Collins report on Labour rule changes: instant reaction

John Rentoul

collins Collins report on Labour rule changes: instant reactionLabour’s National Executive is now meeting, and is expected to approve the changes to the party’s rules drawn up by Ray Collins, the former general secretary (pictured), which will be put to a special party conference on 1 March.

In this age of austerity, the Labour Party saves money on printing for National Executive meetings by simply leaking everything to The Guardian,* so you can read the Collins report there.

The unexpected wrinkle in the semi-final version is that there would be three categories of voter in future leadership elections: Labour Party members, affiliated supporters (members of affiliated trade unions who pay the political levy and who register individually with Labour) and registered supporters (everyone else who declares that they support Labour’s values and pays £3).

All of which seems complicated but sensible. The important thing is that all these people would vote as equals in a single ballot – doing away with the different weights of vote and multiple voting in the three-part electoral college.

It means that the unfairnesses of the 2010 leadership election, in which “Vote Ed” flyers were sent with ballot papers by union bosses, who also denied access to their membership lists to other candidates, will be ended. As I said the weekend before last, this is an important admission by Ed Miliband that the way he was elected was wrong.

I have a post at Independent Voices on Labour’s report into the Falkirk stramash, also published by the Guardian’s noticeboard today, and how it led to these reforms.

The reason I call this version of the Collins report “semi-final” is that it does not have the 15 per cent nominating threshold for Commons members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, just square brackets around dots. That is also a reasonable change, in that it would allow up to six candidates to stand. I had assumed that the MPs would then vote in eliminating ballots to reduce the number to two, who would then go the one person, one vote ballot of members and supporters.

Update: In a briefing this afternoon, a spokesman for Miliband confirmed that any candidate who has the support of 15 per cent of MPs goes forward to a preferential ballot – that is the existing method – in which the bottom candidate drops out and preferences are redistributed until one candidate has a majority. The spokesman added: “Not that we are expecting a leadership election for at least three terms of a Labour government.”

It is worth pointing out that the changes to the way Labour gets its money from the trade unions are going to be phased in over five years, but these are separate from the changes to leadership elections, which will apply to the election of Miliband’s successor if Labour lose the election next year (the leadership rules come into effect straight away and the category of affiliated supporter has to be established by the end of this year).

The unions argued that they could not go through all 2.7m political levy-paying members, ask them if they want part of their union subs to go to Labour and set up the cash transfer systems before the election. That means that Labour will continue to be funded by large cheques from union bosses for the time being, but Miliband would be able to legislate, if he wins the election, to cap political donations at, say, £5,000 a year, because union donations would in time be converted into thousands of small individual donations.

John Blake.

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  • Ciaron Goggins

    I recall them trying to get the ex squaddie vote with £1 membership for anyone who had been “in”. Oh well, join Labour – we blew your pals legs off in a war in Iraq for someone in Nebraska to get cheap gas. Yee Haw!

  • mightymark

    What not to like? – all sounds very sensible. I’m sure the Tories will continue to have a go at union funding but it will yield them diminishing returns over time.

  • Pingback: In Defence of Brave & Right™ Ed Miliband | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye Blogs

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