Last week’s NEC meeting was a mishmash of positive and negative developments. The decision that candidate selections in around eighty target marginals will be controlled by a member-elected committee will be welcomed by the vast majority of members, while the anti-democratic move disenfranchising Young Labour members will not.
Another worrying development emerging from the meeting threatens the leadership election system that helped Jeremy Corbyn to win two leadership elections with a huge majority.
The ‘Collins Review‘ was ordered by then-Labour leader Ed Miliband and overwhelmingly approved by Labour’s Conference – ironically in large part because right-wingers saw it as a way of reducing the influence of unions over the party. ‘Registered supporter’ status was included, according to Alex Nunns’ excellent book The Candidate, because the Labour right imagined there were huge numbers of non-member centrists who would register and help ensure ‘suitable’ leaders.
That the net effect of the changes was not what many expected would be something of an understatement. The change to OMOV (one-member-one-vote) for Labour MPs, members and union affiliates diminished the power of the parliamentary Labour party enormously and enfranchised members who were eager for a change from what they saw as ‘Tory lite’ Labour policies, while huge number of people with a similar hunger joined as registered supporters to vote for a candidate who stood for something different.
Now it seems that the system loved by most Labour members for its democracy may be under threat.
A passage in a report of the meeting by an NEC member covers a discussion of rule-changes proposed by CLPs (constituency Labour parties) for this September’s annual Conference, but shows the discussion making an unexpected swerve at the end to address the Collins measures:
..the number of rule changes submitted before the 7th July deadline was from some 80-odd CLPs. This is the most rule changes from CLPs for 35 years. Attention was given to those rule changes that will be on the agenda in Brighton. The NEC was asked to make recommendations for each of these rule changes. A very valid point was made by one of the trade union reps, namely that it is perhaps not such a good idea to make piecemeal changes to the Rule Book, rather the NEC should have its own review of rule change proposals. This idea was discussed in detail and it was suggested that perhaps a review of the whole Collins proposals should be undertaken. It was agreed that a detailed remit for such a review would be brought to the NEC meeting. The whole paper was then referred to the September meeting.
The details and aims of the review are not yet public, though according to another NEC member a lot of the CLP-proposed rule-changes concerned the Collins Review changes. It could be that the relatively-few right-leaning or right-controlled CLPs are mounting an attack on the measures that make a future leader from a right-wing faction less likely. Or it might not.
What is known is that deputy leader Tom Watson already tried last year to abolish registered-supporter status and force a return to the old, far less democratic ‘electoral college’ system that gave a few Labour MPs as much voting power as all party members or the millions of members of affiliated unions – but was unsuccessful.
The SKWAWKBOX is trying to obtain more information about the nature of the proposed rule-changes and the scope of the planned review, but unless and until it can be confirmed that no changes will be considered to OMOV and the registered supporter status, supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and of Labour as a genuine political alternative should be concerned and keeping a close watch on developments.
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