Labour and the unions: latest conference bunfight

Here at Labour’s conference, the air is thick with plotting. This may be Labour’s last chance to rally, but that isn’t stopping No 10 from fighting the unions over a rule change.

The unions, with the support of centre-left party activists, are looking to get members of Labour’s National Policy Forum elected by a one-member-one-vote ballot of their constituency members, instead of by a vote of conference delegates who (they might argue) more open to pressure from party staff.

Anoraky? Maybe. But both sides are determined not to back down, and tensions are rising. National executive committee member Peter Kenyon, who supports OMOV, was seen having a stand-up row with Jonathan Ashworth, No 10’s union liaison man, in the foyer of the Hilton Metropole on Saturday on this very subject. “It’ll let the left in,” is No 10’s reported response to the move**. A senior union source replies: “That’s democracy.”

The vote on OMOV is on Wednesday morning. Watch this space…

**Update: Jonathan Ashworth from No 10 has been in touch. Just to clarify the above: it wasn’t he who said that the rule change will “let the left in”. Rather he argued that it should be considered in the context of a wider review of the Labour Party constitution next year. This is what NEC chair Cath Speight said at Conference, so I’m happy to take that on board and set the record straight.

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