At the end of last year, there was an expectation that Labour’s internal reforms would be one of the big themes of the first quarter of the year. But this week, Labour’s National Executive Committee voted through the changes by the comfortable margin of 28 to 2 and with remarkably little dissent.
The absence of a public row over the issue makes it tempting to think that the changes don’t amount to much. But this would be wrong. Labour is going to scrap its current electoral-college split between MPs, the Unions and members and replace it with a one member one vote system.
Two big consequences stem from this. First, it will be far easier for someone without much support from the Parliamentary Labour Party to be elected leader. Second, the Unions—who have lost their power to send out ballot papers—will find it far harder to influence how their members vote.
Overall, the system is simpler and more democratic than the one it replaces. But it does strike me as dangerous to make it easier for someone without much support in the PLP to become leader. Miliband’s leadership has been dogged by the fact that he lost, albeit narrowly, among MPs to his brother David. It is very hard to see how someone who only had the support of the 15 percent of MPs needed to be nominated could lead the Labour party in parliament.