The Labour Party in 2018 launched a new procedure from its Conference for a trigger ballot. Rather than having open selection of Members of Parliament automatically, Constituency Labour Parties would organise special meetings of their affiliates and local ward parties. At these meetings the question would be put - whether to automatically reselect the MP or move to a selection process. In such a case the sitting MP would always be on the shortlist in any case.
On Monday September 30th the beginnings of these trigger ballot meetings were held in Ealing Southall Constituency, in the Elthorne and Southall Broadway wards. Both meetings carefully followed the procedures laid down.
Members of the local Party have been unhappy with the performance of the local MP, Virendra Sharma. This is not a left-right issue. At a General Management Committee (the ruling body of the constituency Party) a vote of no confidence was passed in him by a majority of more than two to one. Sharma had not attended the GMC for 22 months prior to that GMC.
In Elthorne the vote to trigger a selection process was passed by 30 votes to 3 against. I was present. The mood was fraternal. 14 speakers spoke against Sharma, with 2 in favour. In Southall Broadway the vote was 74 to 32 against the local MP.
There are seven local wards in the constituency. The rules lay down that a trigger ballot vote in one third would lead to a selection process. Another ward was scheduled to meet on Tuesday Oct 1st. If they voted ‘Yes’, then there would have to be a democratic selection.
Then came the bombshell. The regional office sent a letter cancelling the Tuesday meeting at a few hours’ notice. The letter claimed that there had been irregularities in the Monday meetings. It did not say what these irregularities were. There had clearly been no time for them to investigate these alleged irregularities. The claim of the anonymous complainant had been taken as gospel. The votes of the two wards - decisive votes at meetings not observed by regional officials - were ruled null and void.
They are accusing us of a ‘crime’ without telling us what it is! This bureaucratic decision has understandably provoked fury. It seems a return to the worst traditions of the Labour Party in arbitrary decision making and contempt for the members. It smells of an attempt to impose an MP who, on the basis of the Monday meetings, is widely derided in the area.
The immediate response of people who attended the meetings and others who have heard of our mistreatment will be in many cases to walk out of the Labour Party. Though understandable, that would be a mistake. This is a disgusting stroke. We have to try to hold these bureaucrats to account. How dare they usurp the will of the rank and file! We must mobilise to reverse this decision.
This article originally appeared here https://labourrep.com/blog/2019/10/1/dirty-work-in-the-trigger-ballots