In this guest post Stevie Jones, secretary of Momentum West Wales but writing in a purely personal capacity, discusses the two left candidates in the selection for PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate) for the ultra marginal seat of Preseli Pembrokeshire.
Mandy Clare, one of the two, has asked her supporters to give their second-preference votes to her left rival to maximise the chances of a left candidate winning. Dinah Mulholland, the other, declined to take a similar step and told the SKWAWKBOX that she felt “it seemed appropriate to me not to intervene, but to give members the space to make up their own minds based on the information they had on each candidate“.
Stevie Jones outlines below, among other things, why it is essential that supporters of Clare and Mulholland each make the other their second-preference choice.
The third candidate is also a Momentum member.
When a Parliamentary selection opens in a CLP and its left contingent identifies one outstanding socialist candidate around whom support coalesces, it can be a blessing. When there are two such candidates, however, the situation can get complex—both in the divisions it can produce, and yet, strangely, in the unexpected opportunities that can also arise.
This has happened to us in Preseli Pembrokeshire CLP. Due to a confluence of incidental factors not as such intended, the shortlisting phase of our selection process ended up providing us two exceptionally able leftist firebrands in the same race: Mandy Clare and Dinah Mulholland.
For much of the frustratingly short selection campaign—typical of what is currently the standard selection scenario in Welsh Labour—the situation seemed, at first, more a curse than a windfall. Factions arose in miniature on all sides, and as someone central both to Momentum and to the situation, expressing a public opinion seemed to me suddenly rude, campaigning publicly for any candidate a prospect paralysed by calculations, and inertia one inevitable consequence.
What I and others began to realise, however, was that beyond mitigating left and right splits, the eliminating ballot system used by Labour in the selection vote, based on a preferential alternative vote system, actually showed the potential to help both candidates on the left, in mathematical terms, as regards the incumbent candidate they both faced—so long as voters, recognising the need for solidarity in getting behind the prospect of a real Corbynista candidate, agreed to vote either for Mandy Clare or Dinah Mulholland as both first and second preference, in whichever order they felt best.
The two vibrant left candidates in this running are outstanding in similar, yet entirely different ways, and to have both in the same selection, being taken perfectly seriously by an invigorated and engaged electorate, as an achievement within Welsh Labour in itself.
Dinah Mulholland, despite her modesty, has created, in my view, the Labour Party as we know it in the neighbouring Ceredigion constituency since the ascendancy of Corbyn. With Dinah as a candidate, the CLP rose from political oblivion to 8,017 votes in GE2017, turning the constituency into a near-three-way marginal, 3,606 votes clear of actually winning the seat for Labour outright. That’s an 8,000 swing—the first time. Dinah Mulholland is the kind of woman who can walk into a packed hustings as a fresh candidate, surrounded by a wearily expectant audience, in the middle of rural Ceredigion, with nothing more than a piece of A4 paper, and capture every pair of eyes and ears with immense tenacity, huge passion, a formidable knowledge base, and a decades-long commitment to the progressive socialism that came under the attack of New Labour, both defending it and helping to realise in people whole new kinds of belief in the burgeoning revolution of common-sense socialism.
Mandy Clare, a working class single mum hard-up against the ravages of austerity—as Dinah—joined Labour the day Jeremy Corbyn became its leader, and Momentum within three months of its inception. In a fashion still spectacular and unfamiliar to a CLP recovering from an architecture of passivities and irresolution, normalised by the organisational constraints of a pre-Corbyn era, Mandy’s campaign – crowdfunded with her own skill to the tune of over half the CLP’s annual budget, has been conducted with the media, canvassing and digital skills set of a candidate emblematic of what all of us dream will emerge from such a vibrant and never-before-done activist movement as Momentum. Marshalled by the talent, hunger and authenticity of a socialist-to-the-core Parliamentary candidate like Mandy, Preseli Pembrokeshire’s CLP would be something imaginable not as a passive campaign vehicle, but as a flowering modern social movement, reminiscent, on its best day, of something akin to the vital new movements in left Labour organisation in the Southwest.
In places like Preseli Pembrokeshire, a constituency in Northern Europe’s very poorest economic region of West Wales, there is not just a functional need for bright new campaigners, but a need in representation, too, for authentic working class candidates, able to resonate naturally with the plight of the thousands of zero-hours, low-paid, seasonal workers, trapped in meniality and subsistence, or worse. In all-women shortlists in Wales, as elsewhere, there is a need not just for the nice-enough PPCs and MPs, but for women who downright refuse to give an inch to those kleptocratic, privateer Parliamentary entryists that we call Tory politicians, for whom systemic hostility to all classes but the rich is an assumption waiting to be exposed, and lucratively torn down. For a Corbyn government to be a success, it will be best be served by candidates like Mandy and Dinah—candidates who vote and campaign, time and time again, on the right side of history for the people, disrupting and eliminating the project of austerity in the way it has shown itself to deserve.
In-keeping with a common theme in the CLP’s selection campaign, we need, I believe, the kind of MP whose snap impulse is to say, when asked, that she would, for the duration of her career, back unilateral Trident disarmament, not just in a whipped vote but a vote of conscience—as we know from Corbyn’s style is what would be offered on such a matter. We now have the chance of an MP here who, beyond being a campaigner as viable and just as credible as our incumbent, will tell you without blinking that unilateral disarmament is, in the lack of any serious plan for multilateralism by any of that strategy’s comparatively uncommitted advocates (one Owen Smith being amongst them), the only means that anyone who was serious about ending Britain’s genocide program would pursue. The commitment of Mandy Clare and Dinah Mulholland to these objectives is as steadfast as can be hoped for.
I invite all Preseli Pembrokeshire CLP members to remember in today’s vote: this is and should be a free vote where all possibilities exist, where just you and your conscience alone get to decide who it is that you believe is most likely to remain a real socialist, through and through, in all the scenarios of Westminster and the hard challenges and tradeoffs of office; who will be the best campaigner naturally and will proactively lead and innovate in the landscapes of modern activism; and which candidate you will be able to say was from day one the choice of, and for, the people.
Without prescribing a candidate, I strongly recommend Mandy Clare or Dinah Mulholland for selection, and invite all members to vote for the other of these candidates as your second voting preference, in solidarity with the objectives of socialism everywhere.
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