One of the key democratic – or otherwise – influences in the Labour Party around the country consists of affiliations to CLPs (constituency Labour parties) from other groups affiliated to the national party.
Unions and affiliated socialist societies are entitled to send delegates to a CLP from any branch that has affiliated to it – but they must meet certain conditions to qualify. In CLPs run on a branch/delegate basis, the influence wielded over that CLP’s everyday decisions can be huge – and in all CLPs can play a massive role in selections of candidates and especially in attempts to deselect an MP.
In the ‘trigger ballot‘ process for the potential removal of a sitting MP before a general election, a party branch of two hundred members will have a single vote as a branch. An affiliated union or socialist society branch of just a couple of people will have the same voting power. If the votes in a trigger ballot do not favour the replacement of an MP and that MP wishes to continue, s/he is secure.
It’s one of the gaping ‘legacy’ loopholes in the party’s current rules – and one of the most urgent to change through the impending ‘democracy review’.
For months now, the SKWAWKBOX has been receiving reports from all over the country – but with London, the West Midlands and a few others as hotspots – of mass affiliations of, almost exclusively, the more right-dominated unions to individual CLPs.
In some cases, as many as thirty or forty affiliations have been registered with a single CLP – swamping the voting power of the members – with a particular focus on CLPs with an incumbent right-wing MP that looks likely to be under threat at the next general election. In many cases, members and secretaries are reporting that the required information, for example about branch members living in the constituency to qualify a branch to affiliate at all, is missing or suspect.
It looks, to all intents and purposes, like a mass, coordinated attempt to secure Blairite and Labour First MPs against the likely desire of their local members to replace them with a better candidate.
Now it seems that the issue has reached the attention of the party’s leadership. Emails are going out now from regional directors to CLP secretaries informing them that Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby is collating information on union and socialist society affiliations to CLPs nationwide for both last year and this year – and that every CLP must respond no later than 10 August with details of the organisations and numbers affiliated to them.
If Ms Formby and the NEC are planning measures to prevent this distortion or even wholesale rigging of the party’s local democracy, it comes not a minute too soon – and the short timescale may be another indication of the growing sense at the top of Labour that a new general election is imminent.
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