Earlier this week, the SKWAWKBOX exclusively reported the ‘earthquake’ that has shaken the Labour right when the ‘Local Campaign Forum’ (LCF) – the body that controls candidate selection processes – in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell was suspended by Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby and Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Some of the improper practices alleged in Sandwell are common around the country – and it seems that local Labour parties (CLPs) are beginning to rise up and demand that corruption at local level – the next essential step in the re-establishment of Labour as a popular movement – is dealt with.
On the same day that Sandwell LCF was suspended, Labour members in the north London constituency of Enfield Southgate received the following email (emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX):
The following motion was passed overwhelmingly by 46 votes to 2 (with 4 abstentions) at our All Members Meeting on 24 May 2018:
This All Members’ Meeting of Enfield Southgate Labour Party is concerned to note:
- That irregularities occurred in the Councillor selection process of 2017. The process was overseen by the then LCF Secretary (now Leader) who has acknowledged that she guided the interview panels to omit two important questions from the list of questions provided by the LCF to be asked of all candidates. The Labour Party Compliance Unit guidelines on candidate selections identifies ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ questions that must be put to all candidates. These two questions fell into the ‘essential’ category and should have been asked of all candidates. – One of the questions dealt with the contribution made to the promotion of the Labour Party and was designed to check that a candidate had a minimum of one year’s membership of the Party and a track record of regular involvement in party campaigning etc.
– The other question fell into the ‘essential’ communication skills category which is designed to identify a candidate’s ability to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing, be able to demonstrate an ability to read and critically appraise a written report, to compose and write letters, and to use the telephone and email in representing constituents.
- That the guidelines advise that nominees must meet all the agreed essential criteria and only if they meet those should they be recommended for endorsement by the LCF. It is clear that some nominees were put through who were unable to meet those requirements. As a result, we are unable to warrantee to the public that all candidates put through are qualified to be councillors.
- That the explanation provided by the then LCF Secretary – that the first interview panel failed to ask to ask the two essential questions and therefore for the sake of consistency she instructed all subsequent panels omit them – is contradicted by the London Regional Director in his report of 8 January 2018, which states: “The Chair of the first panel confirmed to me that all questions were asked to applicants.”
- That the then LCF Secretary failed to inform the LCF that the two essential questions had been not been asked.
- That when the LCF met to endorse the candidates they were not informed that [sic] of this omission and endorsed the list on the basis that all candidates recommended for endorsement had fully met the criteria.
- That a number of candidates whose interview assessments were marked ‘potential’ were reported by the then LCF Secretary to the LCF as “yes”
- That a businessman from Broxbourne was discovered to have been texting instructions on who to vote for to specific groups of members at shortlist and selection meetings, in contravention of party rules.
- That the candidate panel endorsed by the LCF is not representative of the diversity of the communities they are elected to serve.
- That all five sitting black councillors were deselected, and that in protest at the endorsement of the panel, one black councillor resigned his Council seat and another black candidate withdrew her candidacy.
- That a substantial number of applications for Cabinet and other committees appear to be part of a job lot that has been completed by the same person, as evidenced by the same sentences and spelling errors presenting across the forms of a specific group of applicants.
- That some applications for Cabinet strongly suggest that the applicants are functionally illiterate and would not have met the “essential criteria” at interview had the essential questions been asked.
- That the irregularities may have materially affected the outcome of the selection process and hence the composition of the new Labour Group when the Leader was elected at the AGM.
- That the then LCF Secretary (now Leader) has repeatedly refused to answer a list of 25 questions pertaining to the interview, shortlisting and selection process, which were drawn up by the LCF and put to her in writing.
The AMM therefore
a. Endorses the statement accepted by the LCF at its meeting on 9 January which states that “even more information was withheld from the LCF” making it “impossible for the LCF to discharge its duty”. (copy attached)
b. Expresses its very grave concern at the sequence of irregularities and breaches of the rules that have led to the ousting of the former Council Leader, including the failure to properly consult the membership as required by Labour Group standing orders.
c. Instructs the Chair of the CLP to write to the NEC and National Constitutional Committee setting out these concerns and demanding an immediate investigation with the power to suspend councillors and members where there is a prima facie case of wrongdoing.
d. Resolves that, henceforth, this CLP will exercise far greater scrutiny over the workings of the local party, including of the Local Campaign Forum, Labour Group and Council, insisting on adherence to rules, transparency of action, and proper accountability to the membership. The Executive Committee is directed to bring forward a scheme to ensure that this necessary work is successfully achieved.
The allegation of the completion by third parties of application forms, together with the winking of selection panels to rubber-stamp ‘functionally illiterate’ candidates as ‘placemen’ for influential local government figures is strikingly similar to one of the complaints that has contributed to the suspension of the LCF in Sandwell and seems to be part of the right-wing ‘playbook’ for stitching up council power structures.
The SKWAWKBOX has received a significant number of allegations that a north London MP has been at the centre of the manoeuvres to replace Enfield’s popular, left-supported council leader – the ‘sequence of irregularities and breaches’ referred to in the Enfield Southgate motion above – and is investigating.
As this blog predicted earlier this week, the suspension of Sandwell LCF needs – and looks set – to be just the first in a wave of investigatory and disciplinary actions by Labour’s leadership and administration.
Labour members demand it – and the people of this country need it, so that Labour can be the same inspirational force for change at local government level that it is proving to be at the national.
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