Labour selections

City electors

First published on ProgressOnline

Candidates for city mayors face a breakneck selection process

While the people of London are choosing whether they want to return Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson to City Hall, the citizens of 10 of the country’s biggest cities outside the capital will be deciding if they too want to have a directly elected mayor.

As Progress has long argued, the challenges faced by Britain’s cities – low skill levels, an acute gap between rich and poor, high unemployment, underperforming schools, and too few private sector businesses – require a radical change to their governance. As in London, mayors could not only bring increased accountability, but act as a champion for jobs, growth and investment, and a powerful voice for the cities in Whitehall. (more…)

Making the most of primaries

First published in Progress magazine

We should automatically trigger primaries where party membership falls below a certain threshold, says Richard Angell

Primaries are an idea whose time has come in British politics: the coalition agreement mapped out plans for 200 all-postal primaries in this parliament, and last year Bassetlaw Labour engaged 6,000 local Labour supporters in a primary to determine their MP John Mann’s vote in the leadership election. Now the party there is bigger, stronger and has just won back a majority on the council – no small achievement. (more…)

Our island story

First published in Progress magazine

Straight after the local elections Labour will embark on selecting its first 26 candidates for general election 2015, all in seats we lost at the last election which have been designated ‘island’ seats, unlikely to be adjacent to other Labour seats after the forthcoming boundary review. In every constituency the Labour candidate will be up against incumbent Tories, apart from one Liberal Democrat, in Norwich South. Spread across the south, Midlands and eastern England, they are key targets for Labour and tests for the leadership. We must win all of these to gain a Labour majority in the next parliament.

Being selected so early in a parliament has obvious downsides – it is going to be a long old slog till the next election. But those willing to grasp the nettle have a unique opportunity to prove themselves and trial a new style of organising.

Selection for these seats will provide a vital voice for Labour in areas where we currently go unheard. With Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire all without a single Labour MP, those willing to start campaigning now will deliver real change locally. Important seats like Crawley, Dover, Harlow, Hove, Ipswich and Waveney are miles away from any Labour MP’s route home to their constituencies, so visits there from shadow cabinet members and MPs are going to take extra effort, time and resources. Just having candidates in place making these demands of the upper echelons of the party will push their seats up the agenda. We desperately need to reacquaint ourselves with voters in these regions and motivate new and existing party members to fight back for Labour. (more…)

Embracing reform

First published in Progress magazine

In the run-up to the last general election, it was not uncommon for fewer than 200 party members in safe Labour seats to effectively decide the constituency’s next member of parliament. In power, Labour shied away from creating opportunities for non-members to help select our candidates. At the same time, we saw our membership decline and disengage, allowing smaller and more vocal groups to dominate stagnating CLPs.

Paradoxically, opposition presents an opportunity to revitalise the party and put this disturbing trend right. Our growing membership now offers us the chance to look with confidence at how to broaden Labour’s engagement with non-members in the selection of both our candidates and party leader. (more…)

Closed shop

First published in Progress magazine and LabourList

Labour selections are long due an overhaul, but are new proposals a step backwards?

Barnsley Central’s selection of former paratrooper Dan Jarvis as its by-election candidate stands out for its choice of a new face with a different background. But the National Executive Committee’s new rules look set to restrict what can already be an opaque system.

The current assault course for wannabe MPs constitutes a 12-week process starting with self-nomination and access to membership lists, knocking frantically on doors and telephoning members. Four weeks in, a members’ event is organised and six weeks in branch meetings nominate up to three candidates. Anyone winning nominations in branches with a membership totalling more than half the CLP’s membership is shortlisted. The remainder are selected from those nominated by ward branches, unions and affiliates, and CLP equalities groups like Young Labour, women or BAME by members of the CLP’s General Committee. The prospective MP is finally decided by AV at an all-members’ hustings meeting. (more…)