I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for a while now, and I’ve been meaning to come back with some deep, thoughtful post. Of course, I should have known that it would be blind rage that drove me back to the keyboard eventually.
Last night Labour lost a council seat. That’s not all that surprising, really. Our poll ratings are in the toilet, and we’re losing here, there and everywhere (Still winning those parish council seats, though! -Ed). The issue here is that the election was for a Labour-held seat on South Hams district council, and there was no Labour candidate on the ballot paper!
This is, to say the least, embarrassing. It happens from time to time, but Labour Parties across the country do their best to make sure that there’s always a Labour option for voters. We can’t be successful all the time, but the story here seems to be a tale of incompetence and poor decision-making.
So, apparently what happened was that the CLP — Corbynite-controlled, allegedly — selected a candidate who was a Momentum member, but apparently was ineligible to stand as a Labour candidate. The rules state that you need to have been a member for a year in order to stand under the Labour banner, but this can be and frequently is waived with the permission of the regional party. As a result of this ineligibility, the selected individual stood as an independent, with endorsement from the CLP in question.
Now, firstly, eligibility should be the very first hurdle that a prospective candidate has to vault. In Southend, it’s part of the basic candidate assessment process, and if a would-be candidate has insufficient length of membership to qualify, a decision is taken by the Local Campaign Forum on whether to request an exemption from the regional party. I don’t know whether such an exemption was requested here.
The questions that arise from are as follows:
- Was the exemption requested?
- If not, why not?
- If it was requested, and was refused, why was it refused?
- And why, then, did the CLP executive not exercise its authority to impose an eligible candidate?
Beyond that, I have to say that I find a Constituency Labour Party endorsing an Independent candidate to be utterly unacceptable. Here in Southend, there is a sizeable Independent Party Group, and Labour competes against it. What message does it send to voters across the country, that the Labour Party in Totnes is saying “vote indie”? Arguably it undermines every other CLP that is competing against “independent” candidates.
But the end result speaks for itself. Labour voters, seeing no Labour candidate, voted Lib Dem as the least worst option, and the seat was lost. This lets down every Labour supporter in that ward, and the local authority, as well as the party at large. I don’t know what, if anything, will be done as a result, but this sort of incompetent malaise seems to have become rampant across the Party. This really needs to be dealt with.
At any rate I hope I will not soon again be seeing the grotesque chaos of a Constituency Labour Party — a Constituency Labour Party — endorsing an Independent candidate.