Labour conference: non-members to get vote in leadership elections

Labour has agreed that if national and local parties can recruit more than 50,000 registered supporters, this will trigger these supporters being given 3% of the electoral college. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Registered Labour supporters, will be given 3% to 10% of the vote at the next Labour leadership election under proposals to open the party to wider groups agreed by the party’s national executive.

In the final version of the “Refounding Labour” document put to the conference on Sunday on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, the party has agreed that if national and local parties can recruit more than 50,000 registered supporters (not party members), this will trigger these supporters being given 3% of the electoral college. That share will be spread evenly between the three parts of the existing electoral college: the affiliated unions, the MPs and the constituency parties.

In previous version of the proposal, briefed by party officials last week, there was no requirement to reach 50,000 registered member recruits before they could have a stake in the electoral college. It was also briefed that registered supporters would go solely into the union section, so diluting the power of political levy-payers.

This 3% stake could rise as high as 10% depending on the number of registered supporters recruited. No details have been agreed on a sliding scale, but it has also been agreed as a principle that no settlement can be reached on proportions that leaves registered supporters – recruited free – being given a greater voting power than a full party member.

The unions are also floating proposals that could see the union voting power at conference curtailed. Any union proposition to conference would require not just simple majority support of delegates, but support of a fixed proportion of both unions and constituencies.

The unions currently have 50% of the conference vote, and it is understood that the Unite general secretary, Len Mcluskey, has recognised there needs to be some reform. A deadline of March has been set to reach agreement.

The unions have also ruled that any written communication or email between the party and affiliated levy-payers will have to be sanctioned by a union official first.

The unions have cited the Data Protection Act, but the insistence on vetting all contact also underlines union leaders’ nervousness at losing control of their levy-payers and how they are influenced in Labour leadership elections.

Ed Miliband said on Sunday the Refounding Labour process – of which these reforms form part – are an attempt to open the party to wider groups and claimed he had achieved changes that dwarfed reforms pushed through by previous leaders including Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair.

The new proposals have been negotiated by the shadow Welsh secretary, Peter Hain.

But Conservatives and advocates of a weaker union link will claim the proposals do not match the scale of the ambition set out by Miliband, or the scale of the union stranglehold on a financially dependent party.

The Unite proposal would address the problem that general secretaries of three giant unions – Unison, Unite and the GMB – own 40% of the vote, and all the affiliated unions 50%, so controlling the entire party programme.

Unite is suggesting the unions keep 50% of the vote but they would also need a fixed proportion of the constituency section to back their proposals for it to be deemed agreed.

Other proposals will reduce the way in which some party members had multiple votes for the leadership. An MP could have as many as six votes as an MP, constituency party member, political levy-payer and supporter of an affiliated organisation such as the Co-op

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