Three Blairite MPs have been triggered as Labour members look to democratically take control of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Blairites are fighting back the only way they know how, through bureaucratic manouvres. Boot out the Blairites.
Over the past several weeks, three Blairite MPs have been successfully “triggered” by grassroots activists: Diana Johnson in Hull, Margaret Hodge in Barking, and Roger Godsiff in Birmingham. The latter has the distinction of being Britain’s “laziest MP” (with the fewest parliamentary appearances), and notoriously gave his backing to the protests against LGBT teaching in schools.
These are victories for Labour members, who are finally beginning to democratically take control of the main bastion of Labour’s right-wing: the Parliamentary Labour Party. However, the whole process is under threat from bureaucratic manoeuvring, which is frustrating members’ efforts to select radical MPs and sweep away the right-wing rubbish littering the PLP.
The NEC initially permitted an open selection process for vacant seats. However, they have now suspended these selections and it’s unclear how they will proceed. Either Labour candidates will be parachuted in without giving members any say at all, or the NEC will present shortlists for a truncated hustings and selection process.
This means that, in seats like Vauxhall, where Kate Hoey (who recently addressed fans at the Tory Party conference) has said she will not seek re-selection, members may have little say over their parliamentary candidate. The same would presumably apply to the Barking, Hull and Birmingham seats where MPs have been triggered by members.
If shortlists contain popular local candidates, then that’s one thing, but if the NEC chooses to impose MPs, then they will be repeating the exact process that allowed the party benches to become stuffed with unaccountable career politicians in the first place.
Justifying this decision, Momentum CEO and NEC member Jon Lansman used the figleaf of the imminent general election, explaining: “Party staff cannot oversee selections at the same time as preparing what we need to do to win.”
This is backwards logic. With a general election looming, it is imperative that members are allowed to democratically install class fighters, who will get behind Corbyn and a left-wing manifesto.
Moreover, the NEC’s decision has not even been implemented consistently.
In some seats, like Ilford South (where Mike Gapes defected to Change UK), the open selection process has been allowed to continue, due to it reaching an “advanced stage”. But in Enfield North, it was “paused” by the NEC without explanation, despite members spending months working to get a left-wing candidate.
These mixed messages will only confuse, frustrate and demoralise the membership, who are itching to get behind good candidates and get on with putting Corbyn in power.
Trigger ballot scuppered
After years of the leadership dragging their feet – and a stitch-up over open selection at the 2018 party conference – the threshold for trigger ballots was lowered by the NEC from requiring assent by 50 percent of wards to 33 percent.
This theoretically makes it much easier for members to get rid of their MPs. Naturally, the Blairites – who have spent the last four years doing everything in their power to prevent a Labour government – were not thrilled at this outcome. The threat of deselection perhaps explains why they mostly kept their mouths shut at party conference.
However, they are fighting back in the only way they know how: slander and manoeuvres. A number of right-wingers have already attempted to brand Hodge’s trigger ballot as evidence of “anti-semitism”, rather than the consequence of repeatedly dragging Corbyn, and the members who elected her, through the mud.
Meanwhile, Labour activists in Ealing Southall, West London, were on the cusp of making Virendra Sharma the fourth sitting MP to be successfully triggered by party members. Two wards in a row, Elthorne and Southall Broadway, voted for open selection, and the Northfield ward meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was widely expected to complete the hat trick, triggering Sharma.
And, we would add, not a moment too soon. Sharma is widely-hated in Southall for his chummy relationship with Berkeley developers, whose building works are poisoning residents in the borough; his total absence from local meetings; and his support for the reactionary Modi government in India.
When the trigger process began, Sharma voiced his displeasure at party members having the temerity to threaten his rule, declaring in mafioso style that he would “find out who is responsible.”
In the end, members’ hopes were dashed by the Labour London Region, who declared the entire process “null-and-void”. This followed “several complaints” that proper conduct had not been adhered to in the ward meetings, that some of the voters were “not eligible”, and the trigger votes would have to be re-run.
Despite objections by local activists that everything was done by the book, no further explanation was given. Also, given that one of the meetings voted to trigger Sharma by 30-3, a few ineligible voters wouldn’t have made much difference.
This all sets a very bad precedent for future trigger ballots, and makes a mockery of party democracy.
Everyone in Ealing Southall wants rid of this man as our MP and when the chance to do something about it arrives London regional Labour quashes democracy. I was the official at one of the meetings which was exemplary chaired and procedures followed to the letter. This is bullshit
— Richard #GTTO (@ARICHTALL) October 1, 2019
Democratise the Labour Party!
This fractious selection process shows that the Corbyn revolution is not yet complete.
Labour’s membership has every right to democratically decide who represents the party in parliament, and deselect the careerists who see their posts as a job for life.
Labour is promising its most radical manifesto ever going into the next election. We need class fighters in parliament to present policies like a four-day working week, free education and large-scale nationalisation to the public.
And should Labour come to power with a Blairite fifth column in its ranks, it will be a weapon in the hands of the ruling class to frustrate Corbyn’s attempts to carry out his programme.
Rather than half-measures, bureaucratic subterfuge and selection-by-decree, we need a full democratisation of the Labour Party, so members can hold their MPs to account and exercise their right to choose who represents them in parliament. With an election coming any day now, this is more important than ever.