“The exclusion of Hemingway is an obvious continuation of the leadership clique’s vendetta against the left of the party, but there’s a wider malaise. The exclusion of local candidates betrays a distrust of the membership as a whole.”
By Nick Davies, Swansea West CLP
“The most dishonest party leadership contest in British history” is how journalist Owen Jones has described Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign. He’s not far wrong. “Selections for Labour candidates need to be more democratic and we should end NEC imposition of candidates. Labour Party members should select their candidates for every election” declared Starmer in 2020, before doing the exact opposite in 2022.
The entire executive of Wakefield CLP walked out of the meeting to select a candidate to fight the by-election, expected to be on June 23rd, protesting at the imposition by the NEC of a long list-list of four candidates, none of whom were local. This ensured the exclusion of Councillor Jack Hemingway, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, citing his historical social media posts concerning Labour and anti-Semitism.
Such a stitch-up does not just conflict with Starmer’s campaign promise, it is contrary to party rules agreed at last year’s conference. The unconvincing ‘make it up as you go along’ official explanation is that selection is always in the gift of the NEC at by-elections, the normal rules applying in general elections. Labour party members are used to Labour Party policy being disregarded by the Leader, but is a rule change to be tossed aside with equal abandon moments after the closing strains of the Red Flag?
The exclusion of Hemingway is an obvious continuation of the leadership clique’s vendetta against the left of the party, but there’s a wider malaise. The exclusion of local candidates betrays a distrust of the membership as a whole. The result? As one member of the CLP put it to PoliticsHome, “local members feel disenfranchised from the system and are wondering if they should be giving their valuable time and great effort into campaigning… I’m scared it’s damaged Labour’s chances in a race we should walk.”
Exactly! A seat that was Labour-held for 87 years until 2019, a by-election resulting from the Tory incumbent’s criminal conviction, the most incompetent, cruel and corrupt Tory government for generations, and yet, all of a sudden, the result may be in doubt. That is what happens when the leadership of the Labour Party is an unteachable right-wing clique, economically to the right of Ted Heath and dwelling in a 1997 dream-world. It is animated only by its sense of entitlement and the notion that defeating the left and controlling the party apparatus is a greater priority than winning.
- This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing (Co-operative) magazine and is reproduced with permission. Subscribe by sending a £20 cheque with your address to ‘Labour Briefing Co-operative Ltd’, 7 Malam Gardens, London, E14 OTR.