Sean Thompson’s alternative draft constitution

This draft constitution is based on the earlier one drawn up by Richard and James.  I started out by writing a very long list of amendments to their July iteration, but I found that it became virtually impossible to follow the sense of what was being proposed because of the length and complexity of the document. So I have decided that it would be easier and clearer for everyone if I presented a completely separate draft constitution for discussion rather than muddy the water by proposing a bewildering list amendments, additions, deletions and re-numberings, even though it is still, of course in large measure derived from Richard and James’s version 3.
The main differences are as follows;
  • This draft allows for TU affiliation and gives National Conference the authority to decide on accepting (or not) applications for affiliated membership.
  • It opts for a delegate based National Conference (which all members can attend and speak at, but only branch delegates vote).
  • It has a National Council drawn from the branches and an Executive Committee instead of a body drawn from regions which combines the two functions.
In addition, it deals with three important omissions; it gives National Conference the authority to establish youth and students sections, it establishes a Conference Arrangements Committee to handle the logistics of National Conference and it introduces a clear procedure for undertaking disciplinary action and dealing with disputes. In addition, I have tried to get rid of as much duplication as possible as well as superfluous clauses whose removal would enhance clarity. I have also had the cheek to try to tighten and edit the English of the thing here and there – particularly of the Aims.
Constitution – Sean’s revised draft-2


14 responses to “Sean Thompson’s alternative draft constitution”

  1. Hats Off to Richard James and Sean for all the work and effort put in to drawing up proposals for our new party constitution. I feel that Sean ‘alternative draft’ is preferable because of the key importance of providing for possible Trade Union Affiliation – Given the Collins Review of the relationship between the TU’s and the Labour Party in the aftermath of the Falkirk fiasco then there is a growing debate throughout the trade union movement about how TU Political Funds should be used in the future see recent interview with Len McCluskey
    Our new party needs to keep the door open to the possible future affiliation from TU’s and Sean’s Alternative Draft Constitution enables this to happen.
    Also as someone who has been the victim of appallingly handled disciplinary processes both as a member of the Labour Party when I was ‘expelled’ in 2008 and as a member of the Green Party when I was ‘expelled’ earlier this year then it is crucially important to have a clear dispute and disciplinary process provided for within the Constitution of our party.

    I would be happy to endorse and vote for this Alternative Draft Constitution despite my previously stated position that our new party should be Nationally Based ie separate Party Structures for England Wales and Scotland and not a UK Party. The debate about how the break up of the UK will impact upon our organisational structure and party constitution came be left until after the outcome of the Referendum on Scottish Independence on Thursday 18 September 2014.
    Once again Hats Off to all comrades who have put in the work on drawing up drafts for our new party constitution

  2. Richard Murgatroyd says:


    Working Draft 4 of the constitution is now posted as a PDF file – you can access it by clicking on the relevant bit after the introduction on the post headed ‘Working Draft 4’



  3. Ray G says:

    My main problem with this is the commitment to common ownership of the means of production distribution and exchange. I am in favour of a socialist society – defined by the democratic control of the largest, most important, strategic industries (as well as transport, water, gas etc). This would enable society and, most importantly, the economy to be properly controlled and regulated and the power of the rich and powerful (the ruling class – if you will)to be broken.

    The formulation in this constitution does not allow for any private enterprises at all, and I am not in favour of that. I believe it is a recipe for totalitarian state control of every last aspect of daily life. I don’t believe most working people will ever support this, let alone the middling elements and small business people. It rules out self employed or small or medium sized businesses and doesn’t allow for any initiative to be shown in running with a an innovative idea and setting up a small business.

    I know it is based on the old Labour clause 4, but that was never actually followed in practice and those of us on the far left constantly had to explain that it did not mean ‘every fish and chip shop’ etc. Why confuse matters again?
    The original Aims section is much more flexible and realistic, while still a clear commitment to ‘socialism’.

    • Pete Green says:

      I certainly agree with Ray G. But the critical issue is that Sean has suggested that he has made only minor editing changes to this section of the document when in fact a comparison of the two versions of the ‘aims’ reveals that he has come up with a much more prescriptive NARROWING of the original. eg instead of ‘diverse strands of radical and socialist politics’ we now just have ‘socialist’! Why??? When ‘socialist’ itself is not defined… If the socialist platform is supporting this that’s one good reason not to support it (and I’m not signed up to any of the platforms at this point)
      Yet I do support the proposal for a nationally elected executive committee although I need to reflect more on the precise structures as I’ve only just logged in to all this. One reason for that is the paralysis at the centre which has characterised left unity since the Doncaster meeting voted that only NCGs meeting once a month could take any decisions at all – and what work has taken place is going on in working parties or commissions (like this one) which however are off the radar as far as most LU supporters are concerned.
      James Youd’s comparison of such a structure with the SWP is ludicrous ( and I lived through and was marginalised by that regime in the mid-1990s so I do know whereof I speak). A nationally elected EC would in my view be more accountable if combined with an effective National Council than what we have at the moment when people keep asking me whats going on and apart from the Economics commission and the local group I don’t know how to respond.

  4. James Youd says:

    Dear All,
    I would like to say where I think the working Document that me and Richard produced is preferable to this one.
    We have allowed Trade Union members through
    Associate membership for ‘Friends of LU’ open to individuals and trade union
    members who in return for a one-off donation, the minimum amount to be set by
    Annual Conference, shall receive national and local mailings, are invited to attend
    meetings, have the right to speak at meetings, but shall enjoy no voting rights or be
    eligible to stand for any elected position.”
    This thus preserves the integrity of the One Member One Vote principle without giving anyone a block vote. If X% of trade union members in a branch should join LU I can imagine there being a positive need for Union branch branches of LU as they are as equal as X number of any other members and would probably come under 7. Sections and Caucuses in our document. Both me and Richard did this as active trade union members and fully behind wanting trade unions to become involved in LU, but I believe that should be done by making our policies and stance attractive to trade unionists and perhaps we can revise section 7 to include that. What do people think.
    The second point where our document disagrees with Sean is where delegate conferences come in. I am not opposed to delegate conferences in principle but believe Sean is jumping the gun a little to quickly. If we get to August next year and end up having 10,000 members then certainly we should think about electing for a delegate structure but I believe this is too early stage to define this.
    The third point where I do fundamentally disagree with Sean in the structure of an executive and national council, the former of which also sits on the latter. If we are talking about doing politics differently do we really want executives to be nominating new executives and people getting to close to feel able to speak out as has been the case in the past? Look at the current state of the SWP which operates on a similar model.
    A national element with a mandate each officer must seek and defend to the membership directly rather than through a second tier of bureaucracy seems to me to be a way of the executive power hiding behind a body that will be weakened should dispute arise by the need of those members of the executive sitting on the national council to seek to personal preservation above openness and transparency! By also having a counterweight regionally elected element that has equal voting rights and status those members will have to represent their regions but also seek accountability from the officers to their members who then have the right to a second vote for their regional rep:
    Left Unity will be led and organisational/financial issues managed in between
    national conferences by the National Council (NC)
    The composition of the NC will comprise of a mixture of a total of 37
    individual representatives elected as representatives on a regional/Scottish/Welsh
    basis and nationally elected individual post-holders with responsibility for
    developing policy and representing LU on specific political issues/areas of
    interest. All members of the NC, irrespective of position and howsoever elected
    will have equal voting and speaking rights
    The term of office for all members of the NC and national spokespeople will
    be 1 year
    Nominations for regional representatives on the NC to be made by branches
    within that region. Nominations for individual post-holders to be made by
    branches, regional bodies or by 20 full members, who have signed a nomination
    form. (NOTE: the figure of a minimum of 20 members will be reviewed and if
    necessary increased as the national membership increases)
    There will 20 regional representatives, elected by full LU members within that
    electoral region. Regional representation will be broadly proportional to the
    membership of each electoral region. There will be at least one female
    representative from each electoral region.
    London and Eastern (4)
    North East and Yorkshire (3)
    North West (2)
    East Midlands and Humber (2)
    West Midlands and Cheshire (2)
    South England (3)
    Wales (2)
    Scotland (2)”
    What I do support is the idea of an international officer and a student section which I hope we can include in our next draft.
    I hope this sets out why we and Sean decided to post two alternative versions, as indeed anyone else is also welcome to do.

  5. Hoom says:

    I am at least very wary of delegate conferences in principle. But I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. And I agree with James on the “Friends of LU” structure being preferable for trade union involvement.

    On the other hand, I think that Sean’s procedure for disputes/appeals is excellent and I’d hope that there’s a possibility of incorporating that into whichever constitution is eventually adapted.

    This is all for the good. It moves us towards having a real choice at conference, which is always beneficial. So thanks to Sean for putting this together.

  6. roy says:

    It might be a good idea to have a process to ensure that branches actually do exist to the correct level and have actual members and not just names on a email list, especially for the forthcoming conference. Left Unity needs to start on a sound footing democratically.

  7. SeanT says:

    I realise that we, or most of us I hope, will be meeting up in Manchester in only three and a bit weeks, so I don’t want to start up a long e-debate on aspects of the two drafts when we will be much better able to discuss them interactively there, but there are some points I want to flag up – the first being purely a matter of vanity; the screwed up formatting of this draft is due to the malevolence of the website software, it was beautifully laid out when I posted it! (If anyone wants a properly formatted version, email me at )

    The second is rather more important and is a response to James’ countering of affiliated membership for trade unions and trade union bodies with the idea of a class of associated membership, a ‘Friends of LU’.

    I don’t think that any of us would deny that the Labour Party has chosen to abandon what remains of its original role as the parliamentary voice of the trade union movement – indeed, to abandon any real relationship with the trade unions apart from being the beneficiary of the lion’s share of their political funds. Organised labour is now left without a political voice and it has to be our goal to provide that voice for the labour movement. Thus, involving trade unionists and trade union bodies, whether they be at a local, regional or national body should be a key aim for us – and we aren’t going to be able to do that if we are only prepare to offer them second class, non-voting status. In fact it is mildly insulting to unions and could even seem to invite the inference that large scale Trade Union involvement in the party might somehow be problematic for its democracy(although I realise that such an implication is not all all intended. The proposed model of affiliation doesn’t permit block votes – it specifies that every representative from an affiliated organisation must be an individual party member and may only have one vote.

    As for the issue a national committee made up of regional, rather than branch, representatives; James and I both have direct experience of such a form of organisation in the Green Party and I am astonished that he doesn’t remember what an unrepresentative and ineffective dog’s breakfast it is, with local branches having little involvement with the regional tier, rarely hearing what it is up to and, in most areas, not caring much either. The Green Party, with 13,500 members, has only two, at most three, fully functional regional organisations – we, with (at the beginning anyway) far fewer members, are likely to initially have even weaker regional organisation except, like the Greens, in London. To base our most important democratic institution after our conference on such a weak and unrepresentative tier of organisation is, with all due respect, nuts.


    • Richard Murgatroyd says:

      Hi all

      Thanks Sean – its through discussions like this around actual texts that constitutions come together so this is really helpful. I have read through your draft and compared it with Working Draft 4 (available elsewhere) and would like to suggest that we incorporate the following, although a bit of rewording may be necessary depending where we end up on some controversial issues:

      BRANCHES (6 d/e etc) – points d and e clarify the basic democratic systems we would expect branches to operate. BUT please also remember Mike S.’s earlier suggestion about building in need to have branch accounts audited

      DISPUTES AND APPEALS COMMITTEE – seems workable and fair

      YOUTH AND STUDENTS – good addition

      However I think there are some elements of your draft which remain unconvincing. Keen students of the course of these discussions will be aware of most, if not all of the arguments for and against these that have emerged in earlier drafts but as we move forwards to November its important they are clarified. Whatever structure we decide will have a big impact on our future direction of travel.

      So key issues for me remain:


      Sean’s constitution seems to give an affiliated TU branch effectively the same rights as a geographical branch. However, the reality is that most TU branches simply do not have the necessary levels of membership engagement to make this realistic. The danger of unrepresentative and unhelpful affiliations have been spelled out by others and are real. We all know how easy it is to get resolutions/affiliations passed at ill-attended TU branch meetings. Yet as I understand it the resulting delegates will have the same speaking and voting rights as branch delegates. As my daughter likes to say – lets not go there! Working Draft 4 has built in mechanisms to encourage participation by trade unions and sectional groups of workers and in my opinion this reflects current realities more accurately.


      Like Sean I think this is the most desirable outcome. The fact that we have 90 odd local groups coming together before we are even formed shows the potential of our project. BUT we have to have a constitution that reflects realty on the ground for at least the next few years and we don’t have enough individual members/local groups to make this work yet.

      Also at stake is the principle of OMOV. Sean’s draft assumes that the delegates at the annual conference will elect the top-tier leadership body (the Executive Committee) rather than a ballot of all members as under Working Draft 4. Yet how representative will the representatives be (especially if we allow TU branch affiliation as he suggests) in these early days?

      Working Draft 4 has a trigger mechanism of 2000 full members that will oblige the NC to produce draft rules for a delegate conference. I think Sean’s ideas could well be the basis for this but should for now be put away in the bottom drawer. Hopefully their time will come sooner rather than later.


      In working Draft 4 the assumption was that the national leadership body that runs the party day to day etc would be a National Council of 37 members made up of a mixture of directly elected office holders and regional reps, proportional to the membership in each region. This was proposed on the following grounds:

      a) it is the right size for the job, especially as the NC will be expected to form sub-committees to deal with particular areas of work
      b) it has a balance of directly elected officers and regional reps to encourage accountability and a broad range of voices
      c) it will representative of membership opinion and has mechanisms within it to help prevent the leadership/post-holders becoming too powerful and permanent

      So to sum up it was conceived as a new and different way of organising – the original draft called it a ‘Collective Council’ and this hopefully catches the idea of a collective leadership rooted in the membership.

      Sean’s proposals however are different:

      SEAN’S NATIONAL COUNCIL – this will become a much bigger delegate body with reps from the executive, branches, sections (itself a controversial move by the way), TU affiliated branches. It will meet every 3 months.

      My objection: while this is great in theory it will lock LU into a cycle of probably highly fractious quarterly national meetings. Yet as some contributors have pointed out in earlier discussions, too many national meetings actually exclude people rather than include them.

      Sean’s NCs will tend to be dominated by hyper-activists – most people don’t have the time, inclination and resources to travel round the country going to loads of National meetings. They have kids, work, interests outside politics – in a word lives! I thought the whole point about LU was that it wouldn’t be dominated by ‘cadres’ and very ideologically motivated hyper-activists, (possibly) highly committed to an existing wannabe Leninist vanguard party or platform. Their goals are to ‘intervene’, win positions, pass resolutions, differentiate themselves from the existing leadership etc. I fear Sean’s idea of a National Council would be the perfect place for all this to happen but would it really encourage internal democracy and accountability…?

      Moreover, please bear in mind that Working Draft 4 contains clear provision for use of the internet, e-voting etc so ongoing consultation/decision making can occur. This is not mentioned in sean’s draft.


      Pete Green’s comments about disorganisation since the Doncaster meeting are sound and there is clearly a need for an effective, well-organised central leadership body moving forward. But I remain of the view that this has to be balanced with the need to stop an over-powerful, largely self-perpetuation leadership forming.

      I would argue that Sean’s model of the Executive, elected by delegates at the National Conference not OMOV, will not be as accountable and responsive as that proposed in Working draft 4.

      The issue of size is a red herring. Seans Executive = 16 full members plus a wide range of others with speaking rights etc. Working Draft 4 = 37 full members. Either or both have enough members to be viable and reach decisions.

      Finally, as Sean says we can return to all these issues when we get to meet in a few weeks. In the meantime we are drawing up a list of ‘controversial issues’ that will form the basis of the discussion 28 September and will post asap.


      Richard Murgatroyd


      • John Penney says:

        you are quite right Richard, the “trades union branch affiliation” proposal of this alternative Constitution – lifted straight from the SSP Constitution is quite extraordinarily undemocratic. Everyone who has been active on the Left knows only too well the eternally popular ruse by which a group of Far lefties at a badly attended trade union branch meeting get their branch “affilitated” to this campaign or that – with no involvement of any of the wider union members apart from the ten Lefties at the Branch meeting. Next thing these self same ,now affiliated, union branch members turn up at the campaign meeting (or in this case the LU Conference) demanding x dozen votes each – based on the nominal union membership of their branch ! The proposal doesn’t even require that the union branch has to pay a “membership levy” to LU in order to secure these “bonus votes” !

        This is the manipulative political manoeuvring of the Far Left par excellence, all aimed at getting an exaggerated influence in the “host body” far in excess of the actual membership strength of the tiny sect holding the bogus union branch affiliation bloc vote.

        This undemocratic feature alone should rule out this alternative Constitution from consideration.

  8. SeanT says:

    Pete and Ray – while, unsurprisingly, I am quite happy with my redrafting of the Aims section, it is, in my view, the least important section of the Constitution. It is simply a very broad brush statement of the overarching principles of the party and as such, the precise form of words used is not of critical importance. Therefore, although I think the term ‘radical’ is somewhat redundant in the context of 2a), I would have no great objection to its inclusion in the opening phrase, which would then read ‘to unite the diverse strands of radical and socialist politics in Britain…’.

    Similarly, being something of an old romantic, I am rather fond of the phrase ‘common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange’ I would be very nearly as happy to drop ‘the means of production, distribution and exchange’. However, as a socialist, an explicit commitment to the principle of common ownership has to be non negotiable.


  9. james? says:

    im confused by the emphasis on uniting socialist strands? socialism is just a name it says little i mean francois hollande, arthur scargill, john prescott, and lyndsey german all use it and thats four very different people.
    i know with seans green party experience he will have come across the phenomen that greens who dont use the socialist label can be to the left of ones who do use it.

    • James – your point about ‘socialist strands’ is important… the process of moving for the sort of society we have now to one without exploitation and oppression will can only take place when an overwhelming majority of the population are engaged with a support such a radical transformation… consequently wherever people position themselves on the political spectrum and whatever particular ‘strand’ of ‘socialism’ them may identity with currently then at some point a process of unification and agreement will have to take place… As an example of a political approach towards the left Unity project that doesn’t emphasise the word ‘socialism’ you can look at a document I drafted back in July – which has provoke no discussion and no debate and garner no support.

      People United Platform Statement.

      12 July 2013 at 11:27


      The Name of Our Party is “PEOPLE UNITED “.

      Our party campaigns for Fairness, fights for Justice and demands Respect.


      Any individual whose normal place of residence is in the Country of England and who shares the aims and objectives of PEOPLE UNITED can become a member. Any group of 5 or more members in a geographical area can form a branch of PEOPLE UNITED. Our goal is the establishment of branches that mirror Parliamentary Constituencies.

      Aims and Objectives:
      Our Primary Aim is:

      To win popular mass support for the creation of a Green and Pleasant Socialist Republic in England.

      Our Primary Objectives are:


      To Encourage and respect the self organisation and empowerment of all sections of society in England who are exploited, oppressed, alienated and marginalised by the reality of life under capitalism


      To Work with those in the neighbouring countries of Wales, Scotland and Ireland who are struggling for social and environmental justice.


      To Work with those across Europe and Internationally who are struggling for social and environmental justice.


      To Establish the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.


      To Participate in Local and Parliamentary Elections in order to popularise the Aims and Objectives of PEOPLE UNITED.


      To Ensure that members of PEOPLE UNITED who win elected office are accountable to their electorate via developing new forms of direct participatory democracy including the right of recall.


      To Secure by reform of existing institutions of or via the creation of new structures a new society based upon PEOPLE’S POWER. “THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED”

      Basic Principles

      1. Democracy

      The linguistic roots of the word Democracy comes from two Greek words – Demos, meaning peoples and Kratos meaning power. Therefore our Party not only advocates Peoples Power as a political objective for the whole of society but it functions as a living example of Peoples Power at every organisational level.

      2. Votes

      The way our Democracy works in practice is based upon the result or outcome of Votes.

      Every member of our party is encouraged and will be empowered to actively participate in internal discussions. Every member of our party is encouraged and will be empowered to contribute their thoughts, feelings and ideas as part of a genuine collective.

      3. Decisions

      At all levels of our Party Decisions shall be made on the basis that a Majority of Votes for any given proposal has been achieved. Once a Decision has been made our Party encourages and will empower all members of our party to take collective ownership of decisions made and to implement them in practice.

      4. Action

      Our Party seeks to encourage and empower all people in society to become active participants in collective action to make positive changes in our world. All members of our Party are encouraged and will be empowered to act as champions of the oppressed. Together we act and via our action we inspire other to join the struggle for Peoples Power.

      5. Disputes

      Our Party recognises the fractured, atomised and individualistic culture dominant in capitalist society ferments social conflict. Our Party encourages and will empower all members to resolve conflicts via open democratic discussion. Our Party encourages and will empower all members to respect each other and value cultural diversity. Our Party will establish a Dispute Resolution Committee elected by National Conference. The Dispute Resolution Committee will encourage and empower any member who has a grievance to come forward seeking to resolve any dispute via an open fair and transparent process.

      6. Defence

      Our Party recognises that the British State and Monarchy are violent institutions and their various agencies will seek to undermine the establishment of Peoples Power in any territory over which it claims sovereignty.

      Therefore our Party encourages and will empower members to defend themselves and the communities in which we live from any abuses of power by agents of the crown. We aim to create units of volunteers who will act to protect and defend our members and our communities from any threat that may be directed at us by the British State.

      Mark Anthony France

      PEOPLE UNITED – fairness, justice, respect

  10. SeanT says:

    John is so wrong in two respects in his criticism of the proposal for affiliated TU membership in this draft that I’m not at all sure that he can have actually read it.

    First, it has not been ‘lifted straight from the SSP Constitution’, as the relevant section of that document shows below:

    Union branches, Trades Union Councils and
    stewards committees can affiliate to the
    appropriate SSP Regional Council (Committee),
    currently based on the 8 Scottish parliamentary
    regions. Each union affiliate would be entitled to
    2 delegates – who must be individual SSP
    members – to the appropriate SSP Regional
    Council(s). This would be based on the location
    of the workplace(s) organised in that union body,
    with the right of union branches which organise in
    workplaces situated in more than one Region to
    send 2 delegates to each of the SSP Regional
    Councils covering such workplaces. Each
    delegate would have one vote at each SSP
    Regional Council. No individual union delegate
    could be delegated to more than one SSP
    Regional Council.

    Second, John claims that the draft gives union branches the right to demand ‘x dozen votes each – based on the nominal union membership of their branch ! The proposal doesn’t even require that the union branch has to pay a “membership levy” to LU in order to secure these “bonus votes”!’ In fact, the draft explicitly gives our National Conference the power to ‘determine the appropriate levels of subscriptions for affiliated unions and the number of delegates they may send to relevant party bodies, save only that all delegates must be individual party members and no delegate shall have more than one vote in any circumstances.’

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