“The list of contributing factors in the untimely demise of democracy in our small but significant corner of the Black Country is long and makes for grim reading.”
Di Weaver, Wolverhampton West CLP Secretary
Anyone who has ever attended a funeral or the last farewell of a loved one will be aware that they can be bitter-sweet occasions, alongside the loss, grief and lamentations there can often be comfort and laughter amongst those gathered.
As it was with the final laying to rest of Labour Party democracy in Wolverhampton, as the charade of a hustings and election of a prospective parliamentary candidate played out, rigidly following the script prescribed by an ever-dictatorial Party machine.
The crowd of members and Trade Unions gathered outside to mourn the loss of meaningful membership involvement were in good spirits. Amid what felt like a party atmosphere, forty to fifty protesters called upon attendees to challenge the sham which Regional Officials were attempting to pass off as a legitimate election
Witnessing the pantomime felt strangely like being an unwitting extra in the Dead Parrot sketch, so it seemed fitting that all those complicit in this travesty of democracy were loudly played into the venue to the Monty Python theme tune. Regional staffers stood on the door like an undernourished version of Hale and Pace’s ‘The Management’, one of which, in his shiny suit and pointy shoes, tried to tell the protesters that the banners and flags adorning the railings were a fire hazard, only to be given an entertaining lesson in Fire Safety by the FBU who were supporting the protest.
The saga of choosing who would, in all likelihood, be the next MP for Wolverhampton West began in October 22 and has been a comedy of errors ever since. After nine months since applications were first opened it was baffling that the selections were being rushed through by the NEC, to the exclusion of fair or meaningful involvement of members and CLP Officers. The democratically elected Selection Committee was kept completely in the dark and then disregarded totally and have over the last week, in a gobsmacking display of hypocrisy, been subjected to accusations of intending to corrupt the selection process.
Given that the excuse for halting the process on two occasions was the lack of women applicants it’s astounding that there were at least three strong women Wolverhampton Councillors wishing to stand, none of whom made the woefully inadequate shortlist handed to us from the NEC.
Even if justification could be given for the appallingly limited choice of candidates, it is inexplicable why members were given seven days’ notice of hustings with no opportunity to meet and get to know each candidate, no opportunity for members without email to be notified and offered a postal vote. Especially so since the successful candidate had been running his campaign for almost a year. Alarmingly there were reports by newly incorporated Blakenhall members that they had been given notice of the hustings from the office of Pat McFadden MP in June.
The excuse that the NEC wanted the process over before people go on holiday is laughable given that the hustings took place during one of the busiest holiday weeks of the year.
The list of contributing factors in the untimely demise of democracy in our small but significant corner of the Black Country is long and makes for grim reading. The powers that be within the Party can no doubt justify to themselves the sidelining of an Executive and Selection Committee weighted with centre left members. But, and it’s a massive BUT, they can never absolve themselves of the unacceptable handling of this selection process leading to members being disenfranchised, the lack of transparency and alleged corruption.
As Secretary, I believe I was elected to serve the members, which is what I and others have endeavoured to do in trying to ensure they were presented with the highest calibre of candidates available with a fair and democratic selection. I have been prohibited from doing this effectively. The irony is that if the Party had allowed democracy to run its course the candidate that we now have may have won fair and square but, as it stands, his tenure will be forever tainted.
Wolverhampton Labour Party Democracy declared dead at 21.00hrs 01-07-23.
- Di Weaver is the Secretary of Wolverhampton West Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
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