Labour blocks democratic selections

Submitted by Matthew on 25 September, 2019 - 10:32 Author: Ralph Peters

It looks as if Labour’s NEC [National Executive Committee] is deliberately rigging the situation so that it can impose the candidates it wants in a dozen or so constituencies across the country.

Selections were only recently started in many of the constituencies where MPs had defected, like Chuka Umunna or Chris Leslie.

The selections were started close to two months ago. Now they have been put on hold in Nottingham East, Ilford North, Enfield North and elsewhere.

An argument has been made that party officials needed to concentrate on the processing of trigger ballots. But there are extensive rumours that on the quiet candidates have been carved up to be imposed on the CLPs that already started selections!

A general election is clearly imminent. Even if the trigger ballots are successfully processed, it may be difficult to carry through subsequent selections.

The result will be many seats without properly selected candidates, and with an election only weeks away. This looks like being yet another election, like the 2017 general election and the 2019 EU election, with no democratically selected candidates.

In the bad old days – from the late 1980s though Kinnock, Mandelson and then Blair and Brown – a powerful central machine at Labour Party HQ – essentially decided who Labour MPs would be. Those considered undesirable were not allowed on the list of approved parliamentary candidates.

Even when parliamentary selections did take place, there was a low-level of participation from the dwindling and demoralised membership of those days.

Frequently the candidates who won selections were those backed by leading figures in the Party, overwhelmingly on the right. They won through expensive campaigns with glitzy literature, having numerous endorsements from and pictures with the leaders. There wasn’t much political discussion!

Once the MPs were in, it was essentially a job for life. In 1993, the “mandatory reselection” adopted in 1981 (a new selection procedure for every election, as happens for example with council candidates) was replaced by a procedure requiring a “trigger ballot” in advance of the selection procedure.

That procedure required such a level of dissent in the constituency and the unions that selections were very rarely triggered.

Democratic control by the members over their MPs became minimal. Where there was a Labour MP, CLPs often became the mouthpiece of the MP rather than vice versa.

If a CLP was considered rebellious or left-wing, then the NEC often imposed their choice without a selection. That situation demoralised the party membership and drove members out.

Since Corbyn's victory in 2015, many members have been hoping for a new flowering of democracy and scope for MPs to be selected who match the radical expectations of the new Party membership.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

In fact, if we think back to the Party’s regime under Blair and Brown, we may ask: “Has anything changed? Or has it even got worse?”

The trigger ballot procedure has been liberalised, and the threshold to trigger a selection has been lowered. But now, as reported above, selections have been halted in many constituencies where they were under way.

Anger is widespread, especially in Nottingham East, where there are many candidates with considerable support. The constituency had a losing candidate imposed in 1987 and then had Chris Leslie parachuted in on it (it is now safe Labour).

The rumour is that a candidate to be imposed has secretly been agreed on by a number of leading NEC members. There are even wider rumours, impossible to confirm or refute, that Unite and GMB between them have decided in which region and CLPs each should act as king-maker.

Those interested in democracy should demand that the selections suspended should be immediately reopened, and that the Party manages its resources and plans to ensure the Party members have the right to choose who they want to stand for them as MP.

If there is an emergency need to select candidates at high speed, the NEC should hold polls on the nominees under consideration where selection procedures are already underway.

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