Advocates of ‘open selection’ continue to make noise about the decision of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to put forward an ‘affirmative ballot’ process for the selection of Labour’s parliamentary candidates.
Open Selection, at least in the form that has recently been promoted by Momentum, is essentially a ‘no bar’ ‘primary’ system that happens before every general election, regardless whether members are happy with their MP. ‘Affirmative ballot’ (AB) requires members who want change to win an OMOV (one member one vote) contest in just one in three of the branches in their CLP (constituency Labour party) to force a selection process to take place.
Such has been the push in the last month or so for the ‘free for all’ version of open selection that many members have become convinced that it’s the only democratic option, when in fact Affirmative Ballot’s ‘low bar, not no bar’ approach is just as democratic but requires members to show enough want change to win a third of branches, before they need to show they can win ‘50% + 1’ in an OMOV vote across all local members to install the candidate they prefer.
Those against AB have claimed that the bar is too high – though this raises the question of how a 50% threshold can be exceeded if members can’t get past a 33% threshold. Others have recognised the arithmetic of the situation.
But the reality of the new system and how wide it opens the door for the replacement of poor MPs can be clearly seen in the reaction of right-wing faction Labour First this morning in its first conference update email to its mailing list of supporters.
And they hate it.
Here’s how Labour First described the new system to their followers this morning – along with other democratic triumphs achieved by the left on the NEC:
“MPs will now face a full reselection process if either one third of local party branches or one third of local affiliated branches vote for this to happen. This isn’t democratic“, they blare, before continuing:
how can it be that if six party branches vote to support the MP, and only three to trigger them, that three beats six? The few decide for the many? It will lead to a lot more full selection processes, which are costly, time-consuming, divisive and distracting from the real work of fighting the Tories in constituencies and in parliament. Many MPs will have to go through a full process unnecessarily
Clearly Labour First don’t expect that left-wing members will struggle to initiate selection processes – and they fear, with good reason given the huge majorities won by Jeremy Corbyn in successive leadership elections, that they’ll lose those selection votes. Even though of course they don’t go quite so far as to admit that.
The other good stuff
The ‘other really bad rule change‘ they flag is that CLPs will be able to vote to switch from delegate-based meetings to all-member meetings if just a single branch or affiliate branch asks for it. This reflects the long-standing and ongoing right-wing tactic of crowbarring affiliate ‘ghost branches’ into CLPs to try to control delegate-based meetings to their advantage.
CLPs across the country have increasingly been reporting mass affiliations by right-leaning unions and right-dominated socialist societies for exactly that purpose – and if this rule-change goes through, all that ‘work’ by the poor old right will turn out to have been wasted.
The cherry on the cake is Labour First’s ire at the planned quarantining of deputy leader Tom Watson, who will be prevented from damaging the party and undoing the efforts of the grassroots if the party is ever unfortunate enough to have him as acting leader.
If Labour First hates it, it’s great news for democracy and the left – even for ‘lefties’ who might have preferred another option.
And hate it they definitively do.
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