Are Labour abolishing democratic selections by the back door?

labour ballot

This is not the blog I wanted to be writing today, 77 days until the elections — for local councils and Police & Crime Commissioners.

I have to preface this by saying that I am very happy that Chris Vince has been selected as the Labour candidate for Essex Police & Crime Commissioner. Having met him and campaigned alongside him, I think he’ll be an excellent candidate.

I also still regard Police & Crime Commissioner as a ridiculous non-role, a waste of money and an unnecessary politicisation of the police, a sorry abuse of democracy to paper over wave after wave of cuts to police forces up and down the country by a Conservative government. I’d abolish the damn lot of them if I could.

However, I can’t. So we fight the election.

The process by which Labour has selected its candidates, though — regardless of whether it ended up with the right candidates — has been woeful.

We want to see this democratic revolution extend into our party, opening up decision-making to the hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters that have joined us since May.

Those are the words of Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament for Islington North and leader of the Labour Party. Just so we’re clear.

Now, I’ve always been proud of Labour’s internal selection process. Candidates are chosen by the grassroots members, through a free and fair vote. That’s how I was selected as the candidate for Blenheim park.

This is not, however, how Labour selected its Police & Crime Commissioner candidates.

The whole process has been overly delayed, and rushed once the party actually got around to it. I’ve seen it suggested on Twitter that the reason behind this is that we expected to win the General Election and it was Labour policy to abolish the role. Nevertheless, there really ought to have been more thought put¬†into this.

What actually happened was a series of votes were held by Constituency Labour Parties to “nominate” from a shortlist of candidates. I attended two such meetings, one of which was my own CLP, and the other I was an observer at the neighbouring CLP. One of these meetings was reasonably well attended, as it was also the AGM. The other had five voting members, including the officers. From informal and entirely unscientific inquires, this seems not an unusual situation. Brighton — where three CLPs meet together, and have some 3,000 members — decided their nomination at a meeting attended by some 50 members.

The last time we had these ridiculous farcical elections, there were hustings and one-member-one-vote ballots. I voted online and everything. This time candidates weren’t allowed to attend and speak to CLP meetings, and members didn’t understand that they were actually selecting at the meeting.

Like I say, I am very happy with Chris as our candidate and will be supporting him wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. But I expect better of Labour as a Party. Even the Conservatives managed to ballot their (Meagre -Ed) members to choose their candidates. And when our leader is on record as a strong and vocal proponent of internal party democracy, we really need to be doing better with this kind of process.

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