I was hoping to write a piece on a response to the “Leave”vote and a response to the Chakrabarti Inquiry but Ann Black of Labour’s NEC in a circular wrote and asked what her maillist thought of the shenanigans. I had to reply and decided to share it with you all. She stated she planned to vote to include Jeremy on the ballot paper, which I support but asked for opinion on if there should be a freeze date for inclusion on the electoral roll and what to do about registered supporters. I argue to include all members, including those that have just joined in the ballot for Leader. I also argue that the Party should offer its supporters an opportunity to register and join in the ballot. I also commented that the collapse of the National Policy Forum is an opportunity.
I’m in absolute agreement that Corbyn should be on the ballot paper. I believe that is what the rules states and there is no doubt that the membership and non members would consider his exclusion to be a stitch up. I am particularly taken with the legal advice that to permit a group of the PLP/EPLP to behave as to exclude the incumbent who qualified and won with a lower threshold is proof that the action is ultra-vires. (This is part of the Doughty St. Chambers advice.)
Having set the precedent previously, we must allow members inc. affiliated members up to the date of ballot paper issue (or an administratively justified date prior to this date) to vote. Any attempt to go backwards will also be seen as a stitch up. If the right wing complain they can go away, it was their idea.
I am of the view that our treatment of “registered supporters” had been dreadful. Many, maybe most, have now joined as individual members. I am strongly of the opinion that we should let registered members vote, and we should give an opportunity for more to join in. This is a Conference decision and it is my view that the NEC should be guided or bound by Conference. Maybe we need to ask those from last time to repay the £3.00 since it was an admin fee, I am not sure.
If this extends the election beyond the period which the Tories are using to elect their new leader, maybe the challengers should be told they’re too late. A more even handed approach would be to say that they have already significantly damaged our ability to oppose the Tories in Parliament, another couple of weeks is the price we need to pay to get it right.
Some may argue that the supporter scheme is a license for entryism. There are two things to say, if so, which I dispute, it was also so when Conference agreed to do it. Secondly I was involved in the membership scrutiny in the summer of 2015. In my CLP we took the view that people were telling the truth unless there was evidence to the contrary. The CLP grew by 200%, to well over 2000 members with another 1000 or so people registering as supporters; we asked for under 1% to be rejected, HQ found another four of whom we appealed two. (Actually these two are an example of why algorithmic exclusion is wrong, the grounds for exclusion were valid i.e. fact based, but local knowledge and enquiry led to us concluding that these were genuine cases of people changing their mind about the best way to politically organise). Entryism was not a problem, it’s an excuse by the losers to attack the legitimacy of the winner. It’ll be even less of a problem with 500,000 members.
BTW I believe we should have put the Toby Young case, a case of Tory entryism in the hands of the police; we’re quick enough to drop our own people in it.
A further argument in favour of not repeating the registered supporter votes is that the Party is not capable of performing due diligence on its new members and supporters. This is compounded or reinforced by the Chakrabarti Inquiry which states that the Labour Party (and its compliance unit) are not capable of running a legally safe disciplinary process and while excluding members from joining is undertaken under a different set of rules, Chakrabarti’s criticisms must be taken into account. Maybe we should outsource even more to ERS.
The NPF and policy formulation
The NPF was designed to stop members (or more accurately activists) having a meaningful say and it needs to be abolished. It is a failure. The problem of continuous development needs to be solved but programme making needs to be returned to conference and taken back from the front bench who have been making stuff up funded by Short money at least since 2010. Call Tom Watson and John McDonnell on their proposals for reinvigorating the policy making process and the involvement of members. An example of the broken nature of policy making and strategic governance is that I am deeply upset that we seem to be changing our policy on EU membership and free movement without reference to the NPF or to Conference. Both Tom Watson & John McDonnell have allegedly stated that Free Movement is dead as Labour policy. Who agreed that?
For more see
- https://www.scribd.com/doc/316774863/Labour-Party-Leadership-Legal-Advice, the legal advice
- http://blog.davelevy.info/2013/07/12/innocent-until-proved-guilty/, on my blog, “Innocent until proved guilty” about the Falkirk affair.