AT LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE this year delegates could refer back sections of policy documents to the NEC rather than reject the whole document. However, I had to intervene in the debate on the first Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) report to show the procedure specified on card votes for referring back sections of policy documents was undemocratic - a card vote could be called only by the chair, not delegates.
Yet delegates, as well as the chair, could call for a card vote in all other instances as has always been the practice. Responding, the CAC confirmed I was correct: delegates could indeed call for a card vote on the reference back of policy documents. Later, I raised another point of order to challenge the inconsistency by conference chairs on how delegates were chosen to move reference back. Some chairs were allowing delegates to move reference back only if they were called into the debate on a subject, while others were calling delegates to specifically move a reference back. Coupled with the use of blow-up parrots and dragons to attract the chair‘s attention, this seemed unfair - it looked like favouritism towards certain delegates.
At next year’s party conference a rule change will be debated on having standing orders to make proceedings more democratic. Clear guidelines on conference’s running are essential to make it more inclusive for all delegates and allay the suspicion that those called to speak are chosen by party staff rather than the chair.