Why We Need Open Selection

Open Selection
Share on Social Media

by Frank Bonner & Jonathan Clyne

Over the last few years, Labour has been re-establishing itself as a campaigning, democratic socialist party, whose key objective is making life better for the majority of people and tackling the excesses of the few.

A key part of the ability to do this lies in the democratic nature of the party. Democracy is not a dry, fixed thing. It is a living, vibrant idea which needs to be worked at and amended to fit the times we find ourselves in.

An important lesson we learnt from the two recent leadership elections is that where we campaign around the day to day issues affecting peoples lives, we bring people into the party when they see the chance to change things for the better for themselves, their neighbours, friends and families. They then mobilise a vote for Labour from those closest to them in the general and local elections.

Labour elects and regularly re-elects people at all levels of its structure, from Branch Officers through to the Party leader. It is a democratic system that ensures people stay in touch with those they represent and are sensitive to their changing needs and concerns. It also provides a simple system for bringing new people into activity and responsibility, as existing office holders move on to other things.

The one area where this sensible and well-established system does not work is in relation to Members of Parliament. The current arrangements do not afford them the constant renewal of their mandate that regular reselection affords to others at all other levels of the party. Given the important role played by MPs, this democratic deficit needs to be remedied. This is why the Labour International Co-ordinating Committee put forward a Rule Change motion last year, which will be discussed at this year’s Conference.

The LICC are in a unique position to advance this argument as we have no MP and therefore have no axe to grind. Under the present system, re-selection battles almost inevitably become acrimonious and personalised. But because our proposed system is automatic, this is minimised. We have put this amendment forward solely because we see it as a necessary next step in the ongoing democratisation of the party that is already underway through the democracy review currently being undertaken by the NEC.

People are often put off politics because they see it as something practised in smoke-filled back rooms; where the decisions are already taken and any consultation is a sham, something that is done to them rather than something they themselves can do to improve their own situation.

Labour has started to address these issues, not least with the way in which the leadership election contest was run by Jeremy Corbyn and his team. But that needs to be replicated up and down the country.

Open Selection is about ensuring that, in every constituency, before every General Election, there is a debate about what Labour has done well, what it needs to improve on, and who is best suited to representing the aspirations of members in that constituency over the period of the next Parliament. It will help MPs keep in close touch with their constituents’ aspirations, and ensure that there are positive actions for MPs to take into the next Parliament.

This constitutional amendment will help strengthen Labour, and make it more democratic and more electable.

The last two years tell us that change is our friend. Whilst the Tories sink into a mire of their own making we are renewing the Labour Party in both its structures and its policies. This motion is a huge step further along that road. We should all embrace it because it brings us closer to a Labour Government that will change the UK for the better.


  1. “This constitutional amendment will strengthen Labour and make it more democratic and more electable” I would just ask how? How many voters will know of the proposed change, and if the candidate is changed, are you going to publicise the reasons and if so what if the electorate do not agree and vote for someone else. Finally, I believe that any sitting MP who is not selected will stand as an Independent meaning that in all probability the vote will be split and the seat will be lost.

  2. After living in Brussels for many years and have only been back for less than two years (about the same as I joined the LP), I’ve often wondered how the PLP could be so hostile to Jeramy Corbyn.
    I believe that your efforts to make the LP more democratic is absolutely correct.

  3. I go along with the above, not before time, we brought true socialism back to the people who own it, the salt of the earth who slaved under squalid conditions, living in slums, working for pennies to keep their heads above water.
    We find ourselves slipping back there, under yet another right-wing Tory Party!
    Thatcher is the one who started this country’s decline backward, 18 years of destroying its infrastructure!
    Putting millions out of work, destroying our climb out of poverty, that we, the workforce, struggled long and hard, fighting for better conditions, wages and a shorter working week!
    All that struggle to make our lives better was taken away!
    Now for the first time in my long life, we have a Leader in Jeremy Corbyn along with our MPs who back him, we the members and those Labour voters will make this country a better place for everyone, not just the rich!
    Somewhere, we can all live together, without fear or prejudice.

  4. In response to Paul Salts comment there are a couple of points worth making. The first is that the selection of candidates is the first stage in the democratic process. It is right that members of the local Labour Party choose their candidate. In turn it is more likely that they will turn out to work for a candidate they have chosen in the run up to and the aftermath of an election. This is the norm across most political parties in the UK and Europe. Labour and the Tories are the exception rather than the rule. In elections the majority of votes are cast for a party rather than a specific person. The combination of popular local candidates with the local parties behind them definately improves democracy and electability. We don’t see a slew of Independents standing because they were not selected by other parties and there is no reason to suppose Labour will be any different.

  5. Deselected MP’s standing as an Independent ? Well the majority of voters, vote for the rosette not the person wearing it. How do you think Dennis McShane kept getting voted in, in Rotherham. Do you really, hand on heart, think that the likes of Kinnock, Umunna, Phillips et al would do well without the red banner behind them. If you Don’t believe me, why haven’t the broke away as some keep threatening. Just think SDP, it doesn’t work overall.

    • The MPs Colin mentions all adhere to socialist values and are part of the Labour Party. I don’t think many voters look only at the Party colours but at the person wearing them & what they say.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The rule-change campaign every left Labour member needs to support and promote | The SKWAWKBOX
  2. The rule-change campaign every left Labour member needs to support and promote | RedZine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.