Letter: Building trust between Labour leadership and the grassroots

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report ("Labour at odds over power to make policy", 2 January) that Tribune is planning to publish proposals aimed at establishing a relationship of trust between Labour's grassroots and a Blair government comes as welcome news. The breakdown in trust between the last Labour government and Labour activists not only helped Mrs Thatcher win in 1979 but also left a legacy of bitterness which came very close to destroying Labour in the early 1980s. Avoiding a repetition of this should be a priority for everyone in New Labour.

The key lies in empowering individual party members and giving them a stake in a Labour government. One member, one vote (OMOV)was a step in the right direction and so, too, was the Road to the Manifesto ballot, but this trend needs to be taken much further. The Labour Co-ordinating Committee's proposals include: a members' charter setting out what rights and levels of service individual party members should be entitled to; much greater direct contact with individual members through question-and- answer sessions with Labour cabinet ministers; wider use of the Internet; a much greater emphasis on political education through the establishment of a University of Labour; the extension of OMOV to elections for constituency officers, party conference delegates and council candidates, and a reformed NEC which is more representative of grassroots members.

New Labour's own internal democracy should prefigure the democratic renewal which a Blair government will embark upon for Britain.

Local parties should remain the central organisations within New Labour but they should be open participatory bodies not hierarchical bureaucracy- driven federations. That means getting rid of traditional General Committees, and instead putting the emphasis on local ward branches, all-members meetings, local campaigning, community regeneration, political discussion and political education.

The LCC's proposals do not claim to be the final word on party reform. The more proposals there are for giving party members a stake in a New Labour government the better - which is why Tribune's reported initiative is to be welcomed.

BEN LUCAS

Chair, the Labour Co-ordinating Committee

London, SE24

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