Partnership in Power

Partnership Made Easy – Labour’s Policy - Making Process 2006 / 2009

The National Policy Forum (NPF) has 184 members (55 elected by constituency delegates at annual conference; 22 elected by regional boards/conferences; 30 from the unions; 9 MPs; 6 MEPs; 8 ministers; 3 from socialist societies; 3 from the Co-op Party; 4 from the Black Socialist Society; 9 from local government; 2 members of the House of Lords; 1 Labour Student; and the 32 members of the National Executive Committee). It meets two or three times a year. 

Between meetings all work is carried out by six policy commissions, listed below with their e-mail addresses.  They can also be contacted by post at the Policy Unit at national headquarters. 

Britain in the World (pip3.britain@new.labour.org.uk)

Creating Sustainable Communities – housing, environment, local government, transport, the regions, culture, media, sport (pip3.communities@new.labour.org.uk)

Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities (pip3@crimejustice@new.labour.org.uk)

Education and Skills (pip3.education@new.labour.org.uk)

Prosperity and Work – combines the former economy and trade and industry commissions (pip3.prosperity@new.labour.org.uk)

The commissions have between 16 and 22 members, of whom about half are from the Forum and the rest split between NEC members and relevant ministers.  NEC members act as co-convenors, with five out of the six currently from the trade unions and the sixth an MEP.  The co-convenors represent the NEC on the Joint Policy Committee, which also includes Forum and government members.  The JPC decides how the Forum operates, agrees policy recommendations, and signs off final documents.

Under Partnership in Power all policies are reviewed during a parliament, and the results should underpin the next manifesto.  The 2005 review proposed some changes, and this cycle will begin in 2006 with an over-arching Big Conversation-style document considering the main issues facing the party.  The second stage in 2007 will outline the policy choices emerging from the first stage.  Particularly during the first stage, wide public involvement is encouraged.  Final documents covering all policy areas will then be agreed at Warwick-style Forum meetings in 2008.  As an innovation constituencies will be able to submit formal amendments to these papers, but will still rely on their representatives to pursue them at the Forum.  In previous cycles more than 90% of amendments have been altered, some significantly, or withdrawn after discussion with ministers.

Throughout the process, papers are drafted by ministers and party staff, agreed by policy commissions, considered by the Forum and revised by the commissions.  They are then distributed for discussion at local forums, constituencies and branches and published on the web.  As before, documents will also go to annual conference for approval without amendment, except in the final year where conference can choose between a small number of alternative positions presented by the Forum.  Reports from the Forum, policy commissions and the NEC are published in summer, and constituencies can submit contemporary resolutions to conference only on issues not covered in any of these. 

The policy commissions are also responsible for day-to-day dialogue with the party, and this cycle promises better feedback, more information on the website, and telephone conferences and Q-and-A sessions.  There is more emphasis on current issues, and the commissions will publish work plans with priorities for the year ahead.  However members should feel free to write about anything, even though for instance identity cards or student fees are not in any of the work plans.  Remember that Forum members do not see submissions – please send copies to them directly, so they know what you think

Finally, many obstacles face ordinary members trying to get elected to the Forum.  The new Partnership in Power co-ordinators network is much more accessible.  It offers special briefings and the opportunity to feed in members’ views, and could provide a bridge between the grassroots and the centre – contact myself or Kamlesh_Karia@new.labour.org.uk for information on how to join.

 Ann Black, January 2006

annblack@acedial.co.uk