Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Labour's NEC Today: Rules For Leadership Contest

Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) is meeting today to clarify, and possibly game, the rules and to set the timetable for the Party's leadership election. Traditionally, with only Denis Skinner MP and the Grassroots Alliance slate of lefties and internal democrats to hold them back the NEC is completely and utterly in the pocket of the leadership.

Yes, even the Trade Union representatives are programmed to suck up to the leadership of the parliamentary party; a role where following their own Union's conference decisions and traditional sector interests is subordinated to securing knighthoods and peerages for their General Secretaries and selection in safe seats for Deputies and stalwarts.

So, what are the NEC to do today? In the absence of a Prime Minister they're .. gonna have to think for themselves and represent whoever it is delegated them.

And no, comrades and colleagues, brothers and very occasionally sisters, that was not on this occasion a Miliband. The above has been, of course, a ridiculous caricature.

Here are some only slightly ridiculous pointers that may help you think things through and make the right decisions.

First some principles:

  • Multiplicity (not Duplicity): Every candidate and potential candidate for the Labour Leadership talks of "securing the widest possible field of candidates" and of "reflecting all major tendancies within our great movement". None of them want a two-horse race, whatever the whisperings and veiled threats of their henchmen. Take them at their word. Game the rules to secure this outcome.
  • Equality (of Outcome not merely Opportunity): Every party member is of course conditioned to believe deeply in equality of outcomes by gender. To help this along there are rules and procedures at just about every level of the party to ensure at very least pouting lip service is paid to equality. A branch of eight members in Esher will have a vacancy for second Vice Chair (female) rather than have two male Vice Chairs. We're serious about this stuff. There are no such rules for the leadership, deputy leadership, chair of the party at large (for which there are not even elections). You, dear NEC, in the absence of such rules must game the parameters of this contest to secure some semblance of representation.
  • Political Content (not Universal Feelgood Quackery): As the NEC you must heed the words of the candidates and potential candidates and make sure that there is a thorough unpacking of Old Labour, New Labour, Next Labour and even (just) Labour streams of consciousness; such that our great movement's ideals and ideas can be repacked in a comely and appealing fashion to turn the nation's eyes and Xs away from the Satanic ConDemNation.
  • Men, Around 40, Oxbridge educated, white shirts, Pantone ties, Dark Suits: Enough said.

    Practical Decisions:

    On Multiplicity

  • Once a candidate has received the requisite one eighth of the nominal electorate's support (33 votes), that candidate shall be deemed "full" and PLP members must then fill up the nomination sheets of other candidates so that six, seven or eight face the electoral college. Although there used to be some logic to the monopolisation of the nomination phase by the PLP with no mechanism whatsoever for affiliates or constituency members to throw up nominations, in these circumstances, and given all the talk of "as many candidates as possible", the PLP must be forced to deliver this. There shall be a mechanism so that if 150 MPs wish to suck up to one of the candidates but miss the boat on the 33 slots they can nonetheless sign a meaningless but self-aggrandising "Early Day Nomination" to demonstrate their fealty.

    On Equality

  • To be bend over backwards fair to the PLP there is no way that 170-odd men will nominate more than half a woman between them, and the 80-odd women will fall in line for fear of charges of feminism or self interest. The NEC is therefore faced with three choices:
    1. Give all MPs two nominations and insist that one is used for a male candidate and the other for a female candidate;
    2. Accept that the male MPs simply are not up to the job of nominating for equality and give only women MPs a second nomination, to be used for women only and with a proportionate threshhold of 11 nominations;
    3. Apply a "zip" mechanism - no sir, not so that only those with fly zippers may be nominated - whereby there must be a woman nominated for each man on the ballot, plus one for good luck. This may be combined with rules 1 and 2 above, and to stop it being used as a mechanism to restrict the men to two Milibands the NEC shall require that there be nine or more candidates.

    On Political Content:

  • Our potential leaders cannot of course be expected to have their own agenda that they will steamroll through whatever the will of their comrades and colleagues, party membership and affiliates, not to forget the will of the country. That's old school. From the denounced by-gone days of Brown-Blairism. But candidates will all submit to an instant poll and instant polygraph and publish their views sans weasel on the issues of the day:
  • Fair Voting, or Keep it Unfair
  • Trident Renewal, or Trust to Rust
  • Party Democracy, or see above
  • Fox Hunting, an Opportunity for Unity
  • Neo Colonial Wars, er, ditto
  • Tax Pain/Cuts Pain Admixture
  • European Union and Transatlantic Servitude
  • Democratic Socialism or Social Democracy?
  • Welfare, Work, Wages, Wealth, Well-being
  • Education, Education, Education
  • PFI, PPP, CCT, Out-sourcing, PSBR
  • The National Health Service
  • And so on and so forth

  • Naturally, all party members signed up by the end of July should be allowed to vote.

    Naturally, the process should be run to coincide with existing NEC elections to culminate at the Manchester conference.

    Naturally, there should be a major membership drive.

    Young members should continue to have a special rate. And those paying Trade Union levies should be included henceforth as individual members of the party with the net value of those levies passported through to the party.

    There should be movement over time to parity with other memberships, whose cost should be reduced and/or banded so that it is not a barrier to any comrade.

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