The Labour Party has been at war with itself ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader – although 59% of Labour members voted for him in the last leadership contest, less than 40 Labour MPs supported him out of a total of 232. So how did he become leader in the first place and how does the Labour Party function? Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015, the first time that the new leadership election rules had been used. Under the old system, a candidate had to be nominated by 12.5% of Labour MPs. There was also a three-way electoral college in place, whereby the votes of Labour MPs and MEPs comprised a third of the votes, with the votes of ordinary party members making up another third. The final third of votes came from people who were members of organisations affiliated to Labour, such as trade unions like Unite.
However, after a dispute surrounding the selection of the Labour candidate for a by-election, the rules were changed by Labour leader Ed Miliband. These new rules stated that, no matter what position they held within the party, the vote of every Labour members was worth the same, thereby abolishing the electoral college. The threshold for nominations was also raised, with prospective candidates now needing the backing of 15% of MPs to be allowed to run.
However, one more rule change was made, that had a massive impact on the Labour Party. Under the new rules, somebody could pay £3 to sign up as a Labour supporter, and consequently receive a vote in the leadership contest. More than 100,000 people took advantage of this new rule, with the vast majority of them voting for Jeremy Corbyn, helping him to win an unexpected victory.
Labour’s method of deciding policy has many components. The National Executive Committee (NEC) is the party’s main administrative body and decides on internal party rules. It used to have a major role in developing policies, but now official party policy is usually decided at the conference.
At the annual Labour Party Conference, delegates, from constituency Labour parties, trade unions and affiliated socialist societies, vote on proposals – motions voted for by more than two-thirds of delegates are to be included in the party manifesto.
The motions voted on at the conference are created by the National Policy Forum, a group of 186 people representing the many groups of the Labour Party, including shadow cabinet members, BAME Labour representatives and Labour MEPs amongst others.