Amid conflicting reports of voting methods, claims of democracy and a statement by Jon Lansman that seems to say that he, a man, is standing against a female candidate because he wants to see more women take positions in the Labour Party, many people appear to be wondering what the harm is or could be in him applying for the position of Labour Party General Secretary.
The SKWAWKBOX has great respect for Jon Lansman and everything he has done for the Labour Party and to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. But his decision to stand is fraught with risk for no perceptible gain, at a time when Labour’s focus should be on a smooth, straightforward process that does not distract from the impending local elections.
But people are struggling to understand what the problems are – so below, in as dispassionate a fashion as possible and without speculation on Lansman’s possible motivations, is a non-exhaustive list of the realistic dangers.
The ‘inside rail’
Although some journalists have written that the NEC (National Executive Committee) will decide which candidate to recommend to this autumn’s Conference by ‘exhaustive ballot‘ – and that this means there is no risk of a right-wing candidate winning because of a ‘split’ vote – this is not the case.
NEC sources tell the SKWAWKBOX that the decision has alway been made by ‘first past the post’ voting – in a similar way to the UK’s General Elections, the ‘winner takes all’ and the winner is the one with the most votes.
With a 21-17 left/right split on the current NEC, a second left candidate only needs to peel away a few votes for a right-wing candidate to ‘come through on the inside rail’ to win, as long as the right votes solidly.
The right will vote solidly – and it will put up a candidate, if it sees a chance to block the preferred choice of Corbyn and McDonnell. It’s certain that a candidate has already been identified in readiness.
The ‘alternative’ vote
Journalists have been confused about the voting system because it appears someone has briefed them that the NEC’s decision will be made by ‘exhaustive vote’. However, the SKWAWKBOX understands that Lansman hopes – and has suggested – that the vote be made by STV (single transferable vote).
This would reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of a right-wing ‘inside rail’ candidate coming through to win. However, it would also mean the NEC changing the practice of years to accommodate Lansman.
It would take seconds for that news to reach the ears of hostile press – who would have a propaganda ‘open goal’ to claim that Momentum’s take-over of the Labour Party was complete.
STV would also reduce Lansman’s chances of winning. Given the support that has already swung behind Jennie Formby, he could only win if the right voted for him. Right-wingers on the NEC might do this to snub Corbyn – but Lansman’s and Momentum’s credibility with left-wing members would be damaged and the party hindered going forward.
The ‘fastest loser’
One immediate consequence of a successful Lansman bid would be that he would have to resign his seat on the NEC to take up the role. Under Labour’s rules, the candidate in the recent NEC elections with the next-highest number of votes would take the seat – just like the ‘fastest loser’ in an Olympic heat getting through if an automatic qualifier was unable to compete.
In this case Eddie Izzard – who was supported by right-wing factions Progress and Labour First.
Izzard’s initial tenure might be short – new elections take place in the summer for all nine ‘CLP’ (constituency Labour party) positions on the NEC – but it would mean Izzard fighting the new elections with the significant advantage of incumbency.
The next round
Lansman’s decision to apply for General Secretary is, he says, connected to his desire to democratise the party. But he was elected to the NEC only last month and many who voted for him have expressed dismay that he is ready to effectively nullify their votes by stepping out of the position into which they voted him.
This will be compounded if any of the above consequences take place. If the party is damaged, Lansman may struggle to get votes even if he stands as part of the ‘left slate’.
Not only that, but the credibility of the left slate itself may be compromised – and the solidarity of left-wing members.
If this allows right-wing candidates to get onto the NEC in the new elections, the ‘left project’ will be seriously hampered for the next two years – with some semblance of the ‘bad old days’ the Labour Party’s left-wing majority have just escaped and hoped to put further behind them with the resignation of Iain McNicol.
Hugely important local elections are just two months away. The decision to pick a fight where one is not necessary and little or nothing is to be gained is a counter-productive distraction from local election campaigning – and a PR gift to those who want to damage Labour’s prospects.
The Tories have been expecting to do badly. Very badly. So badly that they are busy managing expectations by talking of a ‘wipe-out’, so that even a disaster can be portrayed as better than expected.
The propaganda opportunity this decision is handing to the hostile media risks helping them achieve that ‘better than expected’ and claim some kind of win in May.
The lost ground
Any or all of the above consequences will mean throwing away ground hard and painfully won against the machinations and propaganda of the ‘centrists’.
And all this for no significant gain for Labour Party members and the people who need a genuine Labour government – against a widely-supported and highly-regarded female candidate with a track-record of superb work for the party and its members.
And certainly not for any improvement in Labour’s internal democracy or the furtherance of the party’s fantastic women.
Used to be on the national food, drink and tobacco committee for unite. Jennie is as sharp as a razer and twice as dangerous. She's never off the clock and gives one hundred and ten percent. One formidable officer/woman and great human being. You couldn't ask for a better leader.
— Trevor Sterrett (@BigSterrett) March 1, 2018
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