This is the first of a series of articles I intend to publish, day job permitting, on ‘Refounding Labour’ - the consultation process led by Peter Hain. Contribute here. If you click on this link it offers you the opportunity to click on a heart icon to show that you love the Labour Party.
When I was young I backed the mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs because I was against ‘jobs for life’. So you were a Bennite then. In the 90s I backed extending the franchise beyond delegates because greater involvement of members is better. We were in the same party then and I don't remember you doing any such thing, the opposite if anything. Now the crisis in politics crisis? what crisis? as someone probably never said demands we go further - it is time for Labour to hold ‘primaries’. now that in Reading at least there is NO chance of Labour MPs actually being elected, thanks in part to your own work
If there is one thing that hacks me off big time it is watching Labour lag behind the Conservatives on the extension of democracy and involvement. why have you consistently been so keen on it then? How dare we, the people’s party, argue to exclude the people from decisions? Before the last election the Conservatives experimented with the notion of ‘primaries’. It was limited, rather successful and I expect their members hated it. on the contrary, I am told the members rather liked it, after initial suspicion.
When Labour selected candidates for the 2010 election it had about 170,000 members. At the 2005 election there were 9.5 million Labour voter. Put another way, in the average constituency there were 270 Labour members and just over 15,000 Labour voters. So for every Labour member there are 56 Labour voters. 1.7% of the Labour vote (0.38% of the electorate) could, of course, constitute a representative sample - but we all know in this case it doesn’t.
This doesn’t mean that Labour members are necessarily out of tune with the Labour electorate, but it does make it more likely that they will be, at least from time to time. yeah, yeah, and?
None of this would matter so much if the current selection system delivered the goods. Sadly it hasn’t, it doesn’t and it won’t. Two Labour MPs in Reading, for eight and thirteen years, no that was crap, what we want is OPPOSITION The constituencies with which I am most closely involved are a great example. For reasons too obscure to contemplate a string of ill prepared, implausible or downright dysfunctional candidates have been inflicted on the electorate at general elections since the 1970s. Name names please. The last time Reading elected a Labour MP before 1997 was in 1966, John Lee, whom you personally snubbed when he came in 1997 to offer to help, and again in 2001. The plausible candidates have been a very small minority indeed. Names please.I don’t think myself superior to any other member in this sad affair what's sad about electing Labour MPs, twice in one constituency and three times in the other? Oh.- I voted internally for some, though not all, of these losers, losers - -ah I see you mean the ones that DIDN'T get elected, hein? campaigned externally for most of them and voted Labour even when it meant convincing myself that I was really voting for something broader. If I could put it all down to local circumstance such as? that might make me feel better, but in a former role I supervised many more and have dealt with many hundreds of candidates. Not every selection is bad, not every selection is irrational but enough are seriously wanting for the matter to need attention.
Moreover, Labour’s selections are open to manipulation, distortion, large scale abuse, infiltration, sectarianism and downright corruption now we're getting somewhere as well as having proved male dominated to the point where special measures were required to give women a fair chance. overheard in your office "no more cunts, unless they make us" Nobody set out for this to be the case. There was no grand conspiracy. The selectorate is simply too narrow to avoid what is a natural trend where power is at stake. There are supposed to be safeguards - we are not even supposed to have a discussion about the merits of candidates, huh yet people are corralled and told who to vote for left right and centre by you and your mates. Artificial safeguards don’t work - the best safeguard is the broadest possible franchise.so why were you against it, at a time when the party was actually electing people in Reading?
Labour can make a major step back to winning the trust of the wider electorate by trusting its own electorate. You don't trust the GC delegates never mind the wider people, that's why decisions are made away from the party membership The final selection of Labour candidates has to become the prerogative of Labour supporters at large rather than the self-appointed 1.7%. But the very thought strikes horror into the hearts of many Labour activists including you for many years who would argue passionately against such a move. Decent people though they are don't make me laugh, bunch of bullying corrupt scumbags who would sell their granny for a council seat, their arguments are bogus. They go like this:
Why should I bother to pay my subs if I don’t get to choose the candidates?
Why indeed, were it true that in a wider selection franchise Labour members would have no greater influence over the selection of a candidate than the average Labour voter? But it isn’t true. Labour members would continue to have a significant say, in particular by collectively controlling the shortlist. ah I see, make sure your mates are on it A credible procedure would require and sic affirmative vote among the membership above an agreed threshold to allow a nomination to go forward. To the wider electorate. Labour members and agreed criteria would protect the gender and ethnic mix of shortlists on the contrary, the wider electorate have a broader view in general and do not expect Labour candidates to be white males who go to the correct dinner parties and read the Guardian, ,and those who are Labour supporters expect their candidates to be those capable of winning, not as in Reading East in 2005 a convicted sex offender or as in Reading in 2010, one kept locked in the attic and prevented from meeting the electorate and the other an embarrassing dingbat , the affirmative threshold and a qualification process would ensure quality criteria.blah blah, he goes on like this for paragraphs more
What do you mean ‘prevent’, what’s new? Labour’s machine politicians have been able to use and abuse the current system and whatever route is adopted there will be still be opportunities, but it cannot be impossible to build into the system checks and balances that ensure those who stand for selection are part of the broad church. more or less meaningless. Explain.
There is no great clamour for among Labour voters to be part of choosing our candidates, and, no, I’ve not heard it down the gym or in the gastro pub either. see what I mean? He just doesn't get it. But I do regularly hear vitriol spouted about ‘politicians’. Much of it is nonsense and some of it dangerous nonsense, but it understandable.Peblah blah blah, there he goes again, condemning a system he has spent what are probably the best years of his life fighting to create and to perpetuate The way to ensure diversity if by trusting our electorate. An effective woman has more chance of succeeding without the hindrance of a male dominated structure. what bollocks. effective women succeed despite existing, structures, always have, always will. Ethnic minority candidates would emerge because the electorate has shown it will back them. well, yes. care to comment on the fact that of the five (count 'em) five Reading Labour ethnic minority councillors elected in the last twenty years two have been hounded out of the party and a third has left it in disgust Quality can be assured by requiring potential candidate to complete and pass a training requirement he goes on like this highly repetitively and ungrammatically for a bunch more paragraphs .what IS socialism if it is not a majoritarian political strategy based on persuasion and consent? ooh yes. Discuss.
I personally heard on a daily basis from the mid-1990s until I left Reading in 2005 Mr Howarth's vituperative briefings to the local and national media against Labour candidates, yours truly but others too. He has made a career out of this stuff. Why the mea culpa now? The only Labour candidate I have ever known him to support was Martin Salter, and the two of THEM had a close and complicated FINANCIAL relationship that was very little to do with politics, and which was evidenced by Mr Salter pimping Mr Howarth's company, Public Impact, around the Commons, using parliamentary facilities to do so.
And he is submitting this stuff to Peter Hain to help in the renewal of the party? The best way Mr Howarth can help is to bugger right off, somewhere a long way away. How about Australia John? Go and help your mate Martin campaign for the Blood Sports Party over there?