Tag Archives: mandatory selection

Lansman and witch-hunting

Momentum has drafted a ‘Charter of members’ rights’, which promises to put an end to the deluge of unjustified suspensions from the party, writes Carla Roberts. But it does not oppose political expulsions and also leaves the compliance unit untouched

In an attempt to appear democratic, a few weeks back Momentum asked its members to “help us draft proposals for Labour Party democracy review (Corbyn review)” by submitting proposals and/or ‘nominating’ the one they preferred. The organisation’s most comprehensive proposal, the ‘Charter of members’ rights’, was not among them, we should state from the outset. It will apparently be put to an all-members’ vote shortly, but its origin remains somewhat mysterious. We will deal with it further below.

Labour Against the Witchhunt decided to submit a short version of its demands in the second of three ‘tracks’ of the review: ‘Membership involvement and participation’. For a week or so, the proposal had around 50 nominations, easily leading the field in that track.

Of course, LAW comrades were under no illusion that Momentum would actually put our proposals forward. After all, Momentum owner Jon Lansman has played a pretty despicable role in the anti-Semitism witch-hunt – for example, by throwing Jackie Walker to the wolves after she was suspended from the Labour Party on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism. He arranged to have her removed as vice-chair of Momentum (just before he abolished all democratic structure in his coup of January 10 2017).

Another organisation involved in that sorry affair is, of course, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, whose members on the Momentum steering committee voted for comrade Walker’s removal – just before they were ‘removed’ themselves by Lansman.

Momentum-demoCottoning on to the fact that it might be politically useful to use Momentum’s “digital democracy platform”, a few days before the deadline of February 16, the AWL submitted its own proposal on the witch-hunt. This was pretty much in line with LAW’s motion – with one important omission: it does not contain any references to the anti-Semitism witch-hunt or criticism of the Labour Party’s support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. This IHRA definition, in its list of examples, conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people.

The AWL, not seeing the wood for the trees, seems unable to grasp that the hundreds of suspensions on false charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ are an integral part of the witch-hunt. Thanks to the AWL’s ‘unique selling point’ of seeing anti-Semites everywhere, it is very happy to go along with that aspect of the campaign against leftwingers in the party – see ‘When chickens come home’ Weekly Worker February 15. 1)To add a small correction to that article, we would like to point out that there seems to be some difference on the issue within the AWL. Leader Sean Matgamna continues to call for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from the Labour Party (see www.workersliberty.org/ story/2017-07-26/livingstone-and-anti-zionist- left). Meanwhile, the editorial team of the AWL paper Solidarity officially says it disagrees (see www.workersliberty see org/node/31045). Despite that it happily publishes Matgamna’s articles without any ‘correctives’ and regularly denounces Livingstone as an ‘anti-Semite’ in its pages.)

In any case, the AWL mobilised heavily on and off Facebook and its Momentum proposal quickly caught up with LAW’s motion. Just before the deadline (midnight, February 16), however, some rather mysterious events unfolded.

LAW’s and the AWL’s proposals were ahead, neck and neck, until just before 11pm, when they were suddenly both overtaken by another one, that had been lingering at a distant third. It is the rather lame proposal to raise the threshold for the Labour Party’s trigger ballot for the reselection of MPs from 50% to 66%. (At present an MP needs to win a simple majority of nominations from local party branches and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in order to become the candidate once more).

We know that this proposal has the support of Jon Lansman – not just because it won, but because he has been raising the issue in recent interviews. This system now seems to be Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred alternative to the long-standing principle of ‘mandatory reselection’ of MPs. But this system is still disproportionally in favour of the sitting MP. Rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic selection process before every election, a sitting MP has to be challenged. This is the wrong way round. Lansman knows that, of course. He has campaigned for mandatory selection all of his adult life. Corbyn and Lansman are wrong in thinking this will placate the right in the party.

Nevertheless, within the last half an hour or so, that proposal suddenly received more than 50 nominations, so it topped the list of nominated proposals (you can read all three further below). Maybe some Lansman loyalists suddenly remembered they had not yet voted. Or maybe Lansman did a ring-round to garner last-minute support. We may never know.

To add further to the mystery, it appears that some people already knew well before the deadline which proposal would win. In the February 16 issue of The Times (written, of course, the day before) Lucy Fisher writes: “Momentum has proposed raising the threshold [for the trigger ballot] to two thirds of nominations”. Clearly, it is enough for Jon Lansman to declare his support for something to make it official Momentum policy – Lucy Fisher got that right.

All this calls into question Momentum’s so-called ‘democracy’ once again. Anybody who believes that Jon Lansman abolished all previous structures and decision-making bodies in order to make Momentum more democratic (yes, there are people who believe this) is clearly deluded or – more realistically – hoping for a career in the Labour Party.

This episode also exposes the limits of so-called online Omov (one member, one vote). It sounds democratic, but it is anything but. For a start, very few members actually participated. There were quite a few proposals – with some comrades submitting their own rather eccentric hobby horse – but the number of ‘nominations’ for each proposal rarely managed to get into double figures. The three mentioned above were way above the rest and in the end Lansman’s proposal had garnered 114 nominations, while the AWL’s received 74 and LAW’s had 70. Out of a Momentum membership of over 20,000!

Even worse: most of the people who did participate in this fake-democratic exercise did so only because they were urged to do so by their ‘faction’ – be it LAW, AWL or the Lansmanites. Which means that a fair chunk of participants will not even have read the rest of the proposals.

The ‘factionalism’ so criticised by many Omov supporters is evidently still in full swing in Momentum – it is just a lot less transparent than it would be with a proper democratic decision-making process: for example, a conference.

Momentum Charter

Interestingly, Momentum felt obliged to send Tony Greenstein (under whose name LAW’s proposal was submitted) a message on the morning of Saturday February 17. A mere 10 hours after nominations closed, the unnamed participants of a “panel” of the Momentum national coordinating committee had already decided that some points of the LAW proposal were worthy of support and, indeed, “are covered in the ‘Charter of members’ rights’, which will be put to a ‘one member, one vote’ of Momentum members shortly”. According to the email, the charter covers these LAW demands:

that “the Chakrabarti report to be fully implemented”;

that “people accused of breaches of the rules should be given evidence against them and explained the process”;

that “membership rights should not be removed until an investigation is completed (ie, suspension should only be used as a last resort)”.

We do not know who exactly has drafted the Momentum’s charter, what kind of legal standing it would have in the Labour constitution and how indeed it would be enforced. It is presented as an amendment to the ‘membership rules’ (section A, chapter 2) in the rulebook, but also states that these “rights should be protected under Labour’s constitution” (our emphasis).

In any case, the charter does indeed contain some pretty useful and overdue stipulations. No doubt these proposals are also supported by Jeremy Corbyn, on whose behalf Jon Lansman is, of course, running Momentum.

In the point, ‘Transparency’, the charter contains, for example, the “right” of party members to “inspect the financial records of the party” and the need to give members “access to all key documents governing national and local-level party activity, including rules, standing orders, guidance notes, appendices, codes of conducts and procedures, which should be collated and made available on membersnet in clear and accessible language”.

Labour Party Rule Book - Labour-Party-2018-Rule-BookAny Labour Party member who has ever tried to get hold of the full standing orders of their Constituency Labour Party or local campaign forum will know that they are often treated as a closely guarded secret by people in control of the levers of power.

Other useful points in the charter include ‘Capacity building and skills development’, which again sound like a lot of obvious waffle – unless you try first-hand to organise a training session or education event in your CLP.

Most important is, however, the section on ‘Disciplinary justice’, which is subdivided into 12 points and forms the longest part of the document. It contains many recommendations from the Chakrabarti report and its aim is to “ensure that disciplinary matters are dealt with fairly”. It is designed to put a (middle-sized) spanner into the works of the rightwing party bureaucracy, which has suspended thousands of pro-Corbyn members on the most absurd charges. In many cases, members are not actually told what they have been suspended for. Suspensions are upheld for many months, often years, without any effort on the bureaucracy’s side to resolve them.

This section contains useful proposals on how to make the disciplinary process more open and clearly understandable, with decisions and complaints being given in writing and the need to give those complained about “a length of time the process is likely to take” (though they fail to take up LAW’s proposal to set the limit at three months). The proposals would also end the practice of some automatic and instant expulsions, which carry an automatic ban of five years, without the right to appeal (though this would probably have to be deleted from the rule book in another amendment). The proposals include:

  • “Alleged breaches of party rules shall only be investigated if the breach complained of took place within 12 months prior to the complaint” (except when it is a case of “alleged criminal conduct”).
  • There should be an “equitable time lapse, specified in the rules, for the readmission of expelled members proportionate to the gravity of their offence” (to replace the automatic five-year ban).
  • Where the NEC considers “auto-exclusion”, “the member shall be informed of the allegation in advance of the decision and have the right to make representations within a specified time scale before the decision is made, and there shall be a right of appeal”.
  • “Suspensions shall be a last resort” and should only be used “where the NEC decides that there is a prima facie case of a serious breach of party rules”; normally where the NEC is considering suspension, “the party member shall be informed of the allegation in advance of the decision and have the right to make representations within a specified timescale”.
  • “… all complainants (if any) and the person complained about shall receive a written decision on the outcome of the complaint, giving reasons”.

And then the bad

More interestingly, as always, are the points in LAW’s proposal that Jon Lansman will not support. It is highly interesting to see them spelt out in the email to Tony. The email states that the “NCC panel” (Lansman and Corbyn?) disagrees with:

The call for the replacement of the staff team charged with enforcing compliance in the Labour Party with elected representatives, on the basis that disciplinary justice does require having independent and professional people in charge of implementing disciplinary affairs. In addition, key decisions over disciplinary affairs are already taken by elected representatives: namely those on the NEC disputes committee.

They also disagree with the proposal to delete the first part of rule 2.1.4.B, as this could benefit groups which are opposed to the party.

Finally, they believe that is outside of Momentum’s remit to take a position on precise definitions of anti-Semitism.

The last of the three points is the least surprising, in that Jon Lansman and Jeremy Corbyn have made it clear that they will continue to go along with the absurd claim that the Labour Party has a huge problem with anti-Semitism. They will stick with the IHRA definition and, crucially, its widely derided list of “examples”, which conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

Worryingly, they also want to keep rule 2.1.4.B in place, according to which “a member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party … shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member”. We wonder if they think that the punishment of auto-exclusion for that particular crime, with an automatic ban from membership of five years, should remain in place?

This rule has been applied in an entirely one-sided way against leftwingers only – among them supporters of Socialist Appeal, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Labour Party Marxists. Groups such as Progress and Labour First (also not affiliated to the party) remain untouched and can continue to operate freely and in a highly organised fashion. And what about supporters of the Stop the War Coalition or Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? Aren’t they also examples of a “political organisation”? This rule clearly should go. The Labour Party would be positively transformed by allowing members of left groups – who are often the most educated and most dedicated in the party, doing most of the grunt work on the ground – to operate freely in the party.

Most worryingly though, Lansman and Corbyn want to keep the compliance unit in place. True, the NEC disputes committee looks over all cases. But the investigations, suspensions and expulsions are all instigated and driven by the unelected compliance unit, which is firmly in the hands of general secretary and anti-Corbyn witch-hunter general Iain McNicol.

Even if there is a plan to replace the man with a leftwinger at some point in the future, it would still mean that this important body remains in the murky shadows and can continue to operate without any accountability. It is not democratic if the members cannot replace it.

LAW logo high resLAW proposal

The witch-hunt and disciplinary procedures – Chakrabarti
Submitted by Tony Greenstein

The automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions – especially those based on alleged anti-Semitism and those based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B – have brought the party into disrepute: they have prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while valuable resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change.

We believe that the party should end these practices, and that:

  • the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report should be implemented immediately;
  • all those summarily expelled or suspended without due process should be immediately reinstated;
  • an accused member should be given all the evidence submitted against them and be regarded as innocent until proven guilty;
  • membership rights should not be removed until disciplinary procedures have been completed;
  • disciplinary procedures should include consultation with the member’s CLP and branch;
  • disciplinary procedures should be time-limited. Charges not resolved within three months should be automatically dropped;
  • the first part of rule 2.1.4.B (‘Exclusions’) should be deleted: it currently bars from Labour Party membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party”;
  • the party should reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which, in its list of examples, conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people;
  • the party should immediately abolish the ‘compliance/disputes unit’. Disciplinary decisions should be taken by elected bodies, not paid officials.

AWL proposal

Reverse and prevent unjust expulsions and suspensions – for a transparent, accountable disciplinary system and a pluralist political culture
Submitted by Ed Whitby

The vast majority of the many expulsions and suspensions since 2015 have been politically unjustified/unjust and violated natural justice. They have prevented and discouraged new members with valuable skills and talents from getting involved, created a culture of intimidation in parts of the party, and wasted valuable resources on such persecution – all weakening our ability to take on the Tories and campaign to change society.

Therefore we propose:

  • The Chakrabarti report’s recommendations should be implemented.
  • The first part of rule 2.1.4.B – auto-exclusion for any member who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” – should be scrapped, as per the rule change already going to conference this year (https://stopthelabourpurge.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/urgent). All Labour supporters should be welcome in Labour: membership of particular Labour-supporting organisations or previous leftwing activity should be irrelevant.
  • The practice of auto-exclusion should be abolished. Everyone should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty and get a proper procedure, including advance notice of charges, the right to evidence submitted against them and the identity of the accuser/s, consultation with their CLP and branch, a full hearing, and the right to an appeal. Membership rights should not be removed until procedures are completed. This should apply retroactively to those denied these rights.
  • Responsibility for these issues should be transferred from the ‘governance and legal unit’ (previously compliance unit) to elected bodies and officials

Jon Lansman proposal

A democratic selection process for the 21st century
Submitted by Dan Iley Williamson

At present, the Labour Party does not have a democratic selection procedure for selecting its parliamentary candidates. The current ‘trigger ballot’ system allows for the possibility of sitting MPs to be automatically reselected, even when they lack the support of the majority of their local members; and, if members do want an input into candidate selections, it forces them to organise on a solely negative basis. I propose replacing the ‘trigger ballot’ system with the following democratic procedure:

  • If a sitting MP has indicated that they wish to stand for re-election, the NEC shall agree a timetable for a selection process for that constituency, candidates shall be invited to express interest in the selection and a shortlisting committee shall be appointed in line with procedural guidance to be issued by the NEC.
  • Party units and affiliates may each make a single nomination of a candidate.
  • If the sitting MP receives both (i) nominations from party branches with a combined membership of more than two-thirds of the CLP membership, and (ii) nominations submitted by more than two-thirds of the affiliates and party units other than branches submitting nominations, then the sitting MP shall be automatically reselected.
  • Where the sitting MP is not automatically reselected, the shortlisting committee shall present a shortlist of nominated candidates to all members of the CLP entitled to vote. That shortlist must reflect the requirements of the NEC to ensure that candidates are representative of our society, it must include the sitting MP and it must be subject to the requirement that any candidate who has received nominations either from party branches with a combined membership of more than one half of the CLP membership or from more than half of the affiliates and party units other than branches making nominations shall be included, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

This democratic selection procedure ensures that to be reselected MPs must have the support of their local members. By ensuring a nominations process, this rule change allows both sitting MPs and potential candidates to seek out nominations from local units and affiliates, thereby increasing the accountability between members and MPs. The process allows MPs to get automatically reselected if they have the clear support of members and trade union affiliates, whilst at the same time offering other candidates a fair chance of getting a guaranteed place on the shortlist.


1 To add a small correction to that article, we would like to point out that there seems to be some difference on the issue within the AWL. Leader Sean Matgamna continues to call for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from the Labour Party (see www.workersliberty.org/ story/2017-07-26/livingstone-and-anti-zionist- left). Meanwhile, the editorial team of the AWL paper Solidarity officially says it disagrees (see www.workersliberty see org/node/31045). Despite that it happily publishes Matgamna’s articles without any ‘correctives’ and regularly denounces Livingstone as an ‘anti-Semite’ in its pages.

Transform the Labour Party: our proposals

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to find ways to give more power to ordinary members and a conference that makes the final decision on policy. The democracy commission has now been agreed and will report next year. All this is very welcome. James Marshall presents a 13-point platform that will provide the basis for our submission

1. Mandatory reselection is crucial, though it terrifies the right. We read that this, “even more than nuclear disarmament and membership of the European Community, became the main catalyst for the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party” in March 1981.[1] In that same treacherous spirit as the founders of the SDP, Progress – Lord David Sainsbury’s party within a party – furiously denounces mandatory reselection as “a weapon of fear and intimidation”.[2] Yes, it is viewed as an affront by every rightwing wrecker, every hireling, every parliamentary careerist.

It is worth looking at the background. Interestingly, and with good foundation, we read on the Progress website that mandatory reselection carries “echoes of the Paris Commune, and of the Russian soviets, where delegates were subject to recall if they displeased their local citizenry. It rests on the idea that leaders will always be tempted to sell you out, once they get power.”[3] Well, surely, that is what history actually shows.

For decades, sitting Labour MPs – certainly those with safe seats – enjoyed a job for life (or as long as no better offer came along). They might deign to visit their constituency once or twice a year, deliver a speech to the AGM and write an occasional letter to the local newspaper. Meanwhile they lived a pampered, middle class life, frequented various London gentlemen’s clubs and spent their weekends in the home counties with Lord this and Lady that. Despite such evident moral corruption, they were automatically the candidate for the next election. Unless found guilty of an act of gross indecency or had the party whip withdrawn, they could do as they pleased.

With the insurgent rise of Bennism, that totally unacceptable situation was called into question. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, founded in 1973, committed itself to a range of rule changes – the mandatory reselection of MPs was finally agreed by the 1980 conference. What this saw, however, was not a Labour Party equivalent of the Paris Commune or the Russian soviets. There was no right to instantly recall. Nevertheless, once in each parliament, our MPs had to secure the endorsement of their local general management committee. Note, GMCs were made up of delegates elected by local party and trade union branches; they were sizable bodies too, typically consisting of 80, 90, 100 or even more delegates.

At the prompting of the bourgeois media, Neil Kinnock, desperately seeking acceptability, sought to extract trade unions from the voting process altogether. He failed, but accepted a compromise. A local electoral college for the selection and reselection of candidates was introduced. Ordinary members were given a direct vote for the first time, leaving GMCs with the right to nominate and shortlist only. This electoral college system gave unions and affiliated organisations up to 40% of the vote, with ordinary members having some 60% (the actual balance was different in each seat, depending on party and union membership).

Trigger ballots were a product of the 1990s. Formally honouring conference’s “desire to maintain reselection”, they made it significantly “easier for MPs to defend their positions”.[4] They allowed for a sitting MP to be subject to a full-scale ballot of the membership. But only if they lost a trigger ballot.

We say, all elected Labour representatives, whether councillors, MPs or MEPs, must, by rule, be subject to one-member, one-vote mandatory reselection. All must be brought under democratic control – from above, by the national executive committee; from below, by branches and Constituency Labour Parties.

2. We urgently need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be abolished. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, have to go.

3. We are against the idea of electing the general secretary through an all-member ballot. The NEC should elect all national officers. Therefore the post of Labour leader should be replaced by the post of NEC chair. We favour annual elections with the right to recall at any time. As a matter of basic principle Marxists oppose all forms of Bonapartism.

4. In Scotland and Wales, Labour’s executive committees should likewise elect their own officers, including their representatives on the all-UK NEC. We are against a single individual in Scotland and Wales having the right to appoint themselves, or a trusted clone.

5. Scrap the hated compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell).[5] There must be an amnesty for all those expelled for having supported leftwing organisations and publications. The compliance unit operates in the murky shadows, routinely leaks to the capitalist media and makes rulings in a completely biased manner. We want to welcome into our ranks the bulk of those who have been barred from membership by the compliance unit. Many of them are good socialists with a proven record.

6. Those expelled from membership ought to have the right to reapply – not after five years, but in just one year. All disciplinary procedures should be completed within three months, at which point suspensions must be automatically rescinded. Endless delay violates natural justice.

7. The huge swing towards Labour in the June 2017 general election happened in no small part due to the enthusiasm of young voters. Yet Young Labour is a creaking, uninviting, thoroughly bureaucratic construction. We need a one-member, one-vote organisation. That must include Young Labour’s national committee. At present, two-thirds of votes are accounted for by appointees from affiliated organisations: eg, the Fabians and Cooperative Party, and affiliated trade unions. Instead of the biannual policy and national committee elections, their must be an annual conference that can both decide on policy and elect a leadership. Young Labour has to have the right to decide on its own constitution and standing orders.

8. We need a rule that commits the NEC to securing the affiliation of all trade unions to the Labour Party. The FBU has already reaffiliated. Excellent. Matt Wrack at last changed his mind and took the lead in reversing the disaffiliation policy. But what about the RMT? Let us win RMT militants to finally drop their support for the thoroughly misconceived Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition project. Instead reaffiliate to the Labour Party. And what about the NUT? This year’s Cardiff conference saw the executive narrowly win an amendment, by 50.63% to 49.37%, which in effect ruled out considering affiliation … at this moment. This can be changed … if we campaign to win hearts and minds.

Then there is the PCS. Thankfully, Mark Serwotka, its leftwing general secretary, has at last come round to the idea of affiliation. Yes, that would run up against the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Act (1927), introduced by a vengeful Tory government in the aftermath of the General Strike. Civil service unions were barred from affiliating to the Labour Party and the TUC. The Civil and Public Services Association – predecessor of the PCS – reaffiliated to the TUC in 1946. Now, however, surely, it is time for the PCS to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. Force another change in the law.

9. There has to be a shift in the party, away from the HQ, regional officers, the leader’s office, the Parliamentary Labour Party, etc. CLPs must be empowered. Towards that end there has to be proper financing. CLPs should be allocated 50% of the individual membership dues. That will help with producing publicity material, hiring rooms, paying for full-time officers, providing transport, setting up websites, etc. That way, our CLPs can be made into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action.

10. Our goal must be a Labour Party that, in the words of Keir Hardie, can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.[6] We therefore need rule changes to once again allow left, communist and revolutionary groups and parties to affiliate. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only but strengthen Labour as a federal party. Nowadays affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the Left, the Cooperative Party and, problematically, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Encourage the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Communist Party of Great Britain, Left Unity, Socialist Appeal, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, etc, to join our ranks.

11. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder – not a way for university graduates to secure a lucrative living. A particularly potent weapon here would be a rule requiring all our elected representatives and officials to take only the average wage of a skilled worker – a principle that was indeed upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. Our MPs are on a basic £67,060 annual salary. On top of that they get around £12,000 in expenses and allowances, putting them on £79,060 (yet at present Labour MPs are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarian’s subscription rate). Moreover, as leader of the official opposition, Jeremy Corbyn not only gets his MP’s salary: he is entitled to an additional £73,617.[7]

Let them keep the average skilled worker’s wage – say £40,000 (plus legitimate expenses). Then, however, they should hand the balance over to the party. Even without a rule change Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott ought to take the lead here.

12. Relying on the favours of the capitalist press, radio and TV is a fool’s game. Yes, it worked splendidly for Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. But, as Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband found to their cost, to live by the mainstream media is to die by the mainstream media.

The NEC should, by rule, establish and maintain our own press, radio and TV. To state the obvious, tweeting and texting have severe limits. They are brilliant mediums for transmitting simple, short and sharp messages to the already converted, but, when it comes to complex ideas, debating history and charting out political strategies, they are worse than useless. We should provide time and space for controversy and the whole range of different opinions within the party. Without that our media will be dull, lifeless, pointless. We should also take full advantage of parliamentary immunity to circumvent the oppressive libel laws. Then we can say the unsayable. That would prove to be electric in terms of shaping and mobilising public opinion.

13. We should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old 1918 version, but a commitment to working class rule and the aim of a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. That is what socialism is all about. Not a measly £10-per-hour “living wage”, shifting the tax balance and a state investment bank. No, re-establishing socialism in the mainstream of politics means committing the Labour Party to achieving a “democratic republic”.[8]

[1]. http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps.

[2]. www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament.

[3]. www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/09/28/the-price-of-a-seat-in-parliament.

[4]. http://thirdavenue.org.uk/a-beginners-guide-to-the-labour-party-rulebook-part-2-reselection-of-mps.

[5]. http://labourlist.org/2016/02/mcdonnell-and-woodcock-clash-over-plan-to-scrap-member-checks.

[6]. Independent Labour Party Report of the 18th annual conference London 1910, p59.

[7]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader_of_the_Opposition_(United_Kingdom).

[8]. Labour Party Marxists July 7 2016.

Mandatory selection on the agenda at 2018 conference

The current process of ‘trigger ballots’ is far from adequate to choose our representatives. We believe that any such ‘checks and balances’ should be abolished. Members should have the right to easily chose who should represent them and their constituency. We need a system of true mandatory selection. Quite simply, everybody who wants to stand as MP (including the sitting MP), should have to put themselves forward to the local membership who should decide in a democratic and transparent vote.

Two rule change motions that would introduce such mandatory selection of MPs have been voted through CLPs in time for conference 2017 – but in accordance with one of the plethora of undemocratic clauses in the LP rule book, these procedural motions are then ‘parked’ for almost 14 months before they can be finally discussed by delegates at the 2018 conference. (Note, a motion from Filton & Bradley, Stoke and Newport West to this year’s conference proposes to do away with this crassly anti-democratic rule. Absolutely correct!)

International Labour (20% or 771 members voted: 62% for, against 38%)

Reform to the selection procedure for Westminster Parliamentary Candidates

Suggested Rule Change to Chapter 5: Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office; Clause IV Selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates

Replace Clause IV.5 and IV.6 with the following:

“5. Following an election for a Parliamentary constituency the procedure for selection of Westminster Parliamentary Candidates shall be as follows:

  1. If the CLP is not represented in Parliament by a member of the PLP, a timetable for selecting the next Westminster Parliamentary Candidate shall commence no sooner than six weeks after the election and complete no later than 12 months after the election.
  2. If a CLP is represented in Parliament by a member of the PLP, then a timetable for selecting the next Westminster Parliamentary Candidate shall commence no sooner than 36 months and complete no later than 48 months after the election. The sitting Member of Parliament shall be automatically included on the shortlist of candidates, unless they request to retire or resign from the PLP.
  3. The CLP Shortlisting Committee shall draw up a shortlist of interested candidates to present to all members of the CLP who are eligible to vote in accordance with Clause I.1.A above.”

Consequential amendments to be made elsewhere in the Rule Book where the ‘trigger ballot’ is mentioned.

Supporting argument


We need to ensure candidates are in place in case of by-elections or snap elections, and to allow the candidate time to spend getting to know the CLP, the local issues and joining local campaigns. The timetable should be sufficiently flexible to ensure adequate time for political reflection following a defeat in the constituency, while responsive enough to get the campaign up and running early.


  1. a) Most members interact with the broader electorate daily. It consists of their family, neighbours, and workmates. Members know what they think and can reach them with convincing arguments. Many in leading positions acknowledged after the 2017 General Election that they were out of touch, and this must be respected. Mandatory reselection will prevent future mistakes, and the internecine strife these mistakes resulted in. Necessary differences of opinion can be discussed freely, without being institutionalised in inflexible unrepresentative structures. Our Party can unite in a common struggle to improve society.
  2. b) Being an MP was never a job. It is about democratically representing the electorate, and leaving when one no longer does that. The general election in 2015 showed there are no safe Labour seats (see Scotland), the 2017 election that there are no safe Conservative seats (Kensington and Canterbury). The Labour party can no longer afford to have any MPs, who drift away from being representatives. Mandatory reselection is the most effective way of ensuring that.
  3. c) Mandatory reselection reduces the perception that reselection is motivated by hostility towards a sitting MP. By normalising the practice for all, including the most popular MPs, reselection is an opportunity for candidates to defend their record, outline their vision and debate alternatives with their membership. Most sitting MPs should easily win reselection, strengthen their position and increase their support within the CLP. It is an opportunity for the CLP to discuss policy and priorities and to develop a local strategy on which to campaign.
  4. d) The weakness of the present reselection procedure is that it exhausts members, who can only contribute to election campaigning in their spare time. It shifts the balance of power to those who can use their work- time to campaign. It is as if one would first have a referendum (without universal individual suffrage) to see if a majority wants a general election. If anybody attempted to introduce such a system, it would be understood this puts a ball-and-chain on democracy. Mandatory resection would remove this hindrance to full democracy within the Labour party, and thereby in society as a whole.


Rochester and Strood CLP

The Labour Party Rule Book 2017 Chapter 5: Selections, rights and responsibilities of candidates forelected public office; Clause IV Selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates; subclause 5

Replace paragraphs (A) and (B) by the following:

‘A. If the sitting MP wishes to stand for re-election the standard procedures for the selection of a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be set in motion not later than 42 months after the last time the said Member of Parliament was elected to Parliament at a general election and before any scheduled or “snap” general election. The said Member of Parliament shall have equal selection rights to other potential candidates save for those outlined in paragraph.

B. The said Member of Parliament shall have the right to be included (irrespective of whether he/she has been nominated) on the shortlist of candidates from whom the selection of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate shall be made.’

Consequential amendments to be made elsewhere in the Rule Book where the ‘trigger ballot’ is mentioned.

Supporting argument

Labour MPs are not independents, solely elected by their constituents. They are selected by the Labour Party and benefit from Labour funds, national party campaigning, local members on the ground etc. As such they should be accountable to the party and in particular to local members before each election.

Many Party members are now of the view that some Labour MPs take insufficient account of the views of their CLP and of Annual Conference, our Party’s sovereign body. One reason for this is that adequate mechanisms of accountability are non-existent in our Party. Effectively, a Labour MP in a ‘safe’ seat has a ‘job for life’ – well into their 80s in some cases. Indeed, some Labour MPs in Scotland clearly took this view until, of course, ‘safe’ Labour seats ceased to exist north of the border. There was one well- documented case of a Labour MP who had not been out canvassing for some 20 years. And it was not only in Scotland – in South Shields CLP, when David Miliband left, the marked-up register was found to be a mere 0.3%.

You will see that our proposed rule change makes provision for the sitting MP to automatically to be on the selection list if s/he wishes.