Evidently the New Labour leadership under Brown can't tollerate the prospect of facing any defeats (or even debates) at future party conferences.
The leadership have been defeated a few times in recent years, Foundation Hospitals, renationalise the railways, earnings-pensions link etc. Of course these decisions were promtly ignored anyway, but they did embarass the Government and give the left some encouragement.
New Labour did 'avoid' a debate on Iraq though, evidently some issues are just 'no go' areas.
If the rule changes that are proposed go through, then everything is set to become a 'no go' area!
If the changes pass, then motions on comtemporary political issues will be banned. Some of the affiliated unions are not even going to oppose this. Effectively they are reducing themselves, even more so, to being lobbyists, not affiliated organisations with a powerful influence on the party and government. These union leaders talk ocassionally about 'reclaiming' Labour - but they backed Brown for leader, and in reality they act as collaborators with New Labour - holding back the workers' movement in the process.
If these changes to the conference are accepted it will be yet another key moment in the rightward drift of New Labour. Maybe even a decisive qualitative change, a moment that might just force some on the left, and maybe even a few of the more militant unions, to decide that enough is enough - and break with the new New Labour Party. The GMB have recently threatened disaffiliation it should be noted.
As the name of the blog suggests, I think the left and the unions should break with New Labour. Of course, many fine socialists still within Labour will disagree with me on this, and I respect their views and discuss and debate with them frequently.
But in my opinion, the party is firmly in the grip of the right wing -and crucially, hundreds of thousands of socialists, trade unionists and working class people, millions in fact, will not be persuaded to join or rejoin the New Labour Party - only to then enter into a war of attrition against the right, to become demoralised or be bureacratically blocked. This is especially true of younger people who have only ever known New Labour.
All these people are politically homeless and without a voice. They could only ever be persuaded to join a new party, to make a fresh start in a genuinely democratic socialist party.
Such a party, with the backing of the more militant unions, and hopefully some of the well respected left Labour MPs, could be a major pole of attraction, drawing towards it the politically homeless to fight for a better, fairer and more equal socialist society.
Read My last real conference? by Tony Benn from today's Guardian (extract below).
"If the new proposals - now endorsed by the NEC and apparently some major trade unions - are accepted, delegates will only be allowed to identify issues they want looked at by the policy forums, and the manifesto that emerges will be put to a referendum of party members to accept or reject in full, with no possibility of amendment. This would complete the New Labour project under which the conference becomes a platform for ministers and a few handpicked delegates - and, of course, a big trade fair. There would be no point in joining the party locally or affiliating as a union in the hope of discussing policy."