by Frank Bonner & Jonathan Clyne
As the Labour Party advances towards democratic renewal, more and more party members have realised the current rules for selecting and re-selecting Members of Parliament fall well short of the the kind of genuine democracy people expect in the 21st century.
The current arrangements, put in place in the 1990s, are primarily designed to give the Party central control of the choice of MPs, and to make it all but impossible to change the MP if it becomes clear they are not representing the needs of local members and constituents.
Most people agree that this needs to change. The question is how best to achieve that. There are currently two options available to members:
- Labour International’s rule change motion which will be heard at this years Conference, and
- Motions from Brighton and Bristol West based on the model Momentum motion, in particular the retention of trigger ballots, which would also be heard at this year’s Conference.
Either option would be better than the current arrangements but there are three very good reasons to prefer the motion from Labour international.
- The arrangements in the Labour International Amendment make selection and re-selection a standard part of the political timetable, in exactly the same way that branch officers have to stand for election on a regular basis. The question of the job the MP is doing is not a factor in the timetabling of the selection and re-selection process, thus removing most of the animosity engendered by the current arrangements. By contrast, the Brighton, Bristol West and Momentum proposals do not have this key element of regularity. They maintain the divisive trigger ballot requirement.
- The Labour International proposal shifts the centre of gravity from the Party nationally to the local CLP. The purpose of democratisation is to strengthen the links between MPs and their local parties, and remove the animosity caused by trigger ballots. The Labour International proposal deals with this openly and simply, rather than looking for a bureaucratic solution. All members can immediately understand how MPs are selected.
- Last, but not least, the Labour International amendment is wholly based on OMOV (one member one vote). The trigger ballot proposal from Momentum does not adhere to the OMOV concept but gives a single vote each to branches, socialist societies etc. regardless of the number of members they have. Democracy demands that every vote should have the same value, and on this crucial issue only the Labour International amendment provides it.
The party will continue, correctly, to press for an early General Election, and it is essential that we are prepared to fight it whenever it comes. The Labour International motion pushes forward the democracy agenda and will help in winning that General Election. It is essential that we do not miss this opportunity to rebalance the party in favour of its members, and particularly the hundreds of thousand who have joined in the last couple of years.