Labour presses vote change

Click to follow
PARTY MEMBERS are to get a bigger say, and the unions a smaller one, in the decision on changes to Labour's links with the trade unions that John Smith is seeking as new party leader, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Yesterday's first meeting of the review group studying the link agreed - with some dissenting voices - that rule changes which will cut the unions' share of the vote at party conference from 90 per cent to 70 per cent should go to this year's conference. That change was agreed in principle two years ago. If passed in October, it will give the constituencies, representing individual party members, 30 per cent of the votes next year when whatever changes that emerge from the review are voted on, rather than their present 10 per cent.

Mr Smith has made clear that Labour's future internal democracy must be based 'on the principle of one member, one vote, and not on the basis of block votes', and he has told the party that it must settle the issues at next year's conference.

Some attending yesterday's meeting argued the change should be postponed to allow the future of the union link to be decided as a package rather than piecemeal. But most maintained it would send the wrong signal when there is widespread agreement that the power balance between the unions and individual party members must change.

The meeting rejected suggestions that a move to one member, one vote for the selection of parliamentary candidates should be put back on this year's conference agenda. Mr Smith has made clear he is happy to have that considered in the overall review.

A fairly intensive work programme was agreed by the review group, aimed at producing recommendations for change by December or January at the latest, for consideration by Labour's national executive committee.

(Photograph omitted)