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Make Labour’s rules up as you go along is still the 4.5%er preference

Steve RotheramLast night, the parliamentary Labour party debated and agreed to ballot Labour MPs on a rule change from Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey – two of the MPs who last year nominated Liz Kendall – which sought to eject from his place on Labour’s national executive Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton who nominated Andy Burnham.

The justification is that he was elected to that position by MPs as a backbench representative and he is now PPS to the party leader. The fact is that the status of a PPS, frontbench or backbench, has never been very clear. What is clear is that it hasn’t stopped a PPS – to the leader or otherwise – being a backbench representative on the executive before. Ann Snelgrove was in that position from 2008 to 2010 including as PPS to Gordon Brown whilst he was leader. So far as I know, no-one questioned this at the time. 

It is of course entirely typical that those who kept silent whilst the party rules were bent, abused and simply made up during the years of command and control in what Labour Party historian Lewis Minkin called a “rolling coup” in his masterly work The Blair Supremacy described by Labour First‘s Luke Akehurst as his book of the year in 2014. What is more odd is that advocates of this change  to PLP rules should do so when:

  1. They also declarewe will oppose any constitutional changes that are designed to give a partisan advantage to the Hard Left within the party” so presumably this is OK because Steve Rotheram stands accused  of being overly loyal to the current leader.
  2. The rules for membership of Labour’s executive are not decided by the parliamentary party but are set out in the rules agreed by its conference and which call for nominations of “backbench Labour MPs“.

Now, I am happy to concede that the rules on the subject are unclear, though normal practice in such circumstances is to abide by “custom and practice” which, based on the Ann Snelgrove precedent would prevent Steve Rotheram’s ejection. But there is a further point in his favour, namely that the interpretation of the rules has nothing to do with the parliamentary party. The Party rules make this clear ([Chapter 4, Clause III A (i) (e) for those interested]:

For the avoidance of any doubt, any dispute as to the meaning, interpretation or general application of the constitution, standing orders and rules of the Party or any unit of the Party shall be referred to the NEC for determination, and the decision of the NEC thereupon shall be final and conclusive for all purposes. The decision of the NEC subject to any modification by Party conference as to the meaning and effect of any rule or any part of this constitution and rules shall be final.

It so happens that the organisation committee of Labour’s executive met this afternoon. Could it be that Margaret Hodge and her accomplice were keen to pre-empt that meeting?

3 Comments

  1. John P Reid says:

    Yes Akehurst did point out that he Blair supremacy was a difficult read regarding Blair’s dominate at the end at 1000 pages, I couldn’t fault that

    Didn’t Anne Snelgrove back Hazel blears for deputy, hardly a Brownite

  2. Bazza says:

    Yes for left wing democratic socialists in Labour there are perhaps 4 priorities.
    1. Get a good slate of left wing democratic socialists on Labour and Trade Union slates and promote them and back them.
    2. Get resolutions to conference to get power back to grassroots members.
    3. Make sure we elect left wing democratic socialists (Pro-Corbyn) as delegates to Annual Conference.
    4. Next time select left wing democratic socialists as Parliamentary candidates.
    We need ideas and organisation! Solidarity!

  3. peter willsman says:

    Bazza,CLPD seeks to do all these things and much more.Except you should have said “rule changes to Confce”,rather than “resolutions”.

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