AIDAN SKINNER thinks we need to breathe life into our local parties and that all-member CLP meetings are they way to do it.

 

Refounding Labour’s been and gone and the Scottish Review is still to report on most of it’s recommendations about how we organise ourselves, though having said that they weren’t exactly a tour-de-force in open, transparent participatory democracy. Which was a shame.

Like charity and regime change, democracy begins at home and like justice it must be seen to be done. Like the American electoral college, delegate-only CLP meetings make sense in the context of their time but when some branches would have trouble filling a tandem bike it’s surely time we give members as many opportunities to get involved as possible?

There’s a case for keeping CLP votes as delegate only affairs in some circumstances, particularly in rural areas where meetings are considerably harder to get to than in cities. But there’s a difference between voting rights and the right to observe and participate in debate. Ok, you’d maybe have to check cards in case there was a dastardly spy, but they’re usually easy to spot on account of the exceedingly pointy face, monochrome outfit and the lit explosives they’re constantly clutching.

But making all CLP meetings all member is surely a bit of a no-brainer? Beyond bringing a bit of vibrancy and energy and getting
members more engaged there’s another very good reason for having them as standard. Transparency.

Too often CLPs are cozy things, where the usual faces agree the usual things with no scrutiny. The problem isn’t that they’re necessarily
corrupt, it’s that they’re unchallenged. Even if you’re right and doing things for the best of intentions, dead dogma rots and ossifies the holder. A lived argument, as Mill puts it, is a wondrous and vibrant thing.

More to the point, it’s the democratic thing. We’re not living in an age when socialists are persecuted, union members cut down on horseback and their families imprisoned. There is no legitimate need for secrecy. We live in a liberal social democratic country that even the Tories are loath to overtly challenge.

Alone all member CLP meetings won’t fix the democratic deficit in the party, not with the chasm between party and trade union members and the policy making process: there’s promises to keep and many more miles to go. But it’s a necessary step.

Aidan Skinner is a member of the Labour Party trying to stay involved. He’s professionally involved in developing Open Source software and enjoys arguing on the internet. Complaints to @aidanskinner on Twitter.