Labour Conference kicked off in Liverpool yesterday with some of the most heated exchanges on the Conference floor in recent years. Constituency and Trade Union delegates clashed over the outcomes of the Democracy Review on MP selections and arrangements for future leadership contests.
A vote on the Conference Arrangements Committee report on timings for debate, a proxy vote for the democratic reforms, brought loud boos and cries of “shame on the unions” from some CLP delegates. 90% of CLP delegates voted against, while the same percentage of union delegates votes in favour.
The proposals would see the threshold for a Trigger Ballot reduced from 50% of CLP Branches and affiliates to 33%. This sparked outrage among those who were calling for Open Selection ahead of every General Election. Changes to the leadership elections do not change the current threshold of 10% of MPs required to reach the ballot paper, but also brings in the additional requirement to secure the support of 5% of CLPs. This wouldn’t have stopped any of the five candidates in the 2015 election from reaching the ballot paper.
Delegates queued up on Sunday afternoon to slam the compromise. It was variously described as a “dogs dinner” and “missed opportunity” while others praised the overall impact other aspects of the reforms will have. A vote on the proposals saw the 63.9% support the leadership changes, while 65.3% supported the selection changes for Westminster elections.
Elsewhere in Liverpool, senior voices sought to move Labour away from a second EU Referendum including the option to move away from Brexit. Len McCluskey, Emily Thornberry and Rebecca Long-Bailey all expressed their reservations about the idea, while John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn both reiterated their preference for a General Election. However Keir Starmer stated if Labour were to offer a 2nd referendum remain would be an option.