Friday 15 March 2013

Labour's Chance: Will They Take It?

This article of mine appears in the London Progressive Journal:

Jim Murphy may speak truer than he knows. Labour is on course for a majority of over 80, with UKIP quite capable of handing scores of Conservative seats to the Lib Dems. The Miliband Government might grant the two Con Dem parties parity in the House of Commons, with equal representation on committees, the same number of Prime Minister's Questions for their respective Leaders, and so on. But who, then, is being selected as Labour candidates? And how?

Where Labour is in third place or below unless it adopts this approach, and certainly where it is in a distant second place, then it should dispense with any requirement that its prospective nominees be party members, although they would of course have to join if they were selected. Provided that they had been registered voters within the constituency's then boundaries for at least 15 years, and provided that they were recommended to the Constituency Labour Party by the public signatures of at least five per cent of the voters.

If affordable, the CLP General Committee's shortlist of two such applicants should be submitted to an independent, binding ballot of the entire constituency electorate. Such submission of the two-name shortlist, drawn both from such nominees and from people nominated by branches or affiliates in the usual manner, ought certainly to be made in safe Labour seats where the sitting MP is retiring, and in safe new seats or newly safe seats created by boundary changes. 

Had something like this been applied at Eastleigh, then the seat could and would have been taken. If his retweeting is anything to go by, then Danny Stupple, top of the rest, would be open to the possibility in 2015. Meanwhile, I do not know which constituencies contain the wards of Labour's Councillor Mark Kirk of North Lincolnshire, and of the Independent Councillors Mary Robinson of Eden, Julian German of Cornwall, and Richard Kemp of Babergh.

But I do know this: assuming that those constituencies are not already Labour-held, then those committee members of SPARSE, the coalition of mostly Tory councils against the cuts and preparing to take Eric Pickles to judicial review, ought to be the candidates there, or else their nominees, even if the price is that Labour formally stands aside while pouring union and other money into the contest. (SPARSE is chaired by Councillor Rogy Begy of Rutland, a Conservative who ought to be invited to address the People's Assembly Against Austerity. The main concern in selecting a candidate at Rutland and Melton ought to be ensuring one as reliably Arabist as the sitting MP, Alan Duncan.)

Labour should undertake to meet maximum election expenditure in every constituency. The unions are loaded. But not all of them are, or need necessarily become, affiliated to the Labour Party. The RMT and the FBU both no longer are, although the RMT's cheque is returned uncashed every year. But they both retain membership of the Labour Representation Committee chaired by John McDonnell, and that Committee is constitutionally committed to the election of a Labour Government. Bob Crow was on the platform last summer when Ed Miliband addressed one hundred thousand people and the television cameras.

Some 50 per cent of Labour Party members are also members of the technically unaffiliated teachers' unions. There is the Unison General Political Fund. And so on. Immense possibilities, if one knows where and how to look. The Labour Party has people who are employed to know here and how to look, just as it has to know in which parliamentary constituencies particular council wards are located. Or are they just too lazy?

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