Open selection moves closer as Unite’s Beckett voices support. You can help

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Howard Beckett speaking at last year’s TUC conference

While Momentum and many CLPs (constituency Labour parties) have been raising awareness and backing for open selection, Labour insiders and activists feel that Chuka Umunna’s recent statements reflect an attempt by right-wingers to hold the membership to ransom with threats of a break-away party in a bid to stop Open Selection.

The existing method of challenging a sitting MP is the ‘trigger ballot’, a complicated and, many feel, easily stacked process in favour of the incumbent MPs, Based on a ‘vote per branch’ system, they represent a skewed version of democracy in which a branch of a handful of members has equal weight with one of hundreds. Incumbents need only gain fifty percent of branches, not fifty percent of the membership.

Open Selection, by contrast, allows for would-be candidates to campaign positively and seek election based on the wishes of members and ends the current relative unaccountability of MPs to the members who helped get them elected. However, some worry that it might lead to chaotic selection processes with large numbers of applicants – and unions would want to see motions amended to retain some form of nominations process in order to prevent this.

A Momentum petition for open selections currently has over 11,000 signatures and is expected to reach as many as 25,000 by the start of Labour’s conference.

The threat of a new centrist party has been talked up by the mainstream media, but has been greatly exaggerated. The numbers of MPs said to be considering such a split has already dwindled from an initial – and already paltry – ’12 to 20′ down to ‘4 to 10’ and centrist MPs such as Chuka Umunna have been vacillating, one day saying it’s not going to happen and the next claiming it’s up to Jeremy Corbyn (of course) to prevent it.

Ultimately, keeping MPs in the party who are likely to undermine its direction and agitate against the leadership and membership is a worse option, so the ‘threat’ of a split is a hollow one.

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The key risk to open selections is therefore whether it reaches the floor of Labour’s conference for a vote. The measure is not part of the ‘democracy review’ package, but motions have been put forward by Momentum, Labour International and others. If a compromise trigger version – which Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is on record as believing is possible – gains traction on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and the NEC puts out a statement on it, it’s unlikely that those motions would progress further.

On the other hand, with unions making up fifty percent of the votes at Conference, if an open selection motion does reach the floor then the position of Unite, BFAWU, FBU and CWU will be crucial with the expected two-thirds left majority among CLP delegates almost certain to support it. Of those unions it is the position of Unite which seems key. Unite’s official policy is to support Mandatory (now being termed “Open”) Selection and reported comments from Unite’s senior team at the TUC conference endorse the view that this is simply about accountability.

Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett spoke at a Fringe at the TUC event titled “Politics for the Many”. The Telegraph online reported that he was asked about Unite’s policy in favour of ‘Open Selection’.

Beckett, talking in a personal capacity about electoral voting changes, was asked whether he felt Proportional Representation was the answer to ensuring better diversity amongst MPs. He responded:

No. People should not confuse making the voting system more democratic with Labour Party reforms. It will only be by way of an Open Selection that Party members will truly get diverse representation in Parliament.

Beckett was then asked whether this represented a ‘purge’ of MPs:

Absolutely not. It’s a natural – but also radical – progression of a true, membership-based party of the workers.

No one should fear standing on their record – it is only by having true accountability that we can ensure MPs truly represent their CLPs. And it is only by members knowing that MPs are accountable to them can we be sure to build on the revolutionary advances made by Jeremy. People should see Open Selection as continuing the process of engagement and empowerment of members, particularly young members, which will ultimately see us build our membership and see the numbers swell to closer to a million.

It seems clear that if the open selection motion makes it to the Conference floor then it will have the necessary union and CLP support to become party policy. The key, then, is to make sure that the party – and especially the members’ representatives on the NEC – are aware of the level of support for open selection and how badly the members want proper democratic influence over the selection of the candidates who represent them.

To help get the message across, sign and share the open selection petition here – and make sure your CLP delegates to conference are aware of the importance of the issue if and when it comes to a vote on the conference floor.

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  1. A Centre Party would be good news for True Labour IF the likes of Chukka join it. Their seats would then be open for a new candidate. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen; you need more than say 3 people to form a new party! Some ‘moderates’ will hang on if they can not least because being an MP provides them with a handsome salary. For wealthy people (like Chukka?) it’s an easier choice but he knows the minute he resigns his seat he’ll never strut the stage again, indeed probably never heard of again. His only current value to the Tories and others is that he is a Labour MP prepared to attack his ‘own’ Party.
    Incidentally do you recall the time he was going for the Leadership himself? He was feted by the Tories and ‘moderate’ Labourites but suddenly and unaccountably gave up the bid; something to do with his then girlfriend I think? Hopefully he did in the end marry her??
    He – and the other Nasties – should join the Tory Party which is where they belong.

    1. Well funnily enough Chukkas CLP voted unanimously for open selection, so if he does jump he might well be pushed and a few others will be in the same boat…

      1. If they have unanimously voted for Open Selection – when is the matter up for a decision? How can local members put up with this man who attacks them at every opportunity – and many opportunities are given to him for sure. His own members are the ‘dogs’ he doesn’t like. If he is kept on as a Labour candidate then one wonders how strong Open Selection will be.

  2. Hasn’t Blair suggested the back stabbers should remain in Labour until after the next GE and then form a new party presumably to further undermine real Labour?

    1. the dastardly idea is that they would split off and claim to be the biggest party in either in parliament or in opposition. Thereby neatly bypassing democracy.

      If they did that though, it would be the last time most of them did get elected…

  3. Why should we have to join FB to show support? I’m not interested in giving Zuckerberg any of my information.

    Has anyone found out yet if the order of the different re-selection motions, assuming they make it to Conference, will determine which one gets through? – I’m assuming one of them will.

    1. I signed up without joining Facebook. I think there may be a glitch in the signing page software?

    2. Me too! It’s odd that so many socialist organisations seem willing to rely on FB in particular.

  4. Right to say that keeping MPs who undermine the Party is the worst option.

    Mandatory reselection is the best way to get rid of them – if anything will. It made the SDP jump ship.

    Rejection by Conference of the Blarites’ beloved ‘People’s Vote’ would also be a terrible blow for them.

  5. Chuka, Berger, Hodge, Austen, Mann, Phillips, Ryan and others can then be chucked out! Good riddance to the Apartheid State supporters.

  6. I support Open Selections and let those with ideas put these to Labour members for them to choose and then in my opinion may the best left wing democratic socialist fighters for working people win! Oh and perhaps one question for candidates is perhaps: So you want to be a Labour MP to to be chosen by Labour members who will slog their guts out to get you elected so you can fight for Labour and working people, so will you confirm that you will remain a Labour MP for a full term and if not and you cross the floor or sit as an independent will you immediately call a by- election and sign a legal document to this effect? We are just asking candidates to do one revolutionary thing in their lives – BE HONEST! Some of us come from poverty and are socialists and believe being a Labour MP is an honour and it should be a calling not a bloody career! Solidarity and JC4PM!

  7. As I’ve said. There will NOT be any ‘new centrist party’.

    It means those MP’s who were to leave (stop sniggering) having to do a bit of work to organise it. They’re quite happy enough having the Labour party doing it all for them now .while they sit on their useless fat arses, raking in their taxpayer-funded salaries and ‘expenses’ for doing the sum total of less than f-all and pontificating to those what put the graft in on their ungrateful behalf .

    Well no more. Get rid of the parasitical shits once and for all. They’re neither use nor ornament.

  8. How the f___ did we get from the above to the current capitulation by the NEC. Affirmative ballot my arse.

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