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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time to put a sock in it Peter

I am getting increasingly irritated by the stream of conspiracy theories about Labour's parliamentary selection process coming from Peter Kenyon at his blog http://petergkenyon.typepad.com/.

These undermine Labour PPCs and reinforce a media narrative about "parachutists" etc. that is coming not from the left but from the Daily Mail.

It is wholly inappropriate for an NEC member to publicly undermine the workings of a panel actually elected by the NEC. Any of us active in local government would be outraged if a member of our borough Local Government Committee publicly attacked the LGC's role in council selections. Peter's behaviour is the same.

Let's correct some of the insinuations that are floating about around the selection process (some but not all of them reported by Peter):

- There aren't any "parachutes" - people dropped into seats. Everyone being selected has to win a ballot of all local members.
- Supporters of the leadership haven't disproportionately benefited since the Special Selections Panel took over shortlisting - left candidates John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) have been picked, which has given the Campaign Group two more new members than they got in the whole of the period when local CLPs were picking shortlists!
- Almost all selection winners to date have been local or had local roots. Metropolitan outsiders are the exception in a tiny minority of seats - usually because they have been exceptional candidates e.g. the National Treasurer of the Labour Party.
- If Ashfield as Peter reports is an Alll Women Shortlist that actually blocks a male Special Adviser to Gordon Brown from running who would have been a frontrunner.
- If Gloria de Piero as Peter reports is running for Ashfield she is hardly a latecomer to Labour politics - before going into journalism she was a party activist in Bradford and Birmingham from the age of 16, fulltime Campaigns Officer of Labour Students in 1996-1997 and comes from a working-class background that would make her an ideal representative for a place like Ashfield.
- Jack Dromey would have won Birmingham Erdington whoever had compiled the shortlist because he shares the CLP's politics and priorities- why would one of the CLPs with the most manufacturing jobs in the country not want someone as PPC who has spent their working life as a senior official of the main manufacturing trade union?
- I very much doubt the West Midlands Labour Party is purging opponents of the Mayoral model in Stoke - Labour officials in all regions are institutionally hostile to elected Mayors and the politics of the Labour right in the West Midlands is particularly anti-Mayoral models.
- Luciana Berger was selected by local members in Liverpool Wavertree based on a shortlist they drew up not one devised by the NEC. She won because she is a brilliant campaigner and despite not being from Liverpool, not because of any NEC jiggery-pokery.

Peter should try actually talking to Party staff and his NEC colleagues about the story behind selections rather than speculating based on gossip, innuendo and stories in the Mail.


Blogger Hughes Views said...

Well said Luke. Some, often on the more extreme left or right, love conspiracy theories. They give them a reason to believe that their eccentric views, which seem so obviously true and reasonable to them, are mainstream. In their view it is only the work of powerful plotters that prevent them being widely embraced.

I have some sympathy for young people who believe that conspiracies rule our world but anyone over about 35 should have learnt from their own experience that it isn't so. Life is, thank goodness, far more complex and interesting.

An observation: it's mildly amusing that the people who allege intricate conspiracies are often the very same people who, at other times, deride as hopeless incompetents the very people they claim to be so successful at controlling us through conspiracy.

Another observation: why should a "local" candidate be preferred over a more competent one from far away? What's so wonderful about being a local? Xenophobia's an awful affliction...

12:13 pm, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Nice try. But this is about openness, transparency and accountability. Members'rights are being being stripped away whether by default or design. I am opposed to the administration of the fast-track system, I was opposed to it being implemented as early as it was, and I am determined to keep the spotlight on these issues.

Thanks for further encouragement.

12:19 pm, February 28, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


there is a perfectly good prima facie argument that CLPs should determine their own shortlists until as late as possible in the process. I happen to support that.

Why don't you argue the principle rather than making allegations of stitch-ups in specific seats in a way that is insulting to your NEC colleagues on the panel and damages the PPCs selected?

12:55 pm, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Andrea said...

Various points related to Luke's point and to selections in general

- There are not parachutes because the final say is always in memebership's hands....I guess no-one will deny it (apart maybe the Telegraph and the Daily Mail..but I wouldn't even swear they know what they are talking about).
The usual raised "accusation" is that candidate X or Y may have a facilitated task because of the shortlist composition

- Related to the previous point...from an outside perceptive as it is mine, the thing I wonder about is that to judge the Panel's work in regard to the "shortlist's composition" problem is that we don't often know the list of applicants.
That's the key IMO. If you know who applied, you can have a general idea of the job done.
Who else applied in Erdington? I don't know and so I can't say if there were other people who could have given Dromey a run for his money (he won pretty easily 2 days ago and as Luke implied, he may very well had won the selection even in a normal contest run by the CLP because of his profile).

- Looking at the shortlists in supposed "safe" seats since the Special Selection Panel took over, many of them (Tyneside North, Wansbeck, Gatehead) were totally uncontroversial (actually some can argue the most controversial thing in those 3 is that Lavery is still in the Labour Party). I think that if the selection had taken place 12 months ago, it would have produced similar shortlists.
Erdington and Leyton were the "much talked" ones.
The 2 Welsh shortlists are MIA.

- locals vs not locals...I once read a description (by opponents) for a local candidate defeated by an outsider in a selection contest..."local mediocracy"..I liked it because it underline one problem: the local person is not always the brightest one and so he/she may be outshined during the process by an up and coming outsider.
Someone has not the "right" to be selected just because he/she is local. That doesn't mean locals are not good either!

- The media narrative...as I said, someone they seem not to really know what they are talking about. Remember the Erith selection?
The Times' leader calling for Gold's selection..where they showed they didn't really know the contenders...their "left" candidate was actually not the real "left" candidate!
All article at the time in general ignored the candidate who ended up winning! They created a Blairite vs Brownite battle between 2 candidates which didn't reflect in the final result (they may influenced it killing both chances??).
Ah, and the media always say "candidate X ready to be parachuted in safe seat"...I don't consider Ashfield as a safe seat (because of all those local elections' losses including one this week), but I think it should be clear that Sherwood and Wavertree are marginal seats.
But again, we know it, the Mail/Times/Telegraph piece wouldn't sound right with "candidate X parachuted in marginal seat Y that can easily be lose anyway"

1:17 pm, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Harriet Harperson said...

All female selection lists!! yeah right is Jack Dromey a transexual???

7:57 pm, February 28, 2010

Blogger John Wiseman said...

I work in the Liverpool Wavertree Consitituency. Luciana is a nice person, but MP, far too young and inexperienced. Luke the party can't benefit from these selections come on!


8:41 pm, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course to get a seat it never hurts if you are a one of the union paymasters and conveniently married to the champion of all wimmin shortlists. Nepotism anyone? All Labour members are equal but it seems that some are more equal than others!

10:14 pm, February 28, 2010

Anonymous Anon E Mouse said...

"Jack Dromey would have won Birmingham Erdington"...

...but he didn't - Brown may have won a Labour leadership election but he didn't either.

It's inconsistent and undemocratic is all.

7:46 am, March 01, 2010

Blogger Twig said...

Quite right Luke, we can't let this kind of innuendo go unchallenged.

The mail are at it again here: Hoon's Seat up for Grabs

How very dare they!

9:22 am, March 01, 2010

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

- Supporters of the leadership haven't disproportionately benefited since the Special Selections Panel took over shortlisting - left candidates John Cryer (Leyton & Wanstead) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) have been picked, which has given the Campaign Group two more new members than they got in the whole of the period when local CLPs were picking shortlists!

Campaign Group-inclined PPCs have been selected in several other areas from CLP-picked shortlists. Off the top of my head, in Bury St Edmunds, Yeovil, the People's Republic of Tunbridge Wells and Hampshire.

9:48 am, March 01, 2010

Anonymous David Bedford said...

Re: post from John Wiseman.
I have lived in the Wavertree constituency for over 20 years and fully support Luciana Berger. What has age got to do with it? She has a fantastic track record, and her political and local knowledge is excellent. I approached her for assistance on a personal matter, and she knew who to speak to and where to go, and got straight to the heart of the matter. That is what I want from my local MP. She has got great political experience too, so why should her age be relevant? Are we saying candidates have to be a certain age to stand? We had a shortlist to choose from, and Luciana is democratically elected by a clear 66% of the vote. All of these diversionary discussions are just playing into the hands of the Lib-Dems.
David Bedford, Wavertree

10:10 am, March 01, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Sorry JJJ I forgot we were on-track to win those seats!

10:14 am, March 01, 2010

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Never had you down as a defeatist, Luke.

10:15 am, March 01, 2010

Anonymous tim f said...

Hughes Views - this is not about being on the extreme left; Peter Kenyon's politics are after all quite moderate. It comes from a liberal mindset of being obsessed with process, even to the extent of costing the people your party represents by smearing the Party in the middle of an election campaign.

Peter, please shut up and get campaigning.

10:26 am, March 01, 2010

Blogger Diane Abbott MP said...

Luke is being less than fair to Peter Kenyon. Being an elected member of the National Executive of the Labour Party is not analogous to being a member of an LGC. The NEC is the sovereign body of the party. Not only is Peter within his rights to comment on polcy issues in relations to selections as they affect the rights of the ordinary member, he has an absolute responsibility to look out for the rights of ordinary members. Luke is making a mistake which is common on his wing of the party. He is conflating what is convenient for the leadership with the interests of the party as a whole. It may well be convenient for the leadership to parachute in candidates at this stage, but it is not how you build a strong party. And it is not right. Luke tries to imply that in raising these issues Peter is complicit in some media conspiracy. On the contrary, these complaints always come from local party members in the first place. And, in trying to accuse Peter of smearing candidates, Luke raked over selections that Peter never even mentioned. This seems an odd way to support the candidates concerned.

12:48 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous tim f said...

Sorry Diane, but Peter as a member of the NEC can contact CLPs, visit and report back to them and in doing so raise any specific concerns he has about the selection process and encourage them to take part in a campaign to change it. He does not have to publish for media attention controversial allegations many of which seem to be pure speculation.

There IS a media narrative that the party machine parachutes people into every safe or marginal seat going. It is grossly exaggerated and where it does happen to any extent it is only what has always happened in a few seats. (Not to say it should happen at all, but let's get some context here: this is not a new thing.) Peter should not be using his platform as an elected member of the NEC to feed the hand that bites us.

1:58 pm, March 01, 2010

Blogger Jessica Asato said...

I think the 'parachuted' narrative just doesn't stand up when you look at some recent selections. For example, Anna Turley, a former special adviser to Hilary Armstrong ran in Hilary's seat, but didn't win. Polly Billington, a special adviser narrowly lost out in North Tyneside. I bet if they had won, they would have been accused of being 'parachuted' in, yet no one comments when the reverse is true. Both of them would make great MPs. I think it is sad that the use of AWS (which I support) is leading some parties to automatically choose the local candidate, when it really ought to be the person who is best for the job. Nothing in Labour's history suggests that only local candidates can become good MPs for an area.

Peter Kenyon seems confused about his role in the party. On the one hand he says that members' views should be paramount and sacrosanct. Yet, when members make a choice of candidate that he thinks is 'parachuted' their choice somehow doesn't count. At the end of a day, if someone wins a selection it is because more members voted for them. Most members I meet aren't suckers and are less easily hoodwinked than Peter would want us to think. Generally the people who do win are the ones who work the hardest, or have the most union backing. Who could oppose that?

1:59 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous David Bedford said...

Re Diane’s comments
As a Wavertree voter, I didn’t feel that we had a candidate parachuted in. We had an all-female list to choose from, which included a local candidate, one who had lived in Liverpool for years and one who has been involved with and visiting Liverpool for 10 years. We chose the best candidate in our opinion who will do the job we need her to do. That is Luciana. She won two thirds of the vote, so where is the problem there? We could have chosen the local candidate but we didn’t.
This “being local” issue was then raised by............... our local Labour MP for Walton, Peter Kilfoyle. Not the Lib-Dems who were laughing their socks off at Labour. This issue has now been hanging around for weeks, with most of the hassle coming from Labour people. Now, does this remind you of something? Back in 1979 when the unions decided to make the Labour government come to their senses, they did. It brought in Maggie Thatcher who couldn’t believe her luck. Are we that naive that we are going to let this happen again. To everyone I ask a simple question: do you want a Labour government returned at the election? If the answer is Yes, then we need to stop acting like children throwing dummies out of the pram and come together as a party. If the answer is: “Oh Gordon stop parachuting candidates in, we want local people, we’re left-wing, we’re socialists, we’re new labour, old labour, nya nya nya nya” then, to cut the long story short, your answer is “No, I don’t want to return a Labour government” because that is what will happen. Doesn’t anyone remember the years in exile? If we have differences, which we do and that is free speech, let’s sort that out between us and not in the national media where we will self-destruct and hand victory to David Cameron. Is that what you want? Come on, let’s talk about the great things that a Labour government has done, and not be sitting here in 10 years from now regretting the in-fighting and squabbling that handed power over to the Tories again!
David, Wavertree

2:29 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that anyone would think Peter Kenyon should act in the interest of anyone other than himself. He has always been a divisive, self seeking individual, who has an inflated ego (god knows why)and is bitter and twisted because he's finished and all washed up in the party. No one takes him seriously.

2:31 pm, March 01, 2010

Blogger richard.blogger said...

When it comes to the 'locals' issue let's get this straight, an MP represents the constituency, if they go into Parliament and fail to do that primary role then they should be de-selected.

Does someone have to be born in a constituency to represent it? No, but it may help. Does someone have to have lived all their life in a constituency to represent it? No, but it may help. Does someone have to actually have been in the constituency for at least one day before the selection meeting to be able to represent it. No, but it may help.

May, may, may. It does not mean that they will. The best candidate may well have been born and bred in a constituency, but equally so, the best candidate may come from outsode the community. The important point is they they actuall *represent* the constituency, and if they do not do that then they do not deserve to be the MP.

2:35 pm, March 01, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think there may be a feeling that some candidates have more 'national support' and thus access to contacts and resources than others.

I think Berger's selection was a major mistake, and it may well lead to a LD victory, but frankly, I couldn't and wouldn't vote for Berger under any circumstances.

4:35 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Andrea said...

"I think it is sad that the use of AWS (which I support) is leading some parties to automatically choose the local candidate, when it really ought to be the person who is best for the job."

Why do you think it's necessarily linked to AWS? Don't you think those same CLPs would have made a "local person" choice (just maybe changing the candidate gender but with a more or less a similar profile) anyway even with an Open shortlist?

5:42 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous David Bedford said...

To Merseymike
For courtesy, let us refer to our candidate as either Luciana or Miss Berger.
Secondly, why would you not vote for her?
Are you a Tory or a Lib Dem?
if you are a labour supporter living and voting in Wavertree, then surely you should vote Labour so that we can return a Labour government?
Unless you don't support Labour, i fail to understand why you wouldn't support a Labour candidate.
Could you enlighten me?

7:59 pm, March 01, 2010

Blogger steve said...

Dear Luke
I am a long standing Labour Party Member in Ashfield, and contacted Peter as an NEC rep to complain about the lack of transparency to select a candidate for Ashfield. As soon as Geoff Hoon had announced he was standing down I received a text from someone who has contacts within the NEC that a decision to decide if Ashfield would be an open list or AWL would be deferred for two weeks, then Ashfield would then be declared AWL and neighbouring Mansfield declared open list this is despite Mansfield MP Alan Meale is still standing as far as I can tell. And this is what happened this Thursday, Ashfield is declared an AWL, despite the regional party consultation with Ashfield Party Members who voted for an open list. I don't have a problem with AWL but there should be open transparency not using AWL to engineer people in to seats. I could say a lot more about the way things are being conducted in Ashfield which frankly is shameful of the Labour Party. It's easy to knock Peter Kenyon but he is one of the few party members that I can see is standing up for the ordinary party member

8:22 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous Kier Hardie said...

Luciana Berger
Jack Dromey
Gloria De Piero

Makes me sick

Luke you'll never be a Labour MP unless you have a sex change and stay in a wheelchair

10:46 pm, March 01, 2010

Anonymous David Bedford, Wavertree said...

That last anonymous comment has shocked me and left me feeling sick. As someone who is disabled, I find it disgraceful that someone can sink to these levels just to make a point. It is not big and it is not clever. If that is your opinion, then clear off and join a party of bigots.

Again I will make a simple point. In Wavertree, our shortlist consisted of 1 local candidate, 1 Liverpudlian who had moved away but would come back, and 1 who had connections with Liverpool but was from down south. There was then a democratic election where the people of Wavertree selected the best candidate with a two-thirds of the vote.
Where is the problem? If we don't have a problem within Wavertree of having a non-local MP, then leave us alone to fight the Tories, instead of having Labour members doing the Tory's job for them!

9:38 am, March 02, 2010

Anonymous dan mccurry said...

They could have had a ton of open selections but deliberately held them back in order to have imposed selections, using the excuse of time limits. This is not a conspiracy theory, and I hope you're not going to support this kind of thing if you get on the NEC.

12:40 pm, March 02, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

I wouldn't be prepared to vote for her because of her stance on Israel, David, in the same way that I will not vote for the current MP in this constituency because of his voting record on gay rights

In other words whilst I am disposed to vote Labour, there are situations in which I would not

12:21 am, March 03, 2010

Anonymous Rock said...

Hello Luke... Let's exchange link. your link is already there in my blog. Linkback please...

Text Link : ROCK
URL : http://upex.blogspot.com/


10:41 pm, March 03, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget, for those of us with long memories - Diane Abbott had no connection with Hackney before her selection, and probably wouldn't have been seen dead there. She came along from upmarket Westminster, via leafy Harrow, and because the local party wanted a black person, was in the happy position of being in the right place at the right time. She has been self serving - sorry, I mean serving the people of Hackney ever since.

10:25 am, March 04, 2010

Blogger Diane Abbott MP said...

I am not sure what point anonymous is making. I am not against candidates from outside the constituency. I am against rigged selections which 1) undermine the possibility of rank and file local party members making a genuine free choice 2) allow the party machine to parachute people in.
My own selection in 1986 could not have been more open.And I was the candidate the party machine hated most.
In fact it was so open a London Labour Party official said to me cheerfully afterwards that had they understood that I had any chance of winning, they would have blocked me.
I was indeed a Westminster councillor, as anonymous touches on. But Westminster is a big borough. And the Harrow Road ward in Paddington which I represented (and was born in) was jolly and muliticultural but scarcely "leafy".

9:27 pm, March 04, 2010

Anonymous Isle of MAN said...

I am a white man. I do not have problem with positive discrimination.
I hate jobs for the boys. It is OK to let in some other people to have a voice.

11:02 am, March 05, 2010

Anonymous Plato said...

Anon 10:25 AM, March 04, 2010 thanks for dishing the dirt on the Abbott, very interesting reading

9:46 pm, March 05, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gloria de piero and any others are being pushed from a selection list chosen by the NEC. Local members have ever right to be angry about this after being exploted by Hoon for 18 yrs.
In Ashfield we needed the selection process to get our house in order and debate the future of the local party. This has been denied and we have no vocie to express this. There is no conspiracy from our end.

4:54 pm, March 06, 2010

Anonymous carlr said...

What Luke is saying can be summarised, I believe, as the following.

1. Labour is a "broad church", but where people of the "wrong" side are to be denied influence and power wherever possible.

2. However, it is expected that all members of the congregation will support the back-room operations of the Party, no matter what.

3. Young Friends of Israel have an automatic right to safe Labour seats should they want them. It's vital that Zionists control Labour policy at all levels.

4. Any attempt to question the back-room operations of the Party from the point of view of transparency - or even basic competency - will be regarded as treachery as there is an Election coming up (there is always an Election coming up when these questions are raised).

5. Decision-making regarding the operation of the Labour Party should be left to Those Who Know Best.

10:53 am, March 07, 2010

Blogger Diane Abbott MP said...

The leader of Luke's own union had this to say about rigged parliamentary selections in an interview in the New Statesman last week-end "Now when you go the selections the local accented, not necessarily university educated and "aware-of-real-life" people do not seem to stand a chance against the clean-cut smooth-talking "wll-supported-by-the-party" people who are just being parachuted in" I await with interest Luke's new post entitled "Time to put a sock in it Derek Simpson"

6:38 am, March 08, 2010

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