One of a political party’s most central roles is the formulation of policy programmes for government. Within Labour this process has also often been one of the most controversial. In contrast to the other main British parties Labour was founded on the basis that party policy was determined by its members, brought together in an annual conference, rather than by the party’s parliamentary leaders. Between conferences the responsibility for policy fell to the National Executive Committee (NEC), which produced policy statements that the conference would be asked to agree. When the trade union majority in the conference and NEC was amenable, the leadership could thus comfortably secure its policy positions. As McKenzie (1963) documented, this was the case through much of Labour’s history. However, as outlined in Chapter 2, consensus broke down from the late 1950s onwards, as the left gained strength and there were increasing policy differences between the unions and the party frontbench. This created growing conflicts between the parliamentary leadership, responsible for implementing and publicly defending policy, whilst having no formal role in creating it, and the extra-parliamentary party.
KeywordsDust Manifold Europe Straw Defend
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