Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Erith and Thamesmead Selection: What is the Normal Procedure?

Clearly Marianne "Unfaithful" Alapini is but one of the eight comrades and colleagues vying for selection in Erith and Thamesmead. She may have embarrassed the original Bennite and regrouped in Woking but she will, as far as I know, still be on the ballot paper come the re-scheduled selection.

But, ahead of more analysis and startling revelations on Erith and Thamesmead, what are the steps and snags in the selection process? Goes something like this, corrections and comments welcome:

1. Incumbent resigns, unpopular or lazy or aged MP re-selection is triggered, or seat is in enemy hands.
2. Selection battle commences, with the incumbent included in the case of a trigger. Constituency might yet go for a shortlist of one, having given the MP a jolt.
3. Procedures Secretary (often the CLP Secretary), some kind of committee (often the CLP Exec) and a Presiding Chair (often the CLP Chair) in place. Elections to EC posts may have been more contested than normal in the rare event of a selection. Significant choice between greybacks who were around 20 years ago the last time, and thrusting young apes and ape-esses.
4. CLP may discuss and make representations to NEC on the process, e.g. All Woman Shortlist (AWS) or not.
5. National Executive Committee decides whether seat will be AWS and advertises the vacancy. This can be strangely controversial.
6. In event of AWS decision. Various local men who covet the seat and also constituency members who didn't get their way sound off, internally and otherwise. Decision might be challenged.
7. Apparatchuck and/or Sectarian Bloggers cast aspersions.
8. Interested candidates of the correct gender or genders, including some BME (aka "Barmy" as they apparently call themselves) candidates - on the Labour Party Parliamentary Panel or not - stick in their papers. A short CV in a standard template. There may already be visibly deep and wide differences in quality. Spelling, grammar, careers to date, presentation, bullet points, paragraphs, stream or steam of consciousness ramble.
9. Would be candidates who aren't already off their marks sort out websites, campaign managers, Facebook, twitter feed, celebrity endorsements, dirt sorry discrediting angles kindly observations on opponents, positive narratives, long-lost local credentials, "weeded" extended CVs bereft of embarrassments etc etc. Also fundraising. And data mining.
10. Da Commitee decide on Da Longlist. Usually less than ten. Sometimes, in the less winnable seats, or where there is a clear "break" in the wannabes list just three or four.
11. Once long-listed would be candidates can buy a fairly up-to-date copy of the membership list. If they haven't already been working one they or their supporters happen to already have for weeks. CAVE! Some apparent members, not up to date with subs or considered contrived "gangs" could yet be purged from this working list. Some weeks grace to make good arrears. But no-one in arrears takes part in endorsement or selection meetings. Potentially like a USA jury challenging process.
12. Da Committee also decide on the target Shortlist Size. Let's say six with three or more "Barmies" in the case of an AWS. Possibly four with two. In the case of an open list equal on genders, minimum one-third BME.
13. There may be an initial constituency hustings. Perhaps with all long-listed candidates making short speeches and answering the same collection of lame generic questions decided by Da Committee. Chances this will be at the former primary school; the church where someone was baptised, confirmed, married; down at the boozy Labour Club; at the very sober mosque etc.
14. Branches and affiliates may organise "meet the wannabes" events or not, formal hustings perhaps, and each will have formal meetings and choose which candidates to endorse. Mobile 'phone company profits will soar. There may be outages during particularly intensive text fests.
15. Local units choose one open and one BME nominee in the case of an AWS, one man, one woman, one BME in an Open contest. All may be BME.
16. Unions and affiliates, such as Socialist Societies and Co-op Parties, choose one or two or three to endorse. Often just one. Union endorsements often chosen by political committees at region or even by head office rather than by members on the ground. Co-op Parties endorse only members of the CP.
17. Da Committee is convened by Chair and Procedures Secretary and weighs up the scores on the doors for all the wannabes. Decide whether to stick with the target shortlist number or vary this upwards or downwards. 50% minimum BME candidates may be a factor but that requirement could be varied. There could even be a resolution to "shortlist the lot of 'em!". How crazy would that be?!
18. More print, more campaigns, more knocking on doors, currying favour perhaps, 'phone calls, blogs, facebook etc but character assassination and McBridivism sadly still not allowed. In other words campaigning proceeds.
19. Those wishing to vote by post apply for PV status. There may even be some extraordinary measures to recruit more gang members to the unmissable PV opportunity.
20. Final Hustings and Selection called. Procedure rules for the event decided by Da Committee. PV deadline for sending by post. Can also be delivered to final hustings.
21. Hustings Takes Place. Candidates speak in turn. In order determined by lot. They are asked questions in turn. Various arcane means to determine questions. Everyone in the room at the start must stay until the end before casting their vote, on a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system.
22. SUCCESS, there has been no fist fight! Ballot Boxes are opened to gasps and yawns. The "live" ones first. Then the "postal" ones. Often more gasps at these.
23. If no candidate has hit the required moving target on first preferences the lowest candidate or candidates are exhaustively removed and their votes transferred until one has achieved that moving target. It moves because some voters don't use any or all of their transfers. Could even win in a round without getting any transfers! Some chance of the odd "message" on a ballot form.
24. The PPC is declared. Pub. Celebrations and declarations of undying loyalty to PPC. Different Pub. Recriminations. Declarations of "it's not over yet".
25. Many permutations of sour grapes, challenges, withdrawals, de-selections, and ensuing mayhem.

CLEARLY the Party, generally the Regional rather than National Office, though in London these are of course more-or-less in the same room, oversees and may intervene as they feel necessary in any number of ways up to and including taking charge of the whole thing. The NEC and the National Constitutional Committee are referee.

1 comment:

Louise Baldock said...

In 16, the Co-op Party only supports candidates who are on the Co-op Parliamentary Panel, just being a Co-op member is not enough.

I have not run a selection meeting for a while so cannot recall, but in 19 and/or 20, you could do with establishing whether or not the list of those with PVs is made available to wannabees, or not, as this is one of the sources of the malcontent.

And you need to mention the brutal tactics of some of the unions. I was once physically and verbally threatened by a GMB official, who was trying to intimidate me into supporting someone in a selection in my own constituency. I hope this is now a thing of the past, but I doubt if it has gone entirely.

You might also like to mention what happens in 23 if there is a score draw. This happened to me once in Skipton and Ripon, we only had three candidates, two were tied on all preferences, I had to run the whole thing again, but I did it all by post the second time.

Then in Scarborough and Whitby, when we had a draw, with a tie on the first preferences, I had to look at the second preferences and there was only one vote in it there.

The man who won the nomination went on to become an MP.

Nail biting stuff