Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The rule changes agreed by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) yesterday will, if they are agreed by the party’s Annual Conference at the weekend, represent a significant step forward in empowering party members.
At the moment, constituency (CLP) activists have just six places on the NEC – but the membership has risen exponentially since Corbyn’s victory, with hundreds of thousands of new members joining the party. The decision to increase CLP representation from six to nine represents a 50 per cent increase, and could decisively shift the political balance of the committee in favour of member-led decision-making.
Arguably, though, more could still be done to ensure that the CLP places are evenly distributed by region, rather than concentrated in London and the South East. Nor is there any guarantee that the represenation from the Scottish and Welsh parties will be elected in future, rather than appointed – although this remains a possibility.
In a further positive move, the number of trade union places on the NEC has been increased, meaning that the left-leaning Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union were not squeezed out. Importantly, too, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation on the NEC will now be determined by a one-member-one-vote ballot of all BAME members, rather than the present system, which reportedly saw MP Keith Vaz elected on the votes of just 731 members.
The overall impact of these changes, taken together, represents an important consolidation of Corbyn supporters’ position on the NEC, and a blow to those forces wishing to use the party’s central machinery to constrain the democratic will of the membership.
The agreement reached over the threshold needed for potential leadership candidates to get on the ballot paper, down from needing the nominations of 15 per cent of Labour MPs to 10 per cent, represents a weakening of the ability of MPs to act as gatekeepers and keep left wing candidates off the ballot paper. Nevertheless, any candidate would still need 28 MPs to support their candidature.
While welcome, this move should not preclude debate of rule changes submitted by a number of CLPs to next year’s conference, which would effectively end the monopoly nominating rights of MPs altogether, and allow CLPs to nominate leadership candidates directly.
As part of the deal brokered, the 10 per cent threshold of MPs would also apply to any candidates wishing to challenge the incumbent leader, meaning that a small right-wing rump could in theory force a leadership contest against Corbyn. Clearly the left on the NEC made the calculation that the right wouldn’t risk such a move any time soon given the mood of the membership, as reflected in the landslide victories of Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes in the recent Conference Arrangements elections.
In other good news, left NEC member Darren Williams successfully moved a motion to correct an excessively draconian interpretation of freeze date rules around the eligibility of delegates to this year’s conference, meaning that many delegates who had previously been blocked will now be able to attend.
Moves were also taken to head off potential controversy at conference in response to the Jewish Labour Movement’s demand for a rule change to specifically refer to antisemitism. Jews who do not feel represented by JLM, an organisation consitutionally committed to a Zionist outlook, have formed an alternative organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour, in order to prevent accusations of antisemitism being used as a cynical attempt to delegitimise criticism of Israel or defence of Palestinian rights.
The NEC made a serious attempt to confront the issue, with the agreed text eventually reached differing significantly from that originally proposed by the JLM. While accepting the need for such a definition will avoid the Corbyn leadership being engulfed in controversy over its willingness to tackle accusations of antisemitism, it may also embolden JLM supporters to push for a new round of disciplinary action targeted at those who have caused controversy on the left.
Whilst on balance this ‘package’ of rule changes is favourable to the left, and would be worthy of support, it is unclear as yet whether there will be a repeat of last year’s conference, where all the rule changes stood or fell together. This is in general an anti-democratic practice, since it meant for example that to defeat the right-wing stitch up of the NEC, delegates in 2016 would have had to reject proposals for a free-standing annual women’s conference! Rule changes should not be snowballed together in this way, but should be voted on separately.
Similarly, although the positive steps forward from yesterday’s NEC might mean some of the heat is taken out of discussion of rule changes at the forthcoming conference, we should be under no illusion about the scale of party reform which is still unfinished business. The National Policy Forum process, the lack of effective Local Government Committees and the difficultly in democratically determining whether to re-select sitting MPs are three particularly concerning areas where the rank-and-file membership are still basically shut out of the decision-making process. There should be no room for complacency – we still have a mountain to climb.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control.
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going