculous" to think that policy could be decided by a "Yes - No" referendum. Activists should not be taken for granted, she said, moving a motion accepted by the leadership to set local policy forums.

Simon McKeown, of Southwark and Bermondsey, hit out at the "dark forces" who wanted to do away with the conference and at the blatant stage management. To protests, he said that at future conferences "glamourously clad PPCs will be worshipped by wretched, manacled but smiling constituency delegates".

Joan Abrams, of Hazel Grove, said it was obvious that very few people who disagreed with the platform had been allowed to speak during the week in Blackpool. The party's chances of winning the election might be helped if the leadership could be seen as able to accept criticism and was "not afraid of being defeated occasionally", she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The infrastructure, support services and const...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border