“Local Party members should select their candidates for every election.”Keir Starmer in 2020.
By Matt Willgress
At the time of writing, the petition on Change.Org Restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn – let Islington North’s members decide their candidate! has just hit 66,000 supporters.
The growing support for this petition – with 1000s signing each day since under Keir Starmer’s instruction the Labour Party NEC voted last Tuesday to take away the right of Islington North CLP to select its own candidate for the General Election – is just one small illustration of the growing discontent there is from Labour members and affiliates about the attacks on democracy and members’ rights in the Party.
As part of his campaign to be Labour leader, on 4 February 2020, Keir Starmer tweeted: “local Party members should select their candidates for every election.”
Yet, this is exactly what has been denied to members and affiliates in Islington North. As an Islington North CLP Officers’ statement said last week, “we believe in the democratic rights of all constituency parties to choose their prospective parliamentary candidate. Therefore we reject the NEC’s undue interference in Islington North, which undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice.”
Islington North is far from being the first place by any means where he has failed to live up to this pledge.
The exclusion of Greg Marshall – candidate in both 2017 and 2019 – from being able to stand in Broxtowe recently was met with dismay locally and across the movement, with the Executive Committee resigning in protest about how their rights had been trampled over, and a local member writing that ”national and regional officials [decided] 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.”
Former MP, Council leader and extremely popular campaigner Emma Dent Coad was also blocked in Kensington, which was rightly described by Emma as illustrating how “It is plain as day that the candidate selection process now being run by the Party is being factionally abused and is not fit for purpose.”
Her words about what happened there – that “local members and our local community in Kensington have been denied the opportunity to vote in a free and fair contest, which has been sacrificed for the sake of factional intrigue from Labour officials,” are also true of too many examples across the country for me to go into in detail here.
And of course, the attacks on Party democracy haven’t just been limited to blocking popular, local (and often trade-union backed) candidates. Young Labour had its Conference cancelled, and its Twitter and Facebook accounts taken off its elected leadership. There is no sign of a genuine and representative BAME structure in the Party. The Women’s Conference has been reduced to an “add-on” to Annual Conference again. And there is also no sign of a genuine and representative structure for disabled members in the Party.
Across the trade unions – and not just from the so-called ‘usual suspects’ – there has been growing disquiet at the lack of involvement of affiliates in key decisions, including on policies that directly affect their members, plus frustration at the failure of Labour’s front bench to stand with striking workers. This is linked to the blatant ignoring of Labour Party conference policy on a range of issues, as perfectly illustrated by Wes Streeting’s support for more private-sector involvement in the NHS.
This is before we even go into the failure to take the Forde Report seriously, as has been so effectively highlighted by the work of Compass and others recently.
But it isn’t enough to just oppose these attacks, on the Left we need to work together much more consciously, pro-actively and co-operatively to present a unified response – and put forward a different vision of what a democratic party and movement could look like, and why this would help Labour win, including through the development and promotion of popular policies to tackle the fundamental crises Britain faces. Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas hopes that the event we have called bringing people together this Wednesday can be part of that urgent discussion.
In reply to Starmer’s block on Jeremy Corbyn and attacks on Labour Party democracy and members’ rights in general our message is clear, we say let the members decide!
- “Let the Members Decide – For Labour Party Democracy” takes place online on Wednesday April 5, 6.30pm. With Jess Barnard, Labour NEC (pc); Jon Trickett MP; Neil Findlay, former MSP; Rachel Garnham, CLPD; Martin Abrams, Momentum NCG; Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour Chair; Mish Rahman, Labour NEC (pc) and more. Register and find out more here.
- Join over 66,000 others in signing the Restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn – let Islington North’s members decide their candidate! petition here.
- You can spread the word by retweeting the petition here and sharing on Facebook here.