A Blueprint for a Red Cornwall: Cornwall Labour Party prepares for 2021 council elections

Manifestos can help to win elections.  And now Cornwall’s huge army of Labour Party activists have taken their first steps towards producing their own manifesto for the 2021 Cornwall Council elections.

At a meeting at Heartlands, Pool, Redruth on Saturday (5th January) about 20 representatives of the six Cornish constituency Labour Parties, which each contain around 1,000 paid-up members and registered supporters, started planning a special conference to launch the most detailed and wide-ranging exercise in political consultation ever seen in Cornwall.

The manifesto document will be a blueprint for a red Cornwall.  The conference will be at Heartlands on 23rd March. A keynote speaker will be announced shortly.

The conference is expected to attract nearly 150 representatives who will start to develop policy for the Cornwall Council elections in 2021.  The Cornwall Labour Party has also started the process of selecting candidates to contest each of the 87 new council divisions.

At the 2017 general election, in Cornwall, Labour finished in second place and established itself as the principle voice of opposition to the Conservatives. Labour now has two key target seats, in Camborne & Redruth, and in Truro & Falmouth, which it must win if Jeremy Corbyn is to become Prime Minister with an overall majority.

The Local Campaign Forum (also known as the Cornwall Labour Party, representative of the six Cornish constituency Labour Parties) has set up a working party to:

  • Organise a conference which will consider the development of Cornwall-wide policy-making ahead of the 2021 Cornwall Council elections. The conference on 23rd March is to launch the consultation exercise.
  • Raise funds for the Labour Party, seek and train candidates and support campaigning
  • Ensure that all aspects of the conference and subsequent policy consultation, manifesto drafting and the final agreement of this document stay strictly within the constitution of the Labour Party


The identity of a keynote speaker is on hold, pending Parliamentary business expected to develop over the next eight days.

The LCF is already fundraising to meet the costs of the conference and might incur additional costs for extra rooms, catering, evening entertainment etc .

The working party has set up sub-groups to investigate

  • Logistics
  • Communications
  • Finance
  • Policy
  • Constitution


The Logistics team is making further inquiries into costs (as we now wish to include evening entertainment,) catering (can we run our own bar?) stewarding etc

The Communications team has to find a way of alerting nearly 8,000 Labour Party members , registered supporters and affiliates – with each CLP invited to send 20 representatives at a cost of £20 each.  This will result in a conference attended by 120-150 people.

CLPs will be invited to contribute to the costs of those wishing to attend, on the same basis as funding the national conference.  CLPs will also be encouraged to seek gender parity.  The Comms team has already set up a Facebook page and is investigating the possibility of live-streaming the conference to social media.  This might attract sponsorship.

The Finance team is developing a budget which will include the pursuit of sponsorship, merchandising and online crowdfunding.  The Finance and Logistics teams clearly need to work together!  But the initial “business plan” implies a conference surplus for the LCF of around £2,000.

The Policy team is to maintain a strategic oversight and co-ordination of the manifesto at every stage.  One of its most important tasks is to ensure that councillors and PPCs stay “on the same page” and that no-one accidentally undermines any other part of Labour’s campaigning.  Policy development will include regular contact with Labour’s Parliamentary frontbench.  The aim is to produce the most wide-ranging, detailed, and costed, manifesto that Cornwall has ever seen.  Consultees will include branch and constituency Labour Parties, trade unions, campaign groups and academics.  The back-and-forth exchange of ideas, drafting and re-drafting, is expected to take 18 months.

The recommendation from the working party is that the Policy team focus on 10 chapter headings for the 2021 manifesto, each devoted to one of the current Cornwall Council cabinet portfolios.  These are leader, resources, customers, children and wellbeing, adults, neighbourhoods, environment and public protection, planning and economy, homes and transport. https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/profiles-of-cabinet-members/



Labour's 2017 General Election manifesto is widely credited with helping the party to record the largest swing in its favour since 1945: click here for the YouGov poll

Below: the Local Campaign Forum working party takes the first steps towards convening the 23rd March conference

It should be noted that the council’s current portfolio titles are somewhat misleading – eg “customers” actually means responsibility for Corserv/Cormac and all of the other outsourced arms-length companies.  The title “adults” includes most health and social care etc.  The “leader” includes responsibility for devolution “asks” from central government and is particularly fertile territory for eye-catching manifesto initiatives.

There are also Police & Crime Commissioner elections next year.

The Constitution team is to ensure that everything about the Cornwall manifesto is done within the Labour Party’s rules.  The LCF is organising the conference, within the rules, and the LCF is taking the initiative on policy development – also within the existing rules (Chapter 12, Clause 2; page 44.  See also Clause 5 “Party Programme” on page 3 – Constitutional Rules.)

Labour's Regional Executive will be kept informed at every stage.  At the same time, the LCF has already started the process for empanelment of council candidates.  All 87 candidates will be expected to take part in the development of the manifesto and to share the essential aims and values expressed in that document in 2021.

Although most ideas will be suitable for compositing by appropriate use of language, at some point there will inevitably be areas of controversy.  In addition, all existing Cornwall Council divisions are being abolished by the Boundary Commission.  We are effectively starting with a completely blank page.

Ultimately, any irreconcilable policy controversies may have to be decided in some kind of democratic forum which can demonstrably be seen to represent grassroots Labour Party members.  The nature of this democratic forum might need to be considered in more detail, once the Labour Party has a larger number of candidates in place.  Possibilities might include adjustment to the Standing Orders of the existing LCF, or pursuit of some of the new ideas expressed in the 2018 Democracy Review, which is now due to return to Labour’s annual conference in 2019.  Both adjustment to existing Standing Orders, and/or request to pilot any new democratic forum, would be subject to gaining NEC approval.

These constitutional issues, which are also developing at the highest levels of the Labour Party, need to be kept under review at all stages.

Tickets for the conference will go on sale soon.

On the day:

9.30am registration/coffee

10am Chair’s welcome (Anna Gillet)

10.05 Parliamentary candidates Paul Farmer and Jenn Forbes

10.15 Conference divides into 10 policy working groups, CLP reps having indicated in their applications which areas they are most interested in

12 noon – working groups report back

1pm lunch

2pm Chair’s welcome back (Anna Gillet)

2.05 Leader of the Cornwall Council Labour group (Stephen Barnes)

2.15        Conference divides into working groups to study outline of 2021 campaign strategy and fundraising ambitions

3pm       Report back from working groups

3.30pm Chair introduces keynote speaker

5pm Conference ends

7pm  Entertainment, bar etc

The working group aims to meet again for more detailed updates immediately after the next LCF meeting, County Hall, Truro, on Saturday 2nd February.  The LCF meeting is due to start at 10am prompt and so the working group meeting is likely to run from 12 noon (ish) and through the afternoon.


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