I was probably quite naive about Refounding Labour. I thought it started out well, the editable, visible wiki format for the consultation was great. The Murphy-Boyack Scottish Review seemed genuinely engaged.

It’s all gone badly wrong. Despite the heroic efforts of the likes of Johanna Baxter, the UK Review seems destined to be a stitch up of epic proportions. Details of proposals are leaking out slowly, the NEC only agreeing final recommendations on the Tuesday before Conference votes on them on Sunday evening with the delegates having had the full proposals in their hands for a matter of hours.

Never mind having time to consult with their constituency parties to get a considered view, they’ll barely have had time to read them. Presumably it’ll be a take-it-or-leave-it vote as voting on it chapter by chapter would take too much time from the important conference business of drinking. This is a classic party stitch up. The only real consultation and feedback is being on unofficial blogs. In the words of the great philosopher, good grief.

Now, I did some phone banking for Ed during the leadership campaign because I thought he had the ruthless streak we needed. So far, he hasn’t disappointed on that front – the move to appoint the shadow cabinet directly for instance. But every single move is undermining the democratic structures that are left in the party, which is precisely the opposite of what was promised. I want ruthless but I want ruthless in the right direction, damnit!

The Scottish Review is similarly vexing. The consultation wasn’t as good, with preliminary changes happening soon after it started, and the final Scottish Executive Committee meeting happening before they’d have had time to print off submissions from the last day.

The first set of changes bringing in a candidates contract was fair enough, but not exactly uncontroversial in some quarters. The 2nd tranche, looking at internal party structures was broadly good but the way that it’s being handled is.. disappointing. More importantly, there’s a lot of vagueness and how those changes sit in the context of the wider review recommendations still to come is important. How will the political strategy board work with the policy making process? Will policy forums still exist? Will the new Holyrood oriented CLPs (a good move, particularly given the inherent instability of Westminster boundaries if those changes pass) be able to choose from a range of structures from delegate only to all member, one member one vote? Will the Scottish Labour Leader have authority over MPs and MEPs on non-devolved issues that affect Scotland? Who knows!

The Scottish Review seems to be on inputs only with members having very few, if any, way of influencing the outcome. The full report is unlikely to be published in time for the special conference to agree the rule changes. It’s not clear if the conference will vote on the proposed package as a whole or if the individual changes will be voted on separately. There is very little time for people to reflect on the changes, most parties will have 1 branch meeting and 1 constituency meeting before conference. Half a dozen bullet points on a webpage do not a full and inclusive discussion make.

Worse, the changes to the leadership rules seem to have been prejudged, the first hustings will take place on the day of the special conference itself so if they don’t pass god knows what’ll happen. Tom Harris might find himself all dressed up with nowhere to go. The member’s reps on the SEC and NEC have done good work (which I appreciate), but this is the sort of high handed, authoritarian, centralising, control freakery which people found so objectionable and which stops members engaging with the party and lead us to two epic defeats. Have we forgotten that? Are we still too bloodied and dazed, slumped in the corner that we think pugilistic party management is the way to go?

Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe I’m too used to full and frank debate in decision making, where some says weigh more than others but everyone has a say and everyone has a vote. But Clause IV says Labour is a “democratic socialist” party and this feels profoundly undemocratic. That’s important, there are things in the review which won’t work and people will find objectionable at the time and after the fact. But if they’ve had a proper chance to consent to them, those changes won’t be resented as much as if they’re imposed from on high.