OMOV selection, not open selection, wins at NEC – and the ‘pros’ outweigh the ‘cons’

This article has been superseded as new information emerged the following morning. For the updated position, see here.

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After a concerted campaign by Momentum for ‘open selection’ (OS) – the automatic right of any CLP (constituency Labour party) to trigger a selection contest to select its parliamentary candidate – and a series of CLP motions calling for variants of the same, most of those with concerns about the current ‘trigger ballot’ process have got almost everything they would have wished – but not quite everyone.

Today’s meeting of Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) has put together a package for a new selection process to be put to Labour’s coming conference in Liverpool that ticks the most crucial boxes for those wanting to see the party in the hands of members – and avoids some of the biggest pitfalls of a pure OS process.

The package is expected to pass a vote by the NEC on Saturday in time for the start of Conference on Sunday.

Low bar, not no bar

The threshold to initiate a full selection is to be set at just thirty percent – of either Labour Party members or individual affiliates from unions and socialist societies.

Pros:

  • good MPs who can command near-full backing from their members and affiliates need not go through an exhaustive and exhausting reselection
  • MPs will need to be ‘union people’, backing union members and honouring Labour’s history as a movement begun by unions
  • among the most important pros is that this process will close the ‘ghost branch‘ loophole. Many CLPs have reported mass affiliations by unions of branches without evidence of validity or qualifying union members living in the constituency
  • as the existing ‘trigger ballot’ process is decided by branch votes not individual votes, this would have given right-wing MPs a clear and probably insurmountable advantage in preventing a trigger ballot under the current rules

Cons:

  • it’s not the pure, automatic ‘open selection’ process that members have been encouraged to look for
  • left-wingers who want rid of a right-wing MP will have to organise to achieve thirty percent support among members. However, so will right-wingers trying to get rid of a good left-wing MP

OMOV-selection, not ‘open selection’

Most members looking for open selection will have been concerned at the high threshold in the current process, but the new process – once set in motion via the low 30% bar – will be on an OMOV basis, with members and individual affiliates having one vote each and whichever candidate can achieve the biggest share will win.

The process will be genuine OMOV, too – all members will be balloted, with allowance for postal and, most likely, e-voting. This means that disabled or elderly members, or those who might struggle to attend a meeting because of work or parenting responsibilities, will not be disenfranchised. Working class candidates will not be disadvantaged by working class members being unable to attend.

Pros:

  • democracy
  • all members enfranchised equally

Cons:

  • democracy – if that worries you
  • all members enfranchised equally – if those wanting change won’t/can’t organise

Endorsements

Unions – and Momentum – will still be able to choose which candidate to back and to publicise this. Union endorsements will be decided by OMOV vote among qualifying affiliated members.

Pros

  • more democracy in the endorsement process

Cons

  • more democracy in the endorsement process if you’re worried about democracy

Longlist and shortlist

Longlisting will be overseen by the NEC and based on candidate CVs only.

Pros:

  • Any suitable candidate will be able to apply and eliminating age, sex, ethnicity and class as far as humanly feasible

Cons:

  • none to speak of

Shortlisting will be the same as currently.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

Those with their hearts set on literal open selections will be disappointed if this measure passes on Saturday as expected. However, pure OS would have cut the unions out of the selection process and there is a reason the party requires all its elected officials to be union members.

Cutting the party away from its union roots would not strengthen it – although it might meet the agendas of a few. The reduction in the threshold should mean any activist willing to organise can at the least force a selection process – so those who want change need to organise. What’s new in that?

This solution is actually a clever one, empowering members without cutting out the unions. It also achieves two vital things.

First, it prevents unions – as right-leaning unions have already been doing – from stacking the process by piling in affiliations where they want to protect an incumbent from the wishes of members.

Second and even more importantly, it will be guaranteed to pass at Conference. If unions felt that a few powerbrokers were looking to wither their influence in the party and achieve a one-sided control of selections, they would unite against it next week and would need only a few CLP delegates to side with them to be sure of voting down any open-selection motions.

That would leave CLP members stuck with the current process.

The solution – a path forward rather than really a compromise – ensures the vast majority of party members get the vast majority of what they really cared about in the open selection proposition.

That’s good for all of us – and for democracy and the strength of the party.

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27 responses to “OMOV selection, not open selection, wins at NEC – and the ‘pros’ outweigh the ‘cons’

  1. I’m more unhappy about nominations being required from 10% MPs/MEPs in future leadership elections. With the increased number of MPs, and including MEPs, the number of nominations required is likely to be greater than the 30 odd that Corbyn needed to stand. On top of which a candidate will require 5% of unions and 5% CLPs. All of which is a higher threshold than currently required, and at a point when many were looking for a much lower or even no threshold.

    As the robber baron, Boss Tweed concluded, it didn’t matter who did the voting if he got to choose the candidates… This makes it all the more important for some CLPs to get organising that 30% of members.

  2. Have you ever tried to get 30% of members to vote on a CLP matter? If you can get 10% to turn up for meetings you’re doing well. 30% is actually a ridiculously high bar – the most successful NEC candidate only got about 16%.

  3. Report from NEC member @darrenw_cardiff on today’s NEC:

    ‘Darren Williams
    2 hrs ·

    On the train back to Cardiff after a nine-hour meeting of Labour’s NEC, most of which was devoted to the outcome of the Party Democracy Review. I have to say that I’m deeply disappointed with how little remains of the exciting – but perfectly reasonable and practicable – set of proposals drawn up by Katy Clark and her team. Some positive decisions were taken. We agreed to scrap the “contemporary” criterion for conference motions and to increase the number of subject areas debated at conference to 10 chosen by the CLPs and 10 chosen by affiliates. We agreed a charter of members’ rights, mainly revolving around shorter qualification periods for engaging in party elections and other activities. We prepared the ground for more democratic structures to be established for women, young members, disabled members and members from BAME communities. We established a Disabled Members’ seat on the NEC. We agreed that the Welsh and Scottish NEC seats should be filled in a way determined by the Welsh and Scottish conferences. And we increased the size of the National Constitutional Committee (which conducts disciplinary hearings) and set out more robust rules for its functioning. But everything else from the Review was either kicked into the long grass or killed off altogether, with the exception of the leadership nomination rules, which will be discussed at our eve-of-conference meeting on Saturday (which is also likely to take a position on parliamentary selection procedures). I’m sorry to say that the majority of the NEC – including much of the so-called left – has proven itself too cautious and conservative to grasp the opportunity that the Democracy Review presented.’

    Doesn’t sound too happy about the outcome. Good news about a Disabled Members’ seat on NEC. Of course, this is the old outgoing NEC which includes Eddie Izzard.

  4. Rarely disagree with your opinions but in this case I think you are wrong.
    It is not normal to insist on a percentage of all entitled to vote as not all will vote. Lucky if 20% of all will vote for some elections.
    These proposals look they have been designed to prevent the members having any real influence in the selection of Leader and Parliament candidates and that is not what the members have demanded!
    It’s a “stitch-up” and they should be withdrawn immediately.

  5. Agree totally with those who claim this is a stitch-up. To get 30% of all members of a CLP to vote would be an incredible feat. Even getting 20% would be very hard. The bar has been set to 30% because they know that it won’t get reached.

    This has to be opposed, because it smacks of protecting Labour MPs from its members.

    • Agreed – 30% of ALL CLP members appears high. May be they meant 30% of CLP members who VOTED. Can we get a clarification?

      Which brings the question of voters roll. Who audits the voters roll to ensure that it is not stuffed by right-wingers? For as long as the right-wing has a stranglehold on CLP structures, as is the current case since the Blair years, the 30% mark will never be breached. At best, it is going to take years to pry the structures loose from the right-wing grip. Time which we don’t have, given the imminent collapse (which Thornberry puts at circa this Christmas!) of the current Tory regime. So we are going to end-up with the same 5th Columnists MPs, who are already planning to bring down the Corbyn government from day one if they are not given plum frontbench positions.

      • Agreed.

        I assumed it meant 30% of the vote. It needs clarifying.

  6. More bureaucracy, more time waisting from activists precious energy, more divisivness, more travesty of people demands and more frustration and failure to come, that is a stitch up and that is sad that once again labour failed to actually stand up for its members.

  7. Now a very important details is lacking here please. How are the activists suppose to raise 30%? With signatures? If so within what frame of time? Who decide to start collecting, whithing what set of rules? During a clp meeting? Will they take a vote? if so how? Thank you in advance for you clarity

  8. Reselection is about accountability. It’s about getting MPs to KNOW THEIR PLACE and to respect Party policy. It’s not about getting rid of right wing MPs in favour of left wing MPs, most of whom don’t stay left wing for very long. Indeed the 1980s experience is that reselection does not lead to deselections.

    Viewed from this perspective the 30% trigger is a catastrophe. It retains the system whereby a CLP must effectively hold a vote of no confidence in its MP before an open selection can take place.

    The leadership nomination arrangements are even more catastrophic, preventing a leftist successor to Corbyn.

    Open selections/mandatory reselection is perfectly compatible with TU input if one creates the right design. At one time we had reselection by GCs, at another by a local electoral college of members and TUs. Against this backdrop, the excuse about TU involvement is just a fig leaf for the sell-out on accountability.

    The report in the comment above from syzygysue from Darren Williams seems a realistic assessment of the capitulation that has occurred.

    I am not surprised because the Labour Left is in a state of non-stop capitulation and we have, as Darren says, filled the NEC with ‘so-called left wingers’ who are nothing of the kind.

    PLEASE may we have a detailed breakdown of how the ‘Left’ voted on the NEC on these crucial issues.. NO COVER UP!

    • This was the last meeting BEFORE the newly elected left wingers take their seats. The change happens after conference. This is the RW last gasp and looks a bit like their swansong. It can be changed, but not immediately. We will simply have to work within the rules (assuming conference agrees) for the time being, and motivates us all to get the CLPs and branches houses in order.

    • I’m new to how local politics works. I’m still learning. There’s a lot to learn.

      I’m totally confused now… Is this change a change for the better or for the worse? I just trusted Skwawkbox’s conclusion.

      • Me too, Ella. I think this is yet another example of the Labour Party doing what it always does: tinkering with the machinery, clarifying nothing, making it all completely incomprehensible to most people who actually have lives and who have neither the time nor the inclination to work out what it means, but who are left asking themselves why they are members of a Party that loves to create rules within rules, within rules….

  9. Dog’s breakfast. Very disappointing. Sorry Squwawkbox- it’s no use trying to put a positive spin on it.

  10. But the key to participation will be individual ballots ,I was recently refused a vote because I could not attend a meeting .I thought that was undemocratic and unfair. I will wait to see what the Centrists say about it, if they are in favour I will look deeper at the risks ,I would prefer higher involvement of members and less so of MP’s,but I am confusing this with the leadership selection ? Is that what we have? Where can I find out about the selection process ,many stories seem to indicate there is a problem at this level as well . Confused ,

    • What goes on in your mind Steve Richards ??? The Membership that, due to JC (Corbyn), have returned to the Labour Party or have become members when previously unaffiliated are being treated with contempt by the Blairite MPs.
      Blairite MPs are not and never were Labour people.
      No MP should have a job for life, ie all should be reselected to ensure that they represent their electorate and not represent the lobbyists and their customers.
      Is the NEC still controlled by Blair? Looks like it AND that speaks volumes to this situation !

  11. Ahh well I guess there’s always next yrs Conf to try and sort this mess out !!!!

  12. guarantees that the Blairites stay in their jobs for life, total sell out

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