Labour democracy battle comes to head

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Indy Politics
THE BATTLE between the Labour leadership and the big unions over party democracy will come to a head today.

Supporters of John Smith, the Labour leader, will attempt to thwart attempts by unions to maintain their power in party elections. Mr Smith and other senior party figures are keen to ensure that a meeting of a review committee leaves open the option of one member one vote (OMOV).

If the move is successful, the committee will make no hard and fast recommendations about the future of the relationship of the party and unions. The decision over the democratic structure of the party will then be left to Labour's national executive in January or February.

Mr Smith's key ally on the committee, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, yesterday declared its opposition to a paper prepared by Labour headquarters effectively guiding the discussion way from OMOV towards a system in which unions maintained an influence. It suggested a method whereby union members who pay the political levy could participate in the election of Labour leaders and in the selection of MPs. A revised document to be presented to today's meeting will be less prescriptive.

Most of the union representatives seem prepared to support the concept of 'registered supporters', whereby payers of the political levy would present themselves as Labour backers who then qualify for a vote. Their votes would be expressed in electoral colleges for the leadership and the selection of MPs.

Nigel Harris, a member of the AEEU executive with a seat on the review group, yesterday told his union's executive that the 'registered supporters' system for the selection of MPs was 'horrendous' and 'deeply flawed'. Most unions did not have the ability to identify their political levy payers in each constituency.