CLPD held its Annual General Meeting, its 40th, on Saturday 23 February at Conway Hall in central London. The highest attendance for some years, and a considerable increase in younger members, meant that whilst there were speeches and tributes commemorating the anniversary, there was much discussion and debate on the way forward for the Left in the Labour Party (LP).
Kelvin Hopkins MP opened the meeting paying tribute to CLPD and declared that the organisation had saved the soul of the Party. He particularly credited Vladimir and Vera Derer for all their commitment and hard work over the years and to the continuing work of Pete Willsman, CLPD secretary. Kelvin acknowledged the role of CLPD in the recent leadership election where CLPD called for a second preference vote for Ed Miliband. Given the closeness of the result, CLPD's call may have been decisive.
Pete Willsman reported that seven of CLPD's model rule changes were on the agenda for the 2013 LP conference. These include calls for a rolling policy programme, leaders of Labour Groups on councils to be elected by LP members via an electoral college and tougher triggers for re-selection of MPs and elected Mayors. At the 2012 conference CLPD had played a significant role in three resolutions debated on the NHS, housing and economic policy. The daily Campaign Briefing (known as the Yellow Pages) handed out each day at conference had now reached its 50th year having been taken over by CLPD some years after it commenced and had been edited by membership registrar Andrew Fenyo for 30 years.
The local government report looked at ways of involving LP members in local party manifestos.
Young Labour and young members in CLPD were discussed. Two rule changes agreed created two new positions on the CLPD executive for young members and lower subscription rates.
Christine Shawcroft (member of the LP National Executive Committee) gave NEC and National Policy Forum reports. Christine encouraged members to have more input into the NPF. The November NEC had discussed the problems of getting card votes at conference. Christine said whilst there were some good trade union delegates on the NEC, some actually voted against their unions' own polices on occasion.
In the afternoon session, Jon Lansman (NPF organiser and editor of Yellow Pages) read out an entertaining message from former MP and longstanding CLPD member Chris Mullin, and Jon gave his own reflections on CLPD which he joined in 1977. Both Chris and Jon paid tribute to the Derers.
Jon went on to launch the "Charter for a Democratic Conference". At last year's LP conference delegates were allocated only 18% of the conference time for their debates. The charter demands that they should get at least 50%, the criteria for motions and rule changes be more flexible and fair, and voting procedures be fair and democratic. Further info can be found at http://www.leftfutures.org/ and http://www.grassrootslabour.net/.
Anne Pettifor gave a wide ranging speech touching on the fight for more representation for women in the Party over the years and the current problems with finance caused by the banks. Anne said a social policy was essential and that if we leave the financial system to others we will not be able to defend the welfare state.
Jon Ashworth MP spoke of the need for more working class candidates for parliament and we need the support of the unions to achieve this. Jon highlighted the need for a fairer system of owning the national media and the bringing back as Labour policy the 10 pence tax rate.
Following regional reports six resolutions to the conference were debated and passed. These included economic policy and the Tower Hamlets LP Mayoral selection.