In 2012, Ed Miliband stood on the floor of the annual Labour Party Conference in Manchester and proclaimed his vision of a One Nation Labour Party and a One Nation Britain. He proclaimed he didn’t want Labour to go back to the days of Old, nor did he want to fixate on New Labour, even for all the great successes of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Ed firmly wants to remould Labour into his vision of One Nation. And, let’s be frank, it sounds a fair bit better than ‘New New Labour’.
One Nation will be the centrepiece of the Labour message in 2015 and it needs to strike a chord with ordinary working class people and those crucial swing voters from the squeezed middle classes. One Nation will mean reaching out to all parts of the United Kingdom, all the way from John O’Groats to Winchester.
However, first, we need to conduct some house-keeping on our party. We need to sort out the union bosses, reform the link, energise individual members and build a fighting progressive force for Britain. The reforms Ed Miliband has set out are visionary and go far beyond anything imagined under the leadership of Tony Blair. The crux of Ed’s reforms is simple; in a modern political party, people should actively choose to be a member of it. That is why he wants to change the opt-out clause for trade union members, putting in place an option for members to opt-in to the political fund. The aim of this is to help turn our ‘paper members’ into active Labour members.
On the other side of the Commons, the Tories are very keen to paint the Labour Party and Ed Miliband as the puppets of trade unionists. This has only intensified after the toxic events at Falkirk. The allegations that we are union puppets will stick with the British public, but we have to remember that our party was built on foundations laid by the unions. That is why we must fix the link, not break it.
Going forward from Falkirk, we must take the power out of the bosses of Unite, Unison and the GMB and hand it to our grassroots membership. We have no interest in being dominated by a couple of union bosses who throw a tantrum at the first sign of reform. That is why I propose we move to support closed-primaries as the means of selection for our candidates in London Mayoral and other directly elected mayoral elections, as well as trialling closed-primaries in selected constituencies for our PPCs. Primaries should be conducted under a two-section electoral college with 40:60 ratio of party supporters and party members (including affiliates). Something which would still embrace the importance of our party membership. We must also move towards One Member, One Vote for selection of our Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.
Furthermore, to truly enshrine the power of our individual members, we should move to support OMOV for the election of the Leader of the Labour Party, a key step towards treating all our members the same, even if they are an MP or a trade union member. It is the embodiment of the progressive values that Labour supports.
I look forward to the hearing the finished report on party reforms next year and I hope they pass through the Special Conference, because the structures of the party do truly need updating. We must remember that the hard work of building a truly progressive One Nation Labour Party will not be finished with reforms to the union link however. We must go further and reform Labour into a truly grassroots based movement rooted in the communities we serve. It is for that reason I support encouraging CLPs to move away from stuffy meetings and canvassing, towards organising voluntary work in the community. While door-knocking is important, seeing proud Labour activists at work in the community could swing a few votes our way and show us to be a progressive force for good in Britain.
Finally, in order to build a truly progressive One Nation Labour Party, I believe Ed Miliband must commission a report on the organisations operating within the Labour Party and act on its findings. I do not believe it is sensible for a progressive social democratic party to have internal organisations with affiliates, which include the RMT, Communist Students, Labour Party Marxists and Workers Liberty. We must make radical moves towards regulating the affiliates of our internal non-affiliate organisations. The current state of affairs will surely turn off people from the progressive centre ground of politics, something which we must claim for a One Nation Labour Party and Labour Government in 2015.
By Cameron Beavan-King