While the final, detailed NEC (National Executive Committee) guidance for what has been termed ‘affirmative ballot’ (AB) meetings are still to be finalised, below is a definitive guide of the new process as it currently stands according to senior Labour sources. Finalised details will be confirmed as they become available.
The exact rule-change motion passed by Labour’s conference is as follows (emphases added):
NEC Rule Change on trigger ballots
Chapter 5 Clause IV.5. Delete sub-clause A and B, and replace with:
A. If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election, a trigger ballot will be carried out through Party branches and affiliated branches according to NEC guidelines.
B. If either one third or more of Party branches, or one third or more of affiliated branches, indicate that they wish a selection to take place, a selection shall proceed. The MP shall be included in the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection shall be made. Where neither one third or more of Party branches, nor one third or more of affiliated branches, indicate that they wish a selection to take place the MP will, subject to NEC endorsement, be selected as the CLP’s prospective parliamentary candidate.
The new rule reduces the threshold for triggering a selection process from a majority of all branches – affiliates and members – to a third. Conversely, a sitting MP will have to win five out of every six branches to prevent a selection process taking place.
Even more importantly, it separates affiliate and member branches into their own separate categories and either can cause a selection if a third of those branches vote for one to take place. This is vital because some right-leaning unions had been stacking up ‘ghost branch’ affiliations in CLPs with MPs they wanted to protect in order to control the previous ‘trigger ballot’ process, but the new rules prevent unions or members influencing each other’s decision.
When can an affirmative ballot take place?
It is currently intended that AB meetings will only take place when a general election has been called. This is to avoid the possibility of long periods with a ‘lame duck’ MP in post, counting down the days to his or her replacement.
Mandatory affirmative ballot
Campaigners for ‘mandatory selection’ (or the version some have recently termed ‘open selection’) wanted a selection meeting to take place every time there is a parliamentary election. However, the AB system makes AB votes mandatory instead, because the rule says the process will take place as long as a sitting MP wishes to stand in the new election.
This means that members will not need to call for AB meetings, they will become routine before every general election – in every constituency that has a sitting Labour MP. In constituencies without one, a full selection is required in any case and can take place ahead of an election being called.
Branch votes for a selection will need to be ‘quorate’ to be valid. However, a separate rule-change last week reduced the quorum for all CLP (constituency Labour party) or branch meetings from 25% – a level hardly any meetings achieve in practice, although local standing orders could vary it – down to just 5%.
This means that in a branch of, say, two hundred members, just ten would need to attend for the selection vote to be valid.
The vote for the branch will be by a simple majority, with just two options to vote for – yes or no – as to whether the branch wants a selection to take place. No need for candidates to have been identified or any other complicating factors, just ‘yes we want a selection to happen’ or ‘no we don’t’.
If, for example, fifty people turn up to a branch AB vote, a simple majority of 26 or more will result in that branch counting toward the required one-third of branches.
Will there be postal votes?
At the moment, postal votes are intended for the CLP-wide ‘OMOV’ (one member, one vote) ballot to select a winning candidate if a CLP has called for a selection process – but postal votes are not planned for AB votes.
However, the NEC is still finalising its options in this area and postal/electronic voting is under consideration – as are ‘virtual meetings’.
What if my CLP’s branches don’t divide by three?
If a CLP has a number of branches that divides by three, the one-third applies easily. If it does not, then a ’rounding up’ will apply.
This means that a CLP of 9 branches would require 3 to vote in favour of selection for one to take place – but one with 7 or 8 would also require 3. One with 6 branches would require 2 – but 4 or 5 would also require 2.
Looked at from the other direction, in a CLP of nine branches a sitting MP will need to win seven to prevent a selection. In one with three branches, s/he would need to win all three. In one with five, s/he would have to win four – and so on.
What if my CLP isn’t organised in branches?
The details of the process in this scenario are still to be agreed by the NEC. However, CLPs that do not meet in branches still have ward-based meetings to select local election candidates. It’s likely that something similar will apply for AB votes – but this section will be updated as soon as the process is finalised.
If a selection is called, how will candidates be selected?
Once a third of branches has voted for a selection process, candidates will be invited to apply. The long-listing and short-listing processes have not been changed. This would also have been the case under the ‘open selection’ system some had called for.
Once a short-list has been finalised, all eligible members in the CLP will be entitled to vote in the OMOV selection ballot. This will be an ‘exhaustive’ process – if one candidate does not achieve an outright majority in the first round, the lowest-scoring candidate will be eliminated and ‘second preference’ votes will be taken into account, and so on until the winning candidate is identified.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.