Letter: Labour's true democracy

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Sir: Your leading article "Better to lose than buy off the unions" (15 April) claims that it is "the unions and constituency parties that have used the old-style methods of democratic centralism - where executives or delegate conferences decide the issue without any formal consultation with their members - that are clinging to the old Clause IV". Several observations must be made to put this statement into perspective.

First, it is significant that you are already referring to the present formulation as the "old Clause IV". Why "old"? It can only become thus if, and only if, the present clause is abandoned at the forthcoming Labour Party Special Conference. Could it be that, like so many others in the media, you are simply trying to portray the supporters of the current Clause IV as a bunch of antediluvian romantics?

Second, may I remind you that delegate conferences are organised precisely for the purpose of "formal consultation"? The vast majority of the Unison delegates who voted to retain the current Clause IV were properly mandated by their local branches. That is known as "representative democracy" - which lies at the root of that other well-known Stalinist conspiracy, the British parliament.

Third, if what the party leadership had wanted was a nationwide ballot of all Labour Party members, both in the constituencies and the trade unions, they could have made life a great deal easier if they had given the members something to vote on a little earlier in the day. The "new" Clause IV, it should be remembered, is now barely six weeks old. Before that, party members only knew that they were being asked to vote on whether to retain or replace Clause IV, without having any idea of the alternative which was being proposed.

It makes you wonder who the true guardians of Labour Party democracy are.

Yours sincerely,

WALTER CAIRNS

Manchester

15 April

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