Reports have reached the SKWAWKBOX from all over the country of right-wing rigging of the selection of Labour candidates for council elections – with the LCF (Local Campaign Forum), the Labour organisational body responsible for overseeing local candidate applications, at the heart of the issue.
Similar problems have been reported from one end of the country to the other, but the situation in Hackney – which has been reported by members from both the CLPs (constituency Labour parties) covered by the borough-wide LCF, Hackney North and Hackney South – makes a case-study that will allow members in any area to educate themselves about the kind of tricks Labour right-wingers are pulling in order to retain control of councils.
And, of course, of councillors’ allowances and in some cases salaries.
1) LCF composition
The Hackney LCF consists of a majority of right-leaning members, but there is one who is pro-Corbyn. This posed a problem for the right, as it requires a unanimous decision to exclude a prospective candidate.
So the LCF took advantage of the fact that the member had been seriously ill to exclude the member – even though she had reported that she was available.
Not only that, but they simply didn’t inform her of the selection meetings, using the excuse that she was too ill – even though she had reported herself fit to participate.
2) The replacement
In place of their excluded left-wing member, the LCF brought in an Labour member who has been aggressively anti-Corbyn on social media since the first days of his leadership and whose dislike for Corbyn, his supporters and Momentum runs so deep that he doesn’t think they belong in the party. Pro-Corbyn candidates were going to be ruled out from the outset.
3) The candidates
Using their manufactured unanimity, the LCF then excluded left-wing female applicants.
As there is a rule that every second candidate must be a woman, this effectively gave the right automatic control over at least 50% of selections.
4) The conflicts of interest
The LCF brought onto the panel the partner of an existing councillor. This councillor is on a council committee and therefore receives an additional salary or allowance on top of the usual councillor allowances.
The end effect of this was that a member of the LCF had a vested interest worth around £20,000 in seeing the partner remain a councillor.
The LCF also allowed people who were standing for selection to write the ward reports as ward officers – giving those candidates the opportunity to write reports on subjective matters such as campaigning and ‘party engagement’, praising or playing down the activity of other candidates. The conflict of interest and potential for abuse is beyond question.
5) Misapplying the rule-book
One candidate was told she had not been a member of the party long enough and had not engaged with the party enough, even though she had been a member long enough to make any cut off date under the rules redundant – and has been an active member of the LCF that decides the candidates for a year.
The net effect of these anti-democratic measures was that of around 20 left-wing candidates, only six got past the selection process and only 30% of the overall selection went to ‘BAME’ (black and minority ethnic) candidates – in a borough in which almost half of the population belongs to a qualifying group.
The details of the exact tricks, ruses and mechanisms that a right-controlled LCF will use are going to vary in each area, but the overall picture painted by the reports this blog has received from readers across the country is similar – and bleak.
It’s absolutely essential that Labour members of goodwill in every area start to get to grips with the various party structures and processes that decide what happens locally and nationally – and meets to plan how rein them into line with the will of the vast majority of Labour’s membership.
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