“It seems the real purpose of that meeting was to attempt to steamroller the Selection Committee into signing off on a decision that had already been taken. We could not in good conscience go along with that, and so, we resigned.”
By Vanessa Smith
If you follow Labour Party drama, you have no doubt heard that last week the Broxtowe Constituency party Selection Committee and entire Executive Committee resigned in protest after a popular local councillor was blocked from standing to be Broxtowe’s candidate for parliament.
Media coverage has understandably focused on that candidate, Greg Marshall, and arguments over whether he was treated unfairly for factional reasons. The issues with the selection run deeper, though, with national and regional officials deciding to truncate process to limit local members’ opportunities to engage in their own party’s democracy, and to do so without regard for the local selection committee.
The details of party procedures may not be sexy enough for the newspapers, but are important context for this story. As procedures secretary for the selection process, I had a front row seat for these events, though I was not, in the end, as involved as I might have expected.
The Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Selection Committee was made up of six members of the Constituency Executive committee, a representative from the National Executive Committee (NEC), who has no vote, but is there to make sure the process is conduced properly and a regional officer, who also advises on procedures. In addition to the CLP members, there should be two trade union representatives, appointed by the regional TULO committee.
The first meeting of the committee was supposed to take place a week after nominations closed. However, this was unexpectedly delayed as the NEC hadn’t concluded interviews, so we moved it to the following Monday.
Present at the meeting were all 6 local party members, NEC rep Rory Palmer and Regional official, George Carr-Williamson. George informed us that he only knew of one TU rep from the CWU, who had supposedly sent apologies. I later learned that this rep had no knowledge of the meeting taking place at all.
At the start of the meeting, we were surprised to learn that from a pool of 12 applicants, only 3 had emerged from the NEC long-listing process. We were even more surprised to learn that Greg Marshall, a popular local councillor who had previously been selected as Broxtowe’s candidate was not among them. Greg had received 7 nominations from unions and affiliates, which should have automatically placed him on the long list.
We asked for details on the decisions made by the NEC, but nothing was forthcoming. All we were told was that Greg had failed the Due diligence process. We do not know why the other 8 applicants were rejected. We were also assured that all applicants had been notified of the outcome. We later learned this was not the case – Greg was emailed by the NEC several hours after the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting was to agree on the next stage of the process and set the timeline. This should normally be a nominations period, where local party branches and affiliates meet to discuss and nominate their preferred candidates. The Selection Committee receives these nominations and conducts interviews with candidates before deciding on a short list.
After some discussion of dates, it was clear that there was a consensus to proceed with branch nominations from a long list of three and we agreed that the draft timetable given to us by the regional official needed to be adjusted to allow sufficient time for that.
It was at this point that the regional official suggested that since there were only 3 names on the long list, we should proceed straight to short list with those 3 names, eliminating the branch nomination stage altogether. The Committee was unanimously opposed to this idea. We felt that the nominations stage was key in giving rank and file members a voice in the process and by extending the timetable by a week (to account for the NEC delay), this could easily be achieved.
It became very clear that this was not what Palmer and the regional official wanted to hear. We tried I think 3 times to take a formal vote on this, which Palmer sidestepped. The message was clear: “If we insisted on this course of action, advice would need to be taken from the NEC.” The meeting ended with an agreement that Palmer would seek this advice and we would reconvene a few days later. No formal decisions were made, so as far as we understood, we had a long list and no confirmed process or timetable.
It’s worth noting here that the rules state a long list should generally be a minimum of four candidates unless four qualified candidates are not available. The rules do not say that a list of three should automatically become a short list. A short list should be a minimum of two.
The meeting ended shortly after 6pm. At 17:40, one of the three long listed candidates announced on twitter that she had been short listed. She later confirmed that this is what she had been told by the NEC. So it seems the real purpose of that meeting was to attempt to steamroller the Selection Committee into signing off on a decision that had already been taken. We could not in good conscience go along with that, and so, we resigned.
- Vanessa Smith was formerly the procedures secretary of Broxtowe CLP, prior to her resignation following concerns raised around the selection process.
- You can read the statement of resignation from the Broxtowe CLP Executive committee here.