Suggested submissions for the Labour Party Democracy Review on BAME Labour
BAME Labour needs reform
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s democracy review as a huge opportunity to renew the Labour Party by increasing participation by it members. Among them are black members who are among the party’s most loyal supporters.
BAME Labour, the socialist society affiliated to the Labour Party, is not operating as a democratic affiliate and is letting down the Labour Party, its members and its supporters.
BAME Labour claims it is open to Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority individuals, but many, including Party members, find it almost impossible to join and participate in.
As Labour’s membership has almost trebled since 2015, BAME Labour membership has reached a new low. In 2010, BAME Labour had 3,363 members, at the time when Labour’s membership was around 178,000. This year membership of BAME Labour had fallen to 731 whilst Labour’s membership has risen to over 550,000.
The case for reform is self evident.
Reforming BAME Labour
There are various ways in which BAME Labour could be reformed. A properly functioning democratic affiliated organisation could be established or Labour Party members could self-identify and in effect become a ‘Section’ of the Party.
Below are set out a couple of alternative reform options (A & B) plus the reform suggestions of a CLP (C) – to assist Party members and CLPs when considering submissions to make to the review.
A) A Labour Party Black Representation Five Point Plan
Currently, BAME Labour has a two yearly conference. This should be annual and the conference should elect a national committee.
Labour’s NEC is asked to submit to Labour’s Annual Conference rule change proposals that will bring about a democratic, accountable, effective and mass-based socialist organisation of Black Labour Party members based on the five points below.
1. The organisation will be called the ‘Labour Party Black Socialists’ (LPBS) and be a membership organisation open to members of the Labour Party, or people aged 14 or over eligible for membership of the Labour Party who, pay an annual subscription to the LPBS and meet the requirement of being of African, Caribbean, Asian and other people who face discrimination on the basis of their colour.
2. The operation and finances of the organisation shall be under the direct control of its members through their elected leadership bodies.
3. The organisation shall have representation at all levels of the Labour Party, to include two representatives on the party’s NEC, NCC, CAC and to Party Conference and the Policy Forum, regional boards, LCFs, GCs and ECs, Women and Youth conferences, elected from the organisation’s bodies at the appropriate level, limited to non-members of parliament (to include MPs, Peers and members of the Scottish Parliament) and assembly members, at least one of whom should be a woman. One should be African, Caribbean and the other Asian.
4. Our aspirations include achieving proportionality of black representation of elected local authority and parliamentary members according to the population of relevant geographical areas, using all-black shortlists and black women on all-women shortlists to achieve this.
5. We will work with Labour to get it to adopt a Black Agenda, drawn up by its black party member through their representative organisation, for its implementation by the party when it is in government.
B) All self-identifying BAME members to be considered members of BAME Labour
1. All members of the Labour Party who self-identify as BAME must be automatically considered members of BAME Labour.
2. Ethnic Minority Forums (EMFs, see Chapter 14 of the Labour Party Rule Book) should make up the local BAME Labour groups, and must be strengthened and supported. They should feed up into the Regional and National Structures of BAME Labour through clear and democratic processes.
3. Ethnic Minority Officers should sit on the Executive Committee of their Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
4. To reflect the huge increase in BAME Labour membership that the above will bring, an extra seat on the NEC should be provided for BAME Labour.
5. At least one of the nine CLP NEC seats should be ringfenced for a BAME representative.
BAME Labour should hold a biannual delegate-based conference, with democratic procedures in place to empower members to shape the direction of the organisation. Policy passed should be fed into the national Labour Party.
6. Current rules regarding BAME Labour elections must be amended to engender greater opportunity for grassroots participation. Existing rules stipulating that Members of Parliament cannot represent BAME Labour on the NEC (Chapter 4 of the Labour Party Rule Book) must be enforced.
7. Extra funding is essential to ensure BAME Labour reaches its full organisational potential, and should be allocated as a percentage of the fees of the members of the Labour Party who self-identify as BAME. While this data is being calculated, and at all times in the future, enough must be given to cover a minimum of the salary of a staff member dedicated exclusively to the organisation, the costs of a biannual conference, and an activity fund directly accessible by the Executive Committee.
8. The Party must seriously consider strategies for standing more BAME candidates in safe seats. It must also recognise the exclusive culture that All Women’s Shortlists have engendered, to the detriment of selection opportunities for BAME women, and seek to rectify this situation.
9. Selection questions about race or religion are unacceptable, and must be ruled out of order.
10. There must be a serious commitment from the Party to take allegations of racism seriously, and to implement the recommendations of the Chakrabarti inquiry to ensure appropriate action is taken.
C) A CLP’s views on reform of BAME Labour (passed on to CLPD)
All Labour Party members when they join to be given the option to self-identify as BAME (with options aligned to Census categories), so the Party has a large database of these members.
Existing members to be asked the same question.
All self-identifying BAME members to be automatically part of a new BAME organisation.
This information, currently not collected by the Party, could be used, for example, to invite BAME members to vote in elections, attend events, including conferences, etc.
Members who self-identify as BAME should not have to pay for membership of BAME Labour but should automatically be included in its membership.
There should be a national BAME conference, with elected delegates and a proper discussion on policy. BAME members should be able to vote for their national leadership, and for their representative on the NEC.