This article has been superseded as new information emerged the following morning. For the updated position, see here.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- all members enfranchised equally
- democracy – if that worries you
- all members enfranchised equally – if those wanting change won’t/can’t organise
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.
- more democracy in the endorsement process
- 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.
- Any suitable candidate will be able to apply and eliminating age, sex, ethnicity and class as far as humanly feasible
- none to speak of
Shortlisting will be the same as currently.
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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