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Labour's Policy Process

In the run up to Labour Party Conference, Trafalgar Strategy will be diving into Labour’s policy process and the pledges it is making to win over voters ahead of the next election

In the second instalment of our series, we share our guide to Labour’s policy making process.

Labour’s policy process is much more complicated than those followed by the other Westminster political parties.

It is inherently consultative, providing several opportunities for members to engage with the process, including through voting. This means a huge number of stakeholders have the ability to significantly impact policy.

However, despite this complicated consultative process, only a small number of key individuals will make the final judgement on which policies are included in Labour’s next manifesto. Ultimately, it all comes down to what Keir Starmer wants to include.

A simplified overview of the process:

  1. Policy is discussed and proposed through Labour’s National Policy Forum, consultations, direct submissions from Party Members and third parties, and by the Parliamentary Labour Party. These policies are often formalised in Policy Reports created by the National Policy Forum and voted on at Labour Party Conference.

  1. A draft of the manifesto is written by a senior political aide of the Leader of the Labour Party.

  1. The Labour Party’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, agrees a final version of the manifesto at a “Clause V meeting”.

What happens in the run up to conference:

  • Before: In the lead-up to elections, each Constituency Labour Party, Trade Union and Socialist Society may each make one suggested motion to discuss at the Party Conference. The Conference Arrangement Committee also accepts emergency motions. At the same time, the National Policy Forum will prepare policy Reports on the various issues that they have consulted on throughout the year.

  • During: Around 1000 delegates can vote in policy motions at Labour Party Conference. The local constituency parties, trade unions and other socialist societies make up circa 50% of the vote on the conference floor. Proposals must be adopted by a majority of two-thirds or more. However, National Policy Forum Reports can only be approved or sent back for further development.

  • After: A final meeting attended by National Executive Committee, shadow cabinet ministers, senior trade union representatives and National Policy Forum members codifies policies discussed at Conference. In a normal election cycle, this means that several of these meetings will occur before the final manifesto is agreed at a Clause V meeting.

How Labour’s final manifesto will be agreed:

Policy voted on at Conference does not necessarily make it into Labour Party manifestos. Instead, the meeting that signs off the manifesto is called the ‘Clause V’ meeting.

The Clause V meeting is chaired by the Leader of the Labour Party and attended by all National Executive Committee members, relevant shadow cabinet ministers and trade union representatives.

The manifesto is often formally agreed by a vote at the end of the meeting on the whole document, rather than having votes on individual policies. The joint meeting shall also define the attitude of the Party to the principal issues raised by the election which are not covered by the manifesto.


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