Labour’s National Policy Forum plays a leading role in shaping the party’s election manifesto.
Chaired by Anneliese Dodds and made up of around 200 representatives of Constituency Labour Party, Labour Councillors, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies, and the Parliamentary Labour Party, it oversees the party’s Policy Commissions, and is currently drafting indicative policy documents ahead of the party’s annual conference in October.
Over the weekend, the Labour Party held its first full National Policy Forum meeting since 2014. (Snap elections in 2017 and 2019 meant that under Corbyn, the policy-making process was expedited to ensure the Party could launch its manifesto on time ahead of respective general elections. Unlike his predecessor however, Starmer has had the benefit of having a long run-in to the policy making forum that will inform the basis of Labour’s next manifesto).
This has resulted in greater transparency of the outline of the platform Labour will look to take to the next election.
Whilst the meeting of the National Policy Forum is a private meeting of the Party and the manifesto will not be publicly available until Party Conference, LabourList obtained a full list of the draft policy platform earlier this year.
In advance of the meeting, Starmer and Reeves have been keen to set the tempo by adhering unfailingly in their commitment to absolute fiscal discipline should they come to power, and have proudly declared that nothing in their manifesto will be uncosted. Starmer asserted to delegates that a Labour Government “is not a magic wand” to undo the last 13 years, recognising that his Party – should they come to power – will inherit a bleak economic outlook. This approach has not come without criticism, and accusations that Labour are not being bolder in their policy development led to major unions Unite and GMB walking out from what has reportedly been ‘hostile talks’ at the meeting.
Despite concerns over controversial policies such as not scrapping the two-child benefit and promising revisions to anti-protest laws, the Labour Leadership saw off the more radical proposals from the left wing of the party, and avoided any formal votes on amendments; meaning that the draft policy document presented to members after this weekend will be the one debated at Party Conference this October*.
Over the Summer period Labour will look to hone its messaging around these policies, consider how to market them to the electorate and ensure the rumblings from the more disenfranchised elements of his Party are addressed.
Labour will begin to slowly change the dial from development of policy to consolidation of it, and businesses should be aware of the narrowing window between now, Conference, and into early 2024 to try and influence manifesto development.
For Starmer and his team, the weekend will bring relief. Despite some friction, he has a clear mandate from his Party and its delegates to take forward to Party Conference in October. Buoyed by the by-election victory in Selby, Starmer has done enough to knit together warring factions to present a united front to the electorate as the general election begins to come into view.
* Whilst the manifesto would normally be based on elements of policy developed by the NPF and voted on by members at the party’s annual conference, there is no formal obligation for the manifesto to include policy put forward by the NPF and the party’s membership.
Next Left, our recent Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party, sets out the party’s policy-making processes and timeline in more detail.