Jeremy Corbyn to give greater decision-making powers to Labour grassroots

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn will announce that he is giving more decision-making powers to registered party supporters and introducing online ballots for members on policy, as part of a “democratic revolution” within the Labour party.

He has also ordered a review of the powers and structure of the Labour national executive, currently dominated by the left, in a move seen by his internal critics as an attempt to strengthen its policy making powers. The plans give the first indication of how Corbyn hopes to expand democracy within the party.

In a wide-ranging speech on Saturday covering the economy and foreign policy, Corbyn will say the reforms “are not designed to settle political scores or fight sectarian battles”. He will say in a speech to the Labour south west region: “It’s about being open to the people we seek to represent; giving them a voice through our organisation and policy-making, and drawing members into political action.

“Why not give members the chance to take part in indicative online ballots on policy in between annual conferences – and give our grassroots members and supporters a real say?”

He describes the changes as a democratic revolution in the party “opening up decision-making to the hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters that have joined us since May”. But there will be alarm among some Labour MPs and party members at Corbyn’s plans to give registered supporters paying £3 a regular direct say on policy issues that could be equivalent to full party members.

Nearly 84% of 100,000 non-party members that paid £3 to vote in the leadership election voted for Corbyn. It is not known how many have now joined the party as full members.

The remarks trailed by his office do not make reference to either the plan to shake up the national executive, or to the future status of the national policy forum, the elected body that decides major policy statements for party conference.

The unions control half the vote at party conference, but do not have the same level of influence over the policy forum, which is elected from all wings of the party. The review of the powers and governance structure of the NEC was agreed at an away-day and promoted most strongly by those on the left.

NEC members have now been asked “to feed in ideas and suggestions as to how the national executive can govern better and what structures are required with any proposed changes being brought to the national executive”.

Advocates of the changes argue the NEC was once the supreme body of the party with a central role on policy making, but its status was downgraded to a largely administrative one by Tony Blair. Corbyn’s supporters argue much of its policy making role was transferred to the leader’s office or to the national policy forum, an elected body drawn from all wings of the party that oversees policy on a regular cycle.

His speech will also call for an end to police cuts, an independent foreign policy in which war is the last resort and will urge Labour to resist Tory calls for patriotism as the party of hedge funds, bankers and the 1%.

He will claim Labour “stands for this country’s greatest traditions: the suffragettes and the trade unions; the Britain of Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Alan Turing and the Beatles – and perhaps our finest Olympian Mo Farah – the working people of this country who fought fascism, built the welfare state and turned this land into an industrial powerhouse.”

He will say: “The Tories won in May on their lowest ever share of the vote to deliver a parliamentary majority; just 37 % of those who voted and less than a quarter of those eligible. That’s no landslide in anyone’s book. But Labour failed to win back the economic credibility lost in the financial crash of 2008 or convince potential supporters we offered a genuine alternative.”

He will urge the party to focus “everything on the interests, aspirations and needs of middle and lower income voters”.

Powered by article was written by Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Friday 20th November 2015 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010