(With thanks to North Wales Labour Women)
What makes a good conference motion?
Conference motions accepted for the Conference Agenda are the business of Conference and, given the sovereignty which the Rule Book attaches to the Conference business, it is important that motions are well constructed and give clear instructions regarding the anticipated outcomes of each motion.
This guidance is intended to help towards drafting concise and clear motions which will have an impact on the delegates and enable a worthy debate.
The length of the motion
While there may not be any constraints on the amount of words used, it is unhelpful and counter-productive to write a motion which is so lengthy and contains lots of detail which should be included in the speech of the mover of the motion. Delegates not only lose interest in the motion and it loses its impact. A good indication would be to keep within a 250 word limit. The art is using words effectively to make key points and deciding which elements you wish to introduce to the delegates could be better used in the speeches.
If amendments are an acceptable part of Conference business, then amendments should be no longer than 200 words.
It is useful to remember that the Standing Orders Committee may composite your motion with others, so keeping it to an appropriate length and making it concise could mean that your motion forms the basis of the composited motion. If others were like-minded, then it would avoid convoluted motions appearing on the agenda which are often not fully understood by the delegates.
Your motion should, as far as possible, deal with one subject in order to gain maximum impact. It is critical to avoid misinterpretation so being clear in your expression is crucial. Therefore, when considering the topic of your motion, it is important to decide which elements are critical to emphasise in the motion and which can be included and developed by the mover and seconder of the motion. Remember that the speeches are opportunities to explain and accentuate the messages in the motion – powerful vehicles to drive the motion forward.
- Don’t use abbreviations without spelling out the full name at first mention.
- Don’t use full stops within abbreviations such as TUC.
- Try to minimise the use of capital letters.
- Points should be numbers and lettered. For example, Roman numerals (either large or small are acceptable) and lowercase letters are more commonly used than uppercase letters. Try to keep these points to a minimum. Five points in a motion would be a good convention to follow.
- Titles should be used rather than the name of the postholder. For example, the Welsh Assembly First Minister rather than Mark Drakeford AM.
- It should be clear if the motion is referring to UK or Welsh Government policy.
- A motion which seeks to amend the Rule Book should make clear reference to the present Rule it wishes to amend and which elements it wants to delete or what additions it wants to include.
- The language of the motion is critical in achieving clarity of intention. For example,
Conference believes …
Conference welcomes …
Conference notes ….
Conference understands …
Conference recognises …
Conference agrees …
What do you wish to achieve from your motion? To whom should the motion be addressed?
The ruling body of the Labour Party is the National Executive Committee (NEC) and for Welsh Labour it is the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC). Although you may wish your motion to be addressed by the Welsh Government, this has to be achieved by a dialogue between the WEC and the Welsh Government and with reference to the Labour Party by the NEC. Although we are fortunate that Welsh Labour is in government, it is not technically correct to call upon the Welsh Government to act on a Conference motion.
Useful language for the conclusion of your motion:
Conference recommends …
Conference requests …
Conference calls upon …
Conference resolves …
Conference instructs …
Conference demands …
Much passion goes into the drafting of motions and this can be evident but be aware that the appropriate construction is important to get your message over to the Standing Orders Committee, the WEC (to support or not to support is something they will consider and recommend) and, most importantly, the delegates. Well drafted Conference motions enable a positive and powerful conference. Good luck!