Barry Rodin of Orpington CLP reports on the plans Labour’s disabled members have to democratise the party.
A strong message from submissions of disabled members to the Labour Party Democracy Review is that they do not want the party to do things for them but with them. Following country-wide consultations of disability officers and disabled members, a national event was held in Birmingham on June 9th to discuss and develop the following three proposals.
- Establishing an annual National Disabled Member’s Conference, with representation from CLPs and affiliates. The Conference‘s main aims include giving disabled members a stronger voice and to feed into Labour’s policy making process.
- Setting up a Disabled Members’ Committee, to be elected by either OMOV election of members who self-define as disabled, or by the National Disabled Member’s Conference. The Committee’s responsibilities embrace:
- planning the Annual Disability Conference and other events at accessible venues;
- feeding into the NEC and the LP ‘front bench’ issues of concern to disabled members;
- ensuring the party’s rules and procedures are compliant with current disability laws;
- providing specialist advice to CLPs on disability access issues;
- overseeing disability awareness training and political education for disabled people and other party members and staff; and
- developing a pool of disabled members to stand for local and national elections and ensuring those elected to office are effectively supported.
- Making it easier for disabled members to participate, using their skills and experience, at all levels of the Party.
After a wide-ranging discussion, there was strong support for the following recommendations:
- more effective identification of new and existing disabled members, whilst conforming to data protection laws (e.g. through self-identification);
- creating at least one extra position on the NEC, with accountability for disability issues;
- disability and equalities officers to attend CLP Executive Committees, with voting rights;
- broaden support to party members who are carers of adults and/or children with disabilities;
- determine practical ways to pro-actively encourage participation of disabled members such as suitable meeting facilities, including lighting, hearing loops and use of digital technology in online forums etc.
An overriding conclusion was that the breaking down of barriers to achieve inclusiveness demands reviewing procedures and support given at all levels of the Labour Party, from grassroots activities to the election of MPs and councillors. If this participative and constructive meeting is anything to go by, disabled members have the energy and political will to achieve this.
For more information about the Labour Party Democracy Review visit: labour.org.uk/about/democracy-review-2017/