Stand with Mish Rahman – let the members decide!


“What is needed urgently from the Left is a determination to keep this issue permanently on the agenda – and not let anger at different individual cases fizzle out.“

Matt Willgress

Matt Willgress writes on how the blocking of Mish Rahman shows a contempt for party democracy – and why we need permanent campaigning for the right of members to decide.

The recent exclusion of Labour NEC member Mish Rahman from the longlist in the Wolverhampton West parliamentary selection is the latest example under Keir Starmer’s leadership of constituency members blatantly being denied the democratic right to choose their prospective candidates.

It fits into the more general pattern of how members and affiliates have too often been denied the option of selecting from a full range of candidates – with many candidates with significant support from trade unions and members not reaching a shortlist for dubious reasons. The list of CLPs this has affected is long, but includes Broxtowe, Milton Keynes North, Kensington and Chelsea, Camberwell and Peckham, Stroud, Hastings, Sedgefield, Bolton North East and more.

Anyone who still doubts that trade unions’ views are not being taken seriously when it comes to candidates’ selection should note that Mish had the backing of seven trade unions and affiliates.

And as Momentum said in response to the news of Mish’s blocking “The vital signs of Labour Party democracy are flashing red. It is simply indefensible that a member of Labour’s own executive can be blocked from standing for selection for a free vote on the NEC despite previously being entrusted with overseeing MP selections elsewhere.”

There is also much anger locally at the stitch-up and process as a whole, with people standing up to the denial of their democratic rights. On July 27, Michael Crick reported that the “local Labour executive [is] in revolt over NEC bigwigs taking control of selection.  It’s being rushed, they say; there’s no time to meet & question candidates; two names seem to be paper candidates.  They want shortlist withdrawn & process restarted.”

Mish’s statement

In his statement in response to the decision, Mish said “I have been informed by the Labour Party that I have not made the longlist in the Wolverhampton West Parliamentary selection, despite gaining strong local support and the backing of seven trade unions and affiliates.”

He added that he was blocked “for how I voted on the NEC in relation to the composition of party disciplinary structures” following the 2020 Equalities and Human Rights Commission report that found Labour breached equalities law,” and said that “being blocked for casting a vote in a democratic process should be a serious concern for all of us in the Labour Party. I was honoured to win so much support from our Labour family in this selection.”

Support for Mish

As with other recent attacks on Labour Party democracy, the decision to block Mish was widely condemned. Some of the most important points are collected below, including Mercedes Villalba MSP who reminded us of Keir Starmer’s words during his 2020 leadership campaign that “Local Party members should select their candidates for every election.”

Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also called for the recall of Forde Inquiry team.

The World Transformed Team meanwhile made a simple point regarding Labour’s leader and the case.

Permanent campaigning needed – let the members decide!

Many cases where local members are being denied the right to select their own candidate are seeing mass local opposition and broad condemnation across the Labour movement, and the same is true of other attacks on pluralism and Labour Party democracy, such as the recent moves against Neal Lawson of Compass.

What is needed urgently from the Left is a determination to keep this issue permanently on the agenda – and not let anger at different individual cases fizzle out. As a next step in this direction, all of the Left should support and circulate the Let Members Decide model motion and statement – and bring together members and affiliates in support of their democratic rights.

Featured image: Mish Rahman, Members’ Representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee. Photo credit: Mish Rahman.

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