PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS from all strands of the Labour Party in Newham have finally won their battle for the flawed trigger ballot for the selection of Newham’s mayoral candidate for May 2018 to be re-run. They had been asking the Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to annul the result since it was announced in December 2016. On 21st December 2017, the day before their solicitors were due to issue papers to take the Party to court, the Labour Party’s solicitors signalled that it was prepared to accede to the campaigners’ demands. The agreement came after a series of aborted negotiation attempts, including a fruitless informal mediation session, had led these activists to reluctantly decide to launch a legal challenge.
The Party has now agreed to a new trigger process being run by the London region without the participation of the discredited Newham Local Campaign Forum (LCF). The freeze date will remain the same, meaning that members who joined after April 2016 will regrettably be ineligible but - crucially for the campaigners - organisations which have affiliated en masse since the first trigger ballot will also be unable to take part.
Current mayor, Sir Robin Wales, attempted to pre-empt the inevitable and announced in advance of any legal settlement that he too would welcome a re-run of the trigger ballot by making a statement to the Newham Recorder and via an email sent to local party members. This was much to the consternation of the national party’s lawyers. He claimed to be doing this not because of any problems with the original process, but to avoid the legal costs of a case which would waste party members’ money and undermine Labour’s position in Newham before the May elections. In fact, his attempted facesaving intervention merely served to prove that his reaffirmation in 2016 was flawed.
When on 4th January acting London regional director, Neil Fleming, informed party members of the trigger ballot re-run, he maintained that the rules and procedures of the original trigger ballot had been correctly applied and that the Newham LCF officers had acted in good faith. He too referred to the cost to the Party of a legal action which would provide a distraction from the local elections campaign. Newham mayor and London region therefore appear once again to be singing from the same hymn sheet, but this time - surely - the conduct of the trigger ballot will have to be beyond reproach!
Let’s hope the lesson can be drawn by the Labour Party NEC, regional officers, and members that malpractice must be challenged and redressed in order to bring the Party’s conduct into line with its declared principles. Party members should have access to a better method of raising concerns about serious breaches of party rules than asking the courts to pass judgement. Let’s hope the current Labour Party Democracy Review will recognise this problem and act.