Evening Standard – 30 September 1993
It is far from clear that one-man-one-vote in the Labour Party will make it more electable rather than less – as your leader writer claims (27 September).
In 1960, under Gaitskell, the Labour conference passed an anti-nuclear resolution, binding upon the party, despite the fact that most Labour MPs and most Labour voters were in favour of keeping the nuclear deterrent. This was reversed only with great difficulty twelve months later.
The real problem with the Labour conference is not that the constituency delegates are outnumbered by the unions. It is that the conference simply has too much power over policy.
The constituency activists, according to the most recent survey data, stand well to the left on a wide range of controversial issues including sympathy strikes (73 percent in favour) and unilateral nuclear disarmament (72 percent). Indeed, almost 60 percent of Labour activists see themselves as on the left of their party, while only 22 percent think themselves on the right.
In many ways, trade union leaders – elected by compulsory postal ballots – are more representative of the average potential Labour voter than are constituency party activists. Instead of increasing its electability, a shift of power from the unions to the constituencies will encourage the adoption of more extreme policies by the Labour Party.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS