Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s Clause V meeting, 11 May 2017 Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 May 2017

For new members, I will just explain what the ‘Clause V’ meeting actually is. It has pride of place in our party’s Constitutional Rules – “Chapter 1, Clause V - Party Programme”. It is when the party’s Mandarins get together to produce the party’s General Election Manifesto. When not in government, the Clause V meeting consists of the NEC, the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Committee of the PLP, the Leaders of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties, the Chair and the three Vice-Chairs of the National Policy Forum, and the eight Trade Union members of the TULO Contact Group. It is very encouraging to be able to record that almost all of the aforesaid representatives were in attendance.

The meeting was somewhat overshadowed by the disgraceful leaking of what the press has described as the ‘whole Manifesto draft’ to the Daily Telegraph, only a few hours before our meeting started. But no one allowed this to undermine their commitment in any way. The four-hour meeting was very friendly, disciplined (thanks to our splendid NEC Chair, Glenis) and very professional. Some two-hundred amendments/suggestions were put to the meeting, and each was responded to by the appropriate Shadow Cabinet minister. Almost every comrade in the room made a contribution. Consensus was reached on every single proposal – there was no requirement for even one single vote, except of course, the unanimous endorsement of our four-hours work at the end of the deliberations. Following the meeting, all of the consensus material will be sharpened up for the publisher. The Manifesto is likely to be published on the 15th May.

Leader’s Welcome

Jeremy, together with Andrew Gywnne and Ian Lavery gave an assessment of the campaign so far. He gave a ringing endorsement to the massive contribution being made by our members and staff throughout our party. Jeremy is constantly crisscrossing England, Scotland, and Wales, speaking at events and joining the doorstep canvassing. Yesterday Jeremy had attended no less than 5 rallies, and in York some two-thousand members of the public gave an enthusiastic welcome to the Labour team. Jeremy stressed how vital it is that our Manifesto (for England, Scotland, and Wales) addresses the key concerns of voters in the diverse communities across the country.

Finalising the overall Manifesto

(The SEC and WEC have responsibility for their respective complementary manifestos.)

Before moving on to the draft document, a brief report was given of the leaking of the ‘draft’. The Clause V meeting deeply regretted that at the highest levels of our party, there are those who are completely disloyal and who are a total disgrace.

The meeting then went through the draft section-by-section. A wide range of amendments/suggestions were made in relation to each section.

The first section addressed our overall strategy for rebuilding a strong economy after years of austerity and failures under the Tories and Lib Dems. Even the Sunday Times has underlined this failure. This Tory-supporting paper has pointed out that Labour’s proposals at the 2015 General Election included no plans for a budget surplus, but rather the policy was to continue to borrow to invest (in practice, leading to about £90 billion more debt by 2020 according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies). The Sunday Times concluded “in fact, it now looks as if we will end up with something like the numbers set-out by Labour 2 years ago, not the budget surplus promised by the Tories.” So instead of investing and growing, as Labour would have done, we have had massive austerity, falling wages, cuts to services, low productivity, and debt.

As I have said, the Manifesto will probably be launched on the 15th May. Obviously I cannot reveal details in advance! Nevertheless, the following is the summary of the Manifesto key points contained in The Guardian and elsewhere on 11th May, which are based on the leaked material. (I am of course not saying The Guardian is totally accurate, I’m only stating what is in The Guardian.)

· Take parts of Britain’s energy industry back into public ownership, alongside railways and Royal Mail.

· An annual injection of £6 billion in the NHS and £1.6 billion for social care.

· Build 100,000 new council homes a year.

· Institute a 20:1 pay cap for businesses with public contracts.

· A Ministry of Labour to oversee a wide range of reforms to workers’ rights.

· Getting rid of zero-hours contracts.

· £10 minimum wage.

· Invest £250 billion in infrastructure.

· The Tory’s planned increase in the pension age beyond 66 will be scrapped.

· A phased abolition of tuition fees. Restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance that were paid under Labour to 16-18 year olds in full-time study.

· Greatly increased finance for child care.

· Banning fracking.

· Reverse the Tory handouts of cuts to inheritance and corporation tax. Scrap the bedroom tax. Develop a more progressive tax system.

· Extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland

· The policies will be fully costed and there will be tax raises only for those earning over £80,000.

I can also reveal some of the suggestions and proposals that I personally put to the meeting.

These included: that Labour’s clear opposition to the divisive separation at age 11 into grammar schools/secondary moderns should be clearly spelled out; we should remove charity status from private schools once and for all, saving some £100 million a year; much closer links between schools and mental health service, given the increase pressures/anxieties faced by school children; the totally unworkable Universal Credit System should be abolished before it causes even more havoc; there needs to be massive restrictions on the numbers of betting shops in town centres – they are now ubiquitous in the poorer neighbourhoods; the ‘wheels-to-work’ initiative should be examined, under this scheme local authorities leased mopeds to young people from low income families to get to work/training/further education; local authorities must be given much more power to raise funds on the bond markets to pay for council housing (given the low interest rates this is a ‘no-brainer’); the increasing inequalities within council tax must be urgently addressed; leasehold tenure should be phased-out altogether and should be replaced by common-hold tenure; private landlords must be licensed; the exciting initiative of community farms should be explored – these farms are worked by ex-offenders/homeless and in this way they contribute to society and have a home.

It was very encouraging that most of my proposals were sympathetically received by the assembled comrades. On 15th May I will be reading the Manifesto to see just how sympathetically! Of course, it is also the case that our able team of Shadow Cabinet ministers may well pursue my proposals even if they’re not in the actual Manifesto.

Jeremy’s Message to the Meeting and to our Party

The meeting concluded with Jeremy giving huge thanks to all those who have been involved with working on the draft Manifesto. We now have a set of powerful pledges that directly relate to the concerns on the doorstep. We must ensure that all voters get our message loud and clear – that Labour will build a diverse society to be proud of. We did it in 1945-51, when we faced both a much bigger deficit and economic problems. We can certainly do it again, and we will!

At this point, I led the raucous cheering and clapping. There were comrades at the meeting that I had not seen for some twenty years – their commitment to the cause was all too crystal clear.

Postscript

For the assistance of members and candidates: CLPD is composing an ever-longer list of ‘Election Points’ (visit the CLPD website at www.clpd.org.uk). These are to assist in speeches, articles, and on the doorstep. If you have a good election point you would like added, please let me know.