By Peter Willsman, Secretary CLPD
Regular visitors to Left Futures will be aware that the Party is piloting a revised and truncated procedure for the selection of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs). This is currently being operated in 26 seats identified by the NEC as ‘early bird’ marginals. The NEC’s Organisation Committee has given an undertaking to properly review the Pilot. A thorough review is vital because the Pilot has major deficiencies, which I will come to in a moment.
There has already been disquiet amongst Party members in several of the ‘early bird’ CLPs. The Pilot was not flagged up in the Refounding Labour documents, but it seems that it is being swept up under that general heading. Indeed, senior party officials took advantage of the cover provided by the rule change on Refounding Labour to illegitimately delete the whole of the procedure for selection PPCs from the Rule Book. Clearly certain officials have already made up their minds about what will happen.
Many party members supported the general thrust of Refounding Labour because it promised more of a role and influence for the grassroot foot soldiers. Unfortunately the Pilot is only one development that is pointing in the opposite direction. The selection of a PPC is probably the most important decision local parties and members have to make. And in some cases it is a decision that will not be made again for some twenty or thirty years. It is therefore a decision that needs thorough consideration and full involvement by the membership. Unfortunately, the Pilot is rather the opposite of this. It is somewhat of an ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’ system.
The recommended advertising period is ridiculously short at only 2 weeks. And, for the first time since the Party was formed, Branches and Unions are denied the right to nominate. It was always the case that Branches could properly interview and then make nominations. This is the procedure that we need to return to. It is only recently that we’ve had the nonsense of Branches nominating simply from CVs passed round at the meeting.
Under the Pilot the experienced EC of the CLP no longer draws up the short list. Rather this is handed over to a small “Selection Committee” of 6 to 10 members, which can include members of other CLPs with “interviewing skills”. There is then self nomination direct to the Selection Committee which draws up the shortlist. It is perhaps hardly surprising that in at least one section this system has produced a shortlist of only two, neither of whom came from the CLP. It seems to me that the Pilot arrangements will tend to benefit the ambitious thrusters.
The situation is already bad enough. A recent survey of the occupational background of MPs, shown to the NEC, revealed that 27% of Labour MPs had a “politics” background (or what is unkindly referred to as ‘bag carriers’) and only 9% a “manual” background. As Iain McNicol pointed out on a recent canvassing visit to Oxford, if this breakdown reflected occupations in society at large, then over 6 million people would be working for MPs etc.
Iain, the NEC, and the unions are committed to addressing this politically dangerous gulf between our elected representatives and our voters. Fundamentally revising the Pilot would be a good start.