Members of such parties, which often describe themselves as ‘leaderless’, get purged at the whim of those who call the shots. Appointments are made to top positions, and the organisation’s members won’t hear until it’s final.
But it’s hard to make this criticism once you realise that there are forces at work in your own party which don’t even bother to pay lip-service to democracy.
Anyone following the election for Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) will be aware that there is one slate of candidates endorsed by Labour First and Progress.
Although they put their differences aside to fight Labour moderates and left-wingers in internal elections, these hard-right factions seem to share little more than a mutual dislike for each other.
But today it emerged that they share one more thing: a sheer brazenness about their contempt for standard organisational practice and accountability.
Only last month, Progress members took to Twitter to hail their new chairman, Lord Adonis. Despite the fact that the Progress team bleat on about the need to widen democratic participation in selecting Labour candidates, there was no mention of how m’Lord had achieved this honour.
Shortly afterwards, Wes Streeting, leading Progress supporter, councillor and former NUS President took to Twitter to defend the appointment. Astonishingly, he argued that he “did not see the need to vote”. He later added that “if people don’t support it, they don’t have to be in it.” North Korea style.
So who appointed Adonis? What procedure do Progress follow for such appointments?
On these matters, along with much else, Progress remains cloaked in a veil of mystery.
But as if Streeting wasn’t proud or blunt enough of his faction’s democratic failings, Labour First leading light Luke Akehurst went a step further on his own Twitter account yesterday. In passing, he happened to mention the organisation’s upcoming Annual General Meeting.
Now you’d expect any political group which holds an AGM to be one you can join and hold its leadership to account. But alas, no. Akehurst argued that Labour First is “a mailing list, not a membership organisation.”
He shamelessly continued: “As I send the emails, I decide who is on the mailing list.”
Hold on a minute. A faction which presents slates of candidates for internal elections, and its membership is controlled by one man?
Challenged on how the faction came up with its list of candidates, Akehurst replied “consensus”. Would that be consensus among all his appointed members, or among an even smaller group he appoints for the purposes of drawing up a slate? We deserve to be told.
Completely aside from this, most Labour members would find the concept of an inanimate “mailing list” endorsing candidates rather bizarre. When they read “Labour First”, they would understandably expect a transparent organization they could get involved with if they so pleased.
With Progress coming under criticism for its shady ways this week, it is clear why this matters. It is clear the Labour right are interested in more than promoting an arena for debate, going as far as training its preferred candidates for selection battles.
Autocratic factions posing as legitimate organisations have no place in a modern, democratic party.