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Campaigner who changed Labour Party rules from Golders Green home dies aged 95

Vera Derer and Vladimir Derer at their Golders Green home in 1981. Picture: Geoffrey White/Associated Newspapers/REX. Vera Derer and Vladimir Derer at their Golders Green home in 1981. Picture: Geoffrey White/Associated Newspapers/REX.

Sunday, June 29, 2014
9:00 AM

A left-wing activist who ran an influential Labour Party campaign group from his Golders Green home has died aged 95.

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Vladimir Derer founded the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) with his wife Vera in 1973 and used their Park Drive home as the organisation’s headquarters for the next 25 years.

The CLPD, which arose from the disappointments of the Harold Wilson governments, campaigned for changes to the constitution of the Labour Party to make Labour MPs and Labour governments more accountable to the party membership.

Among the CLPD’s most significant achievements was its successful campaign to require sitting Labour MPs to face re-selection once during every parliament.

In 1980, the party conference decreed that henceforth all sitting MPs should have to re-apply for the party’s nomination once during each term in office.

Until that time, it was virtually impossible for a constituency party to remove a sitting MP in a safe seat.

At its peak, more than 100 constituency Labour parties were affiliated to the CLPD and many MPs, including the future leader Neil Kinnock, were paid-up members.

Mr Derer had moved to the UK at the age of 19 from his native Czechoslovakia, which he fled shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War during which his politician father was imprisoned by the Nazis.

In 1951, Mr Derer married Vera, a psychiatric social worker and later a lecturer in sociology, who he met while they were both students at the London School of Economics in the late 1940s.

He worked as a guide for a travel company, escorting tours to eastern Europe, until the 1960s when he joined the Labour Party and gave up his job to keep house while Vera became the breadwinner.

The CLPD still exists but has little of its historic influence, especially since the Derers were forced to take a back seat in recent years due to poor health.

Mr Derer died on June 10 and is survived by his wife.

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