As I write, the polling stations are just shutting up and down the country. We don't know what the results will be. Fingers crossed that excellent Labour councillors up and down the country won't be unceremoniously flung out of office and replaced by feckless Tories, Lib Dems or worse. Fingers crossed Ken has held on in London.
But whatever the result, Gordon Brown has said that there is going to be a wide-ranging, genuine policy consultation in the party, giving CLPs and union branches the chance to submit full amendments to policy documents before they go to the NPF, and giving us the chance to have a real discussion about policies. People from all areas of the party seem to agree that the time is more than right to get some genuinely radical policies on the agenda. I started off a discussion at Labourhome (and got some interesting responses) and I know other Labour blogs are going to get involved with the discussion too. While there a wide range of interesting reforms being discussed (especially proposed constitutional reforms, etc.) I think we on the left should make a particularly strong push on the issue of trade unions and workers' rights. This is particularly in the light of recent comments by Osborne and the Tories.
We all know there have been policy consultations before, and we all know many have been nothing more than expensive PR exercises. But if we make a concerted effort on this, I think we could push some of this legislation to the top of the agenda, and - if nothing else - make it much harder for the government to talk out future private members' bills in these areas.
The two key pieces of legislation in this area, proposed in recent years, are the Trade Union Freedom Bill and the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill. I think we should use this consultation to make a strong case for the government introducing a Workers' Rights Bill: a synthesis of these two excellent bills, with full government support. Let's try and put in place some fundamental and irreversible protection for working people.
I propose that we come up with a form of words that clearly states that we want this legislation in place; take the words to our CLPs, union branches, etc. and publish here which organisations have proposed the amendment. We could disperse the amendment via the networks of the LRC, STLP, CLPD, Compass, etc, also via Labour Briefing, Tribune, the Chartist, etc. and through various Labour blogs. The temptation will be for everyone to put their own set of words in, and on some issues that will undoubtedly happen. But to have a big effect we should organise and work together.
Let's put our internal democracy to the test: let's try and get a set of proposals with overwhelming trade union support and strong parliamentary support and clear support among party members established as clear PARTY POLICY and then challenge the government to implement it.