A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Selections and the Labour Hard Left

One of the features of General Committee meetings in the CLP where I live, Hackney North, is that we have newspaper, or more correctly magazine, sellers. Being interested in what my political opponents have to say, I am a regular buyer (£1 waged/50p unwaged) of Labour Left Briefing. For the un-initiated Labour Left Briefing represents a strand of Labour opinion which is to the left of for instance, Ken Livingstone and his allies in Socialist Action (formerly trading as the International Marxist Group) and produces (they would say "is" as they follow the time honoured let's call our politburo an editorial committee model) a publication well known for its combination of vitriol (it used to run a feature called "Class Traitor of the Month" which sadly I never made it into) and rather high production values.

My eye was drawn to their page about candidates and selections.

First there is a list of those MPs and PPCs deemed "worthy of left support", defined as current or future members of the Campaign Group of MPs plus anyone else prepared to nominate John McDonnell MP as Labour Leader . Two things struck me about this list:

  • First, it is very short. 23 names. 19 sitting MPs and only 4 PPCs, all in non-Labour-held seats. This suggests McDonnell will have even fewer nominations than the 29 he got in 2007 when he failed to get on the ballot paper against Gordon Brown. You need 12.5% of Labour MPs nominating you to run, so even if all 19 hard left MPs listed hold their seats (four of which are highly marginal) the PLP will need to have shrunk to just 152 MPs for the hard left to run a leadership candidate. The low number of hard left MPs after the General Election and their failure to win selections in other seats (pointing to a lack of enthusiasm for their stance from ordinary party members) suggests any post-election lurch to the left is going to need to come from the unions and will be an attempt to move to a Cruddas-ite/Compass soft left stance, not a reversion to Bennery.
  • Second, isn't it a bit "off" to suggest Labour activists should help MPs and PPCs based on their ideological stance? I work for the re-election of my own MP, who happens to be the Hard Left Diane Abbott, without any regard to political differences of opinion between us, and if I want to travel and help in another seat, I do it on the basis of marginality and the key seat strategy, not the political correctness of the candidate's views. Rightly there would be outcry if Progress or Labour First published a list of MPs and PPCs whose views we agreed with and urged activists to use this criteria for deciding where to campaign. I won't be complaining if hard left activists do turn up to help in Hackney, in fact I look forward to working with them, but I hope it won't be at the expense of them working in marginal seats for candidates with views they might not 100% agree with.

Next to the list is an article which includes an explanation of why the hard left has been so unsuccessful in selections. I found it extraordinary:

"We need to learn from the right's ability to have councillors or trade union officials ready and waiting when a selection comes up. All last autumn, the left was scrabbling round for candidates as seats became vacant, only to find that there was no one on the ground in the vicinity who could be put forward as a credible candidate. Everyone needs to make sure they are involved at a local level in their CLP or their union (or both!) so that they are ready to contest any selections which come up."

No wonder that the same two hard left candidates (Susan Press and Christine Shawcroft) have popped up in multiple selections (Christine has been busy sending Christmas cards and calendars in her capacity as an NEC member - not mentioning her own interest in their selection - to Leyton & Wanstead members) - looks like they are the only people they have! Can I hear the sound of barrels being loudly scraped?

For Briefing's information the right of the party doesn't run some list where we tee up candidates. All those people running for selection do it because they put themselves up to it of there own free will. We don't have an equivalent shadowy organisation to you matching names to seats. And if you want people to be selected to be a Labour MP by ordinary members they need to have decades of experience as councillors or trade unionists, not start getting active locally prompted by a message in the January edition of Briefing when the election is in May! They also need to hold political views that party members and, more importantly, voters won't consider to be several sandwiches short of a picnic, which could prove a greater obstacle...

19 Comments:

Blogger CottonMather said...

The hard left will be extinct in a decades time.

11:22 am, January 29, 2010

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

This is all rather disingenuous.

Luke, you may be admirably broad-minded in these matters, but we all know there are plenty of Labour rightwingers who would rather spend a day on a National Express coach in order to campaign for Hazel Blears than go out canvassing for Diane Abbott.

Similarly there are all sorts of informal networks, phone calls, emails, etc which enable Labour rightwingers to communicate about selections. Certainly other rightwingers have boasted in the past about their success in using such methods to help New Labour consolidate its grip on the Party.

The difference in both cases is that Briefing is honest enough to do so publicly and in print.

Finally, no doubt these articles are partly aimed at the many, many people who have ceased to be active members, or in some cases maybe even Party members, because of disillusionment with Labour over the last decade. If there's a chance that they might campaign for Diane Abbott rather than stay at home, but no chance they'll campaign for a Blairite, is it not right that Briefing encourage them to get out on the knocker?

And if we don't change political direction, there's a good chance the whole Labour Party will be extinct in a decade's time.

11:44 am, January 29, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If this is the case why do multiple moderate candidates with broadly similar politics run against each other in the same seats?

12:19 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

In my experience, normally because of personal ambition.

It was probably less frequent when there were hundreds of hard-fought ideological battles between left and right over selections.

But I love the idea of the hard left being ruthless politicos determined to do anything to get selected, in contrast with the shambolic Blairites who can't coordinate with each other!

12:27 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"First there is a list of those MPs and PPCs deemed "worthy of left support", defined as current or future members of the Campaign Group of MPs plus anyone else prepared to nominate John McDonnell MP as Labour Leader."

The interesting thing about this list though, is that though the LRC policy was indeed to support current or future members of the Campaign Group OR anyone willing to nominate John McDonnell MP, the list that the LRC (and now LLB) have produced is JUST the MPs who nominated John McDonnell, even if they have never been in the Campaign Group or don't have particularly left wing voting records.

Campaign Group members who did not nominate McDonnell have also been excluded.

So, in reality, this is just about personally supporting John McDonnell, not anything to do with policy or voting record, despite the policy passed at the LRC AGM and their stated description of the list above.

Still, at least we know his plan to get the nominations - Labour victories in North East Hampshire and Royal Tunbridge Wells will do the job.

3:08 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous Andrea said...

"Campaign Group members who did not nominate McDonnell have also been excluded. "

All Campaign Group MPs who are standing again are included in the list iirc.

3:44 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous tim f said...

Although I agree people should campaign in their local seat or nearest marginal, it's just fact that not everyone will. So why not encourage those who won't to campaign for a Labour MP in a different area? Whether travelling there, using the virtual phonebank or getting in touch with the campaign team for another CLP, there are plenty of ways these days people can help.

I don't think you should knock people who campaign for a Labour MP for doing just that. Some campaign activity is better than none.

5:15 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the seminars that Progress run on getting selected? I hardly think many 'leftwingers' would be welcome.

5:43 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea - Dave Anderson was left off the LRC list, don't know about the LLB one as Luke does not reproduce it, though I'm guessing it's the same.

He is a SCG member but nominated Brown, IIRC. The others who did not nominate McDonnell are all standing down, which I guess saves them the bother of crossing their names off the list...

Either way, I think the point still holds.

9:04 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's hard left...and then there's this.

http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/guide/seat-profiles/wansbeck

http://www.socialist.net/the-northern-region-lrc-gets-behind-two-socialist-candidates-in-se-northumberland.htm

10:44 pm, January 29, 2010

 
Blogger Newmania said...

I like your definition of the Reductio ad absurdum off extreme left wingery ..."Left of Ken Livingstone "


That would sound a lot more frightening if you had not been so enthusiastic about the re-election of the loon when it mattered.

'And if we don't change political direction, there's a good chance the whole Labour Party will be extinct in a decade's time.'

JJJ has a point there but my own vriw is that as the consequences of the overspend inder Brown become clear Labour are close to finished anyway.

10:42 am, January 31, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I think we need to forget about left and right politics as they are meaningless. Can't believe we are still talking about this issue.

What we need a convergence of sensible fair policies that reflect society and not dated schools of thought.

12:58 pm, January 31, 2010

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

The NLP is out of touch with ordinary people along with the other 2 main parties and the other right wing ones!

New Labour pats self on the back for building 45 council houses in a borough of over 13,000 families on the waiting list

The working classes in the UK are being displaced, as property prices have inflated to Zimbabwean style and are out of reach for the ordinary working people housing associations are far to expensive.

Most new properties are in gated communities, surely it does not take a degree in economics to see the social engineering what's happening?

The working classes of the UK are being gradually treated as the Jews were in mainland Europe in 1937!

2:03 pm, January 31, 2010

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

The NLP is out of touch with ordinary people along with the other 2 main parties and the other right wing ones!

New Labour pats self on the back for building 45 council houses in a borough of over 13,000 families on the waiting list

The working classes in the UK are being displaced, as property prices have inflated to Zimbabwean style and are out of reach for the ordinary working people housing associations are far to expensive.

Most new properties are in gated communities, surely it does not take a degree in economics to see the social engineering what's happening?

The working classes of the UK are being gradually treated as the Jews were in mainland Europe in 1937!

2:04 pm, January 31, 2010

 
Anonymous Luciana Berger said...

I agree totally with you Lukey

8:53 pm, January 31, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

The Labour party needs to be a broad church to survive. At the moment, the hard left are hardly a threat - but there is no way that many people who abandoned the party last time are coming back. On top of that, many like myself who did vote Labour last time, very reluctantly, are not convinced that they should return to office as things stand. There needs to be some change, and anything which appears to be consolidating the failed experiment of 'New' Labour would not be advisable.

Bashing the hard left is an easy target but ultimately not very important. What you need to realise is that the time when people like me (far from hard left!) will vote Labour despite the fact that we despise many of its stances is over.

I shall certainly be delighted to see Liverpool Wavertree and Calder Valley lost to Labour at the next election, as they certainly shall be

11:54 pm, January 31, 2010

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

This is just silliness. I will be campaigning for an out and out Blairite in the coming election (alongside helping my LRC colleagues where possible). But I might be able to persuade some political allies who would rather eat their own heads than campaign for somebody who supported the Iraq War (for example) to go and do some work for Mike Wood. Isn't that a positive thing?

And let's face it, you know as well as I do, Luke, the lengths people have gone to to fix selections. You have - in the past - approved of the role of officials in 'stopping the left' so it is rather disigenuous to conjure level playing fields at this stage!

10:33 am, February 01, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Labours problems are more than just the divide between the left and right. It is the fact that most of their policies have failed.

Poverty Failed
Transport Failed
Economy Failed
Law and Order Failed
Restoring Workers Rights Failed

If Labour really want to challenge the conservatives at the next general election they really have to come up with some better ideas. Recent reports on poverty are shocking....

11:11 pm, February 01, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we need to forget about left and right politics as they are meaningless. Can't believe we are still talking about this issue.
What we need a convergence of sensible fair policies that reflect society and not dated schools of thought.


Yeah, that's how Blair phrased it. He then excluded anything sensible from the left and merrily embraced every lunatic fringe idea from the right.

6:57 pm, February 11, 2010

 

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