THE DEBATE HAS BEEN DORMANT for more than three decades. But Labour activists are now discussing the candidate selection procedure with an intensity unwitnessed since the hey-day of Bennism.
Catalyst for much of the interest, of course, has been the Parliamentary Labour Party’s bungling attempt to oust Jeremy Corbyn, despite the huge mandate the Labour leader secured a year ago and which he has now consolidated. If Twitter is anything to go by, a fair chunk of recent recruits and registered supporters are in full-on ‘off with their heads!’ mode.
That may or may not be unfair. Meanwhile, others are dissatisfied with their parliamentarians for a range of reasons. It’s fair to question whether MPs who brutally beat their spouses, think crossing picket lines is remotely acceptable, or repeatedly threaten to resign the Labour Whip are worthy of the endorsement of their Constituency Labour Party.
Reselection is clearly a vital question, and given the shake-up that will inevitably flow from the Boundary Commission proposals that will have been published by the time anyone reads this, not one that Labour can duck much longer.
It’s one I have tried to address in my new pamphlet, How to Select or Reselect Your MP: 2016 Remix. Named in homage to an earlier work of the same name by later Blair minister Chris Mullin, published in 1981, it offers activists a guide to the rules in choosing Labour Westminster hopefuls, together with a potted history of how things got to be the way they are now.
Despite being a strong Corbyn supporter, I don’t want the booklet to be read as a factional work. In principle, it should be just as useful to Blairites disgruntled with a left wing MP as I hope it will be to left wingers seeking to get more socialists into Parliament.
Getting shot of a sitting MP is difficult, of course. This is by design, following the conscious rollback of the Benn era gains in party democracy under the leaderships of Kinnock, Smith and Blair.
But, inadequate as the existing rules are, they do provide for a change of MP, especially where activists are willing to do the necessary legwork to win the Trigger Ballot.
And we don’t have to stop at where we are now. The existing rules can be changed. Already major unions such as Unite are committed on paper to a reform of Labour’s selection process.
By way of full disclosure, I should say here that I still believe in mandatory reselection, for the same reasons I believed in mandatory reselection when I was in the Labour Party Young Socialists all those years ago. Whether you are with me on that point or not, it now looks inevitable that the issue will come into sharp focus in the coming period. I hope what I have written constitutes a thoughtful contribution on what should happen next.
- How to Select or Reselect Your MP: 2016 Remix by David Osland is published by Spokesman Books and costs £4. Order from www.spokesmanbooks.com or order through any bookshop, ISBN: 978 0 85124 8615