Suggested Rule Change

Ensuring a democratic choice in Labour Leadership elections – when there is a vacancy


The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 4 Elections of national officers of the Party and national committees, Clause II Procedural rules for elections for national officers of the Party, Section 2 Election of leader and deputy leader, Subsection B Nominations, (i) (Page 14) reads as follows:


'In the case of a vacancy for leader or deputy leader, each nomination must be supported by 15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.'




Delete: ‘by 15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP'


Replace with: 'by nominations from: a) 15 per cent of the combined Commons members of the PLP and members of the EPLP; or b) 15 per cent of the affiliated national trade unions; or c) 15 per cent of Constituency Labour Parties'


Supporting argument


Prior to 1988 the threshold required for a valid nomination to stand for Leader or Deputy Leader was 5 per cent of Labour MPs, whether there was a vacancy or an incumbent in post.

The current requirement, when there is a vacancy that a candidate has to be nominated by 15 per cent of the PLP plus EPLP, allows for an undemocratic restriction in the choice of candidates that can be voted on in a leadership ballot. It allows MPs to have a veto and to block candidates that have backing in the trade unions and membership from securing a place on the ballot paper.

When there was a vacancy for Leader, in both 2010 and 2015, some MPs got around the current rule and ensured a representative field of candidates by nominating candidates they did not intend to vote for. This allowed Diane Abbott MP in 2010 and Jeremy Corbyn MP in 2015 to be included in the respective ballots. It was widely believed neither would win a leadership election.

Since Jeremy's election as Leader several MPs have indicated they will not again nominate to help widen the Party's choice.

That potentially means, under the current rule, that a candidate who perhaps has wide support in the trade unions or amongst the membership, but not the requisite 15 per cent of MPs and MEPs, could be denied a place on the ballot paper.

It is undemocratic for MPs and MEPs to have powers to so tightly restrict the range of candidates running in a leadership election. Labour’s affiliated trade unions and local constituency parties should have a real role, so that when there is a leadership vacancy the party is free to consider a representative choice of candidates.

The purpose of this rule change is to allow any candidate, who can gain the support of 15% of either MPs/MEPs or of trade unions or of CLPs, on to the ballot paper. This rule change would only alter the rule when there is a vacancy for Leader or Deputy Leader. (This rule change would not alter the 20 per cent threshold required by challengers when there is an incumbent in office.)

Reform of the ‘trigger mechanism’ for sitting MPs

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 5: Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office; Clause IV Selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates; subclause 5 reads as follows:

5. If a CLP is represented in Parliament by a member of the PLP:

A. If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election, a trigger ballot will be carried out through Party units and affiliates according to NEC guidelines. If the MP wins the trigger ballot he/she will, subject to NEC endorsement, be selected as the CLP’s prospective parliamentary candidate.

B. If the MP fails to win the trigger ballot he/she shall be eligible for nomination for selection as the prospective parliamentary candidate, and he/she shall be included in the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection shall be made.’


Replace paragraphs (A) and (B) by the following:

A. If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election the standard procedures for the selection of a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be set in motion not later than 42 months after the last time the said Member of Parliament was elected to Parliament at a general election. If the nominations, by both party units and affiliates, are over 66% in favour of the sitting MP then the NEC has the authority to endorse the sitting MPs as the CLP’s prospective parliamentary candidate [in those cases where a CLP does not have a branch structure (in other words, does not have the usual structure of party units), the NEC will provide appropriate guidance].

B. The said Member of Parliament shall have the right to be included (irrespective of whether he/she has been nominated) on the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be made.’

Consequential amendments to be made elsewhere in the Rule Book where the ‘trigger ballot’ is mentioned.

Supporting argument

Many Party members are now of the view that some Labour MPs take insufficient account of the views of their CLP and of Annual Conference, our Party’s sovereign body. One reason for this is that adequate mechanisms of accountability are non-existent in our Party. Effectively, a Labour MP in a ‘safe’ seat has a ‘job for life’ – well into their 80s in some cases. Indeed, some Labour MPs in Scotland clearly took this view until, of course, ‘safe’ Labour seats ceased to exist north of the border. There was one well-documented case of a Labour MP who had not been out canvassing for some 20 years. And it was not only in Scotland – in South Shields CLP, when David Miliband left, the marked-up register was found to be a mere 0.3%.

The above rule change provides a modicum of accountability. It is a half-way house between full mandatory re-selection and the existing arrangements, which in practice amount to little or no accountability.

You will see that our proposed rule change makes provision for the situation where the sitting MP gets an overwhelming majority of the nominations. In these circumstances the sitting MP is endorsed as the PPC.

A new Local Government Committee structure (instead of existing Local Campaign Forum)

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 12 Rules for Labour Party Local Campaign Forums, Clause 4 Membership:


Delete all and insert new sub-clauses as follows:

1. The membership of the LGC shall consist 75% of delegates from the local CLP(s) and 25% from affiliates. At least 50% of delegates from each group shall be women.

2. Additionally, CLP campaign co-ordinators shall be ex officio members of the LGC. Any sitting MP, AM, MSP, MEP, PCC and / or PPC may attend their LGC. Where a Co-operative Party council exists for the area concerned and they sponsor candidates in local elections they shall be entitled to appoint a member to the LGC.

3. The LGC shall meet at least four times per year with representatives of the Labour group where one exists.

Consequential amendments – elsewhere replace LCF by LGC

Supporting argument

The introduction of Local Campaign Forums, following the 'Refounding Labour' process in 2011, has not been a success. In many parts of the country LCFs meet irregularly, do not provide an adequate forum for consultation and debate on local government policy, and do not organise sufficient campaigning activity. Reinstating Local Government Committees, with defined representation for CLPs and affiliates, and regular meetings, would improve on this situation.

Election of the National Constitutional Committee (constituency section) by OMOV

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 4 Elections of national officers of the party and national committees, Clause III Procedural rules for elections for national committees, subclause C Election of National Constitutional Committee (NCC), (i) c. reads as follows:

Division III shall consist of four members, at least two of whom shall be women, to be nominated by CLPs and elected by their delegations at Party conference on a card vote basis.’


Delete: ‘their delegations at Party conference on a card vote basis’

Replace with: ‘means of a one-member-one-vote postal ballot among all eligible individual members of the Party, conducted to guidelines laid down by the NEC’

And consequential rule amendments

Supporting argument

In recent years there has been a consistent trend towards giving all party members a direct vote for their representatives on our national committees. These moves have given the grassroots membership some rights and influence within their own party, which is particularly important given the countertrend towards more power accruing to the centre and the party machine.

In 1997, party members were given the right to elect the constituency section of the NEC by one member-one-vote (OMOV) and more recently they were further given the right to elect both the constituency section of the National Policy Forum (NPF) and the constituency section of the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) by OMOV.

The National Constitutional Committee (NCC) is a committee that makes decisions on the disciplinary matters it is presented with. It consists of eleven members, including four members in Division III who are elected by the CLPs (of which at least two shall be women). NCC members serve a three year term. It is an important committee, for example it can make decisions to expel members or to impose other sanctions. It would therefore be an important step forward for grassroots democracy if these four constituency seats on the NCC were also to be elected by means of OMOV. This reform need not cost extra money because the NCC election could run alongside the OMOV elections for the NEC, NPF and CAC.

A considerable number of CLPs still do not send delegates to conference and therefore they and their members are totally disenfranchised from the current NCC elections. This reform would effectively enfranchise every member in every CLP.

Remove the arbitrary ‘contemporary’ criterion in relation to annual conference motions

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 3 Party Conference, Clause III (Procedural rules for Party Conference), Conference Rule 2 – Agenda, Sub-clause C reads as follows:

All affiliated organisations, the ALC, Young Labour and CLPs may submit one contemporary motion which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference. The CAC shall determine whether the motions meet these criteria and submit all motions received to a priorities ballot at the start of conference. The ballot will be divided into two sections. One section for CLPs and one section for trade unions and other affiliated organisations. At least the four priorities selected by CLPs will be time-tabled for debate, as will at least the first four priorities selected by Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations. Motions must be in writing, on one subject only and in 250 words or less. Alternatively, a constitutional amendment on one subject only may be submitted in writing. Contemporary motions and constitutional amendments must be received by the General Secretary at the offices of the party by the closing date determined by the NEC.’


First sentence: delete ‘contemporary’ and delete ‘which is not substantially addressed by reports of the NEC or NPF to Conference.’ And replace the latter with ‘on a matter of policy, campaigning or party organisation and finance’.

Second sentence: delete ‘determine whether the motions meet these criteria and’.

Last sentence: delete ‘contemporary’.

Supporting argument

CLPs have precious little scope to influence decision-making at annual conference and the right to submit a single ‘contemporary motion’ is one of their most important opportunities. Indeed, this lack of real influence is a major factor why less and less CLPs are sending delegates to conference.

Unfortunately, the arbitrary criterion of ‘contemporary’ is not only not properly defined, but it is unnecessarily restrictive. It lends itself to being used by the platform to rule out controversial issues that the Party establishment would prefer not to see on the conference agenda. But in a democratic party, annual conference (the Party’s sovereign body) should have the right to discuss all subjects which CLPs and affiliated organisations consider are important. There should be no artificial barriers on this right. CLPs and unions should therefore have the right to submit whatever subject their members consider important. The original Partnership into Power proposals made it clear that motions on campaigning and party organisation were permissible. The above rule change spells this out.

Abolish the obsolete one year’s delay re rule changes from CLPs

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 3 Party Conference, Clause III (Procedural Rules for Party Conference), Conference rule 2 – agenda.


Add at end after Sub-clause H, a new Sub-clause I as follows:

All constitutional amendments submitted by affiliated organisations and CLPs that are accepted as in order shall be timetabled for debate at the first annual party conference following their submission.’

Supporting argument

The NEC can (and does!) agree rule changes one week and have them voted on by Annual Conference the following week. But for CLPs and trade unions it is an entirely different process. A rule change from CLPs/TUs submitted before the June closing date in one year has to wait well over a year (until the Annual Conference the following year) before it is timetabled for debate. This inordinate delay is due to an obscure convention, referred to as ‘The 1968 ruling’! In those more democratic days a complete verbatim of Conference was published and provided to delegates and CLPs. Thus we can read that the idea proposed in 1968 was that, during the year’s delay, the NEC would analyse the rule amendments in detail and present a considered assessment to the subsequent Conference. This may have happened once, but it has not been like that for years. Rather, in the lead up to the subsequent Conference, the Party officials simply make a one or two sentence written comment (usually to ‘reject’) and then this is nodded through by the NEC (although 2014 saw an exception to this pattern).

Thus, by its actions, the NEC has rendered the 1968 convention obsolete and it should be dispensed with. In any one year there is plenty of time between June and Annual Conference to assess rule change proposals from CLPs and TUs. The rule amendments should therefore be considered by Annual Conference in the year in which they are submitted – as set out in our recommended rule change.

Full involvement by party branches and branches of affiliated organisations in the selection of Westminster candidates

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 5 Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office, Clause IV Selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates


Insert new subclause 2 as follows:

The NEC’s procedural rules and guidelines for the selection of candidates for Westminster parliament elections shall include provision for party branches and branches of affiliated organisations to both interview prospective candidates and make nominations to the long list. The drawing up of the final shortlist will give due cognisance to the weight of nominations each candidate receives.’

and renumber existing subclauses (2) onwards to now be subclauses (3) onwards.

Supporting argument

The selection of parliamentary candidates is one of the Party’s most important tasks. Some MPs serve for 40 years and it is vital that every effort is made to secure the very best candidates. This should mean involving all party members and affiliated members through their branches and seeking to select PPCs that are representative of their communities. Unfortunately, in recent years, the opposite has been happening. Party branches nominate from CVs without interview, affiliated branches are not properly involved at all, and, according to the latest NEC survey, as few as 9% of current Labour MPs have a manual background, whereas 27% are from the Westminster village. The party has made a commitment to giving members a greater role and influence. Nowhere is this more important than in the selection of Labour parliamentary candidates.

A democratic Young Labour

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 11 Rules for Young Labour, Clause V Structure:


Add at end after Sub-clause 3, a new Sub-clause 4 as follows:

'Young Labour shall have its own constitution and standing orders, to be determined by the Young Labour AGM'

Supporting argument

The rule would clarify how Young Labour works, increase its autonomy and stop the organisation being beholden to Labour Party staff's interpretation of the rulebook.

Much of the current rules simply say that the NEC will determine how Young Labour works as it sees fit, with no concrete rules to govern the organisation

The purpose of this rule change is to make Young Labour AGM into the sovereign body of the organisation. Self-organisation and democracy are crucial to making a youth organisation that can be really attractive to young people. An organisation where all the important decisions are made by distant bodies cannot foster the democratic spirit that we want in our youth movement; nor will it be convincing to young people wanting to be involved in politics.

Open selection for two-term Directly-Elected Mayors

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 5 Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office. Clause I. General rules for selections for public office. Sub-Clause 1. G. i. Alternative Procedures (page 23), reads as follows:

For any mayoral selection the NEC may consider the use of primary elections, subject to the absolute power of the NEC to cancel or amend procedure, and subject to:

a. Procedural guidelines set by the NEC.’


Add new sub-clause:

b. If a selected candidate is elected for two consecutive terms he/she must take part in an open selection contest in order to be a candidate for any subsequent term.

Supporting argument

Directly-Elected Mayors were introduced by the Local Government Act 2000 and, from their entry into function after the 2002 Local Elections until 2008, the Labour Party rules stipulated that Directly-Elected Mayors who were Labour Party members could not stand for re-election after having served two terms.

This time limit was removed on the recommendation of the NEC Local Government Committee in 2008.

Unique among public offices subject to universal suffrage, Directly-Elected Mayors have presidential-type executive powers and these powers are not always counterbalanced by adequate checks and balances. In the interests of healthy democratic local governance, they should – after serving two terms – win an open selection contest with other aspiring Labour Party candidates in order to serve any further term.

Several Mayors may stand for re-election in 2018 for a fifth term, resulting in a total of 20 years in office, after being selected by a trigger ballot process for all elections after 2002.

Greater flexibility on time period to elapse before a person can apply for re-admission to the Party following an expulsion.

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 6, Clause 1 National action by the Party, Section 2 reads as follows:

When a person applies for re-admission to the Party following an expulsion by the NCC on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2 4.A above of the membership rules, the application shall be submitted to the NEC for consideration and decision. Such applications shall not normally be considered by the NEC until a minimum of five years has elapsed. The decision of the NEC shall be binding on the individual concerned and on the CLP relevant to the application.


Delete text of current clause Chapter 6.1.2 and replace with:

Clause 6.1.2

When there has either been a decision to expel a member or an automatic exclusion has been agreed, the body making that decision (NEC or NCC) will at the time of the decision also specify a minimum period which has to elapse before readmission will be considered. This minimum period will not exceed 5 years. An application for re-admission shall not normally be considered by the NEC until the specified minimum period has elapsed. When a person applies for re-admission to the Party following an expulsion by the NCC on whatever basis or by automatic exclusion under Chapter 2 4.A above of the membership rules, the application shall be submitted to the NEC for consideration and decision. The decision of the NEC shall be binding on the individual concerned and on the CLP relevant to the application.’

Supporting argument

Currently, a minimum of 5 years has to elapse before the NEC will normally consider an application for readmission to the Labour Party after any expulsion, regardless of the seriousness of the offence or transgression.

This is contrary to the principals of natural justice and equitable practice. A more flexible readmission policy will result in specifying a minimum time lapse proportionate to the reasons for expulsion. The time lapse will still never exceed five years.

Introducing a tariff approach will give greater focus on the range of reasons currently given for expulsions. It will therefore:

help to highlight and reduce expulsions for relatively trivial or specious reasons; and

engender a more open, transparent and tolerant culture within the Labour Party.

Standing orders for the democratic and inclusive running of Party Conference

Labour Party Rule Book 2017, Chapter 3 Party Conference, Clause III. Procedural rules for Party Conference, 1. Conference rule 1 – Annual Party Conference.


Add after sub clause F. (on page 12) an additional sub clause:

G. The NEC will draw up Standing Orders for Party Conference that will outline procedures for: the conference timetable, procedure in debate, motions, composite motions, emergency motions, withdrawal and remittance of motions, reference back, point of order, chairs ruling, suspension of Standing Orders, voting, including full procedures for card votes, ending debate and the role of the CAC. These Standing Orders will be presented to the first session of each Party Conference in a CAC report for agreement by the conference.’

Supporting argument

Annual conference is the supreme policy making body of the Labour Party. Therefore it is essential that it is conducted according to democratic principles. Unfortunately this has not proved to be the case in recent years. The conference chair has ignored calls from delegates for procedural matters to be referred back to the Conference Arrangements Committee. And the conference chair has also ignored legitimate calls from delegates for card votes on important matters without any explanation and in contravention of the Party rule-book. It is therefore necessary to democratise conference proceedings so that the rights of delegates are upheld in accordance with Party rules. This means we need proper conference standing orders laying out the procedure for how conference should be run to ensure that the democratic rights of delegates are upheld.

CLPD EC on 24 June 2017 decided also to circulate these rule changes.

Youth representation on NEC

BAME representation on NEC

A democratic selection process for the 21st century

Greater CLP representation on NEC

The CLPD EC agreed to circulate this last one with a comment. Please note that rule changes may not make it to the conference agenda because they are sometimes ruled out of order by the CAC (though often by a capricious interpretation of the rulebook!). With that in mind we are particularly concerned that the CAC may try to rule out the rule change regarding greater CLP representation on the NEC because of the 3 year rule (Clause III 2 H).

Closing date for constitutional amendments: 7 July 2017