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Labour right seek to curtail council selections and leadership electorate

The FixersLabour First calls itself the voice of Labour’s “moderates” dedicated to keeping the party “safe from the organised hard left, and those who seek to divert us from the work of making life better for ordinary working people and their families.” Yesterday its secretary, Labour national executive candidate Luke Akehurst, announced in a letter to supporters  that it is setting up local groups across the country. Unlike Momentum, whose local groups have a public campaigning role and seek to bring new members into the party, Labour First‘s objectives are purely factional – euphemistically explained as “a space where Labour moderates can meet up informally and build networks with like-minded people.”

It also announced that it intends to promote dramatic changes to Labour’s rule book to:

  • abandon one member one vote elections for Labour’s leader and deputy leader, instead giving Labour MPs and MEPs the equivalent voting power as well over 1500 party members;
  • abandon the £3 registered supporter scheme which brought so many new members into the party and helped elect Jeremy Corbyn;
  • give trade union members a larger share of the vote but without enabling more members to vote as they did in previous elections – meaning affiliated supporters would in practice get the same influence per £ as 14 individual members
  • deprive party members of the right to select their council candidates before each election;
  • doubling the number of councillor representatives on Labour’s national executive giving them 67 times greater representation than ordinary party members
  • also giving council Labour groups the right to nominate for party leader and deputy.

Surprisingly, the proposed rule changes which are all designed to strengthen the influence of party elites at the expense of grassroot activists would also serve the factional interests of the Labour Right. It is surprising because Luke Akehurst in his statement in support of his candidacy for Labour’s national executive commits to being a “a strong voice for transparency and accountability, Party democracy” and for “opposing partisan rule changes“. Some partisan rule changes appear to be OK. As always, the Labour Right operates according to different rules to those it seeks to apply to Labour’s left.

The changes which increase councillor representation on Labour’s executive in comparison with party member represnetation is in spite of the fact that it has previously said that “Members, who are the backbone of our campaigning, remain under-represented on the Party’s National Executive“.

They also reverse the Collins changes introduced in 2014 about which, at the time, Labour First said:

Labour First welcomes the announcement of the reform proposals that will be put to the Special Conference on 1 March. We are encouraging delegates to support the package of changes at the Conference. We are pleased that aspects of our own submission were accepted and recognise that the proposals inevitably involve a degree of compromise in order to get consensus support from across the Party and its stakeholders.”

Progress had also long supported key aspects of the Collins reforms. As it said in its submission to Collins, it supported the use of primaries and the revitalisation of the Labour Supporters Network. It quoted Stephen Twigg (Redistributing power through democratic renewal, The Purple Book, p273) who said:

One way would be to introduce closed primaries. I do not advocate open primaries where supporters of other parties could vote in Labour selections. Voting in a closed primary would be restricted to Labour supporters.

It also quoted John Mann (though he has since changed his position since he didn’t like the outcome of the leadership election) on why primaries are so important when the public’s view of our politics is so low:

Trust and faith is a two-way process and this has been damaged during this recent time of grave cynicism about politics and politicians. The opening of our democratic processes to ordinary people will help rebuild our relationship if the Labour party are to return or hold onto power both at local levels and nationally.

In the past, this website has been critical of the internal democracy of Progress. Following that criticism, extremely modest improvements were made to introduce carefully managed elections to a “management board” though it was not entrusted with managing much, and there is a little more transparency about its accounts and funding. We now know, for example, that it received an income in 2014 of £429,886 of which £260,000 was from a single donor, Lord Sainsbury.

Labour First, on the other hand, has no internal democracy of any description, has never published any information about its finances in all the 30+ years it has existed, but is now establishing local branches.

26 Comments

  1. John Walsh says:

    Interesting (author) that you feel the need to anonymise the article (by ‘Newsdesk’). Understandable, though, as the Labour First crew do indeed work in shadowy and nefarious ways. That these people are part of the Party is some shock to us naive Corbynites.

    Nevertheless, I’m kind of with you on this, but agreement is qualified by your sole focus on the Rules and seeming ambivalent attitude to the new membership. Of course, long-haul Rule change is your bag and I can see that the hoards of new members clamouring around Corbyn both get in the way and are a kind of affront to your many years of loyalty. However, the Labour First threat affects us new members too and effects election results (for you). In my constituency a Labour First financed group have seized control of the CLP and, as just one example, have secretly nominated (i.e. without the knowledge of the GC) Bex Bailey for the NEC. Given a three to two majority of new members in the constituency, the self-selected, secret controlling group are hardly representing the views of the membership.

    The point here, is that although you might want to quickly write us off as a mob (to then be, bizarrely, in agreement with Labour First), in being the focus of attacks at the local level, we are in a position to be of help in organising against our common enemies – we see and experience their movements in ways that you probably don’t. For me, this is just the kind of activity – bringing together old hands and the new targets – that Momentum could help facilitate.

    1. Luke Akehurst says:

      Can you explain what you mean by “a Labour First financed group”? We don’t fund or finance local groups in CLPs.

      1. John Walsh says:

        If that really is you LA, most intriguing that you’ve picked out the political dynamite issue of funding clandestine operations at CLP level. Sadly, not something that we can have sensible discussions about in a public forum (rest assured, however, we are on the case). Very touching to see BB on twitter being so gracious about her CLP ‘nomination’.

        1. Luke Akehurst says:

          Which CLP are you in?

          1. John Walsh says:

            Tumbleweed CLP

            … as McTernan would have it (even more intriguing that you feel the need to pursue this issue).

            While you’re here, can I ask whose idea it was to brutalise local level Party politics as a tactic to discourage the softy ‘new kinder politics’ Corbynites? It has been effective, well done. But from now on, less so, as we come to understand our enemy.

            Toodle-pip.

      2. Mo Godfrey says:

        Explain this paragraph in your latest email then Luke, you may not state that you finance them but you are certainly trying to set them up.

        We want to set up local Labour First groups on the model that we already have in places like the West Midlands and Southampton, a space where Labour moderates can meet up informally and build networks with like-minded people. If you can help initiate a group in your region, county or city, please email me.’

  2. Curlew says:

    The Labour First bullet points will provide two outcomes:

    A select few choosing a select few to take councillor jobs paid for by the taxpayer. Recipe for corruption IMHO.

    A mass evacuation by the membership – why pay £50 pa when you have zero rights?

  3. David Pavett says:

    This is important information and it is important that it is made known to as many conference delegates as possible.

    Luke Akehurst’s anti-democratic purpose is most clearly exposed in the proposal that MPs be given heavily weighted voting power in the selection of Party Leader.

    He says “It is not sustainable for a leader to be elected without substantial support among parliamentary colleagues”. For him the problem of a leader supported by the members but not by the majority of MPs should be resolved not by a democratic process in which members determine the outcome but by a bureaucratic fiddle which enables MPs to override the membership.

    Akehurst will need to follow this reasoning through by arguing that if the members support policies with which MPs disagree then, again, MPs should be able to ignore the views of the members. I doubt that he would have a problem with that. In fact this has all too often been the practice in the past but now there is a clear desire of the members to end this elitist and bureaucratic way of running a supposedly democratic party.

  4. John P Reid says:

    And yet again you put up a picture of 6 people you call the centre left slate, including livingstone and Shawcroft,both of whom got in double for endorsing non labour candidate Lufthur Rahman,,why don’t you be honest,and just call it hard left,

  5. kevin foley says:

    hard left ??

    An end to the privatisation of the NHS ( begun by the ‘moderates’, an end to the fragmentation of education (begun by the ‘moderates’) and PFI and illegal resource wars and fitness to work tyranny and deregulation of the banks. Only the fact that the party was taken so far to the right means any shift back to core labour values can be misrepresented as a move to the ‘hard left’ . The 6 people on the slate are just normal middle of the road labour people by any historic standards- as are all the newly re-joined members. it’s the neo-liberal elitist suits we have learnt to beware.

  6. Luke Akehurst says:

    The remarks about member vs councillor representation are disingenuous. Last year we recommended support for a rule change that would have nearly doubled CLP (i.e. member) reps on the NEC from 6 to 11 and ensured every region was represented. The left opposed this. It can’t be debated again for a while due to the 3 year rule.

    You also misrepresent the proposal re. council selections. We are suggesting members may choose to decide through a trigger ballot to allow popular councillors to go straight to running again without having to face a full selection with other candidates. This is exactly the same as in parliamentary selections. Members would still take the decision.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I understand what you say about trigger ballots for councillors and, as you say, this parallels the method used for MPs.

      However, the two don’t seem the same to me. Selection of councillors is per ward branch and is done by a relatively small number of people who are all known to each other. Why erect a trigger mechanism which obviously, and I guess intentionally, acts as a kind of ratchet to keep those already in post in place? It is really simple that people just propose whoever they want to propose without any such constraints. Your proposal seems to me to be essentially conservative and at the level of a few ward comrades deciding who they think would be good candidates this seems to me to be inappropriate.

      As I see it, your proposal on this is all about maintaining a status quo and holding up the influence of new ideas and new members.

      Maybe you could explain how you see it. Why do we need these barriers to open and free selection?

    2. Jon Lansman says:

      The left may have opposed your proposal on CLP representation (as did party conference by an overwhelming margin) but that was because your proposal for regionalisation of representation was designed for factional advantage, would have undermined the accountability of representatives. We need an NEC that is representative of the membership.

      As far as council selections are concerned, popular councillors will always be reselected, as you well know.

      As far as trigger ballots in parliamentary selections are concerned, they are not ballots of members at all but of branches in which a branch of an affiliated organisation with no members at all in the constituency has as much say as a members branch with hundreds. Nothing democratic about that at all.

  7. Charlie Mansell says:

    I’m not sure anyone has a good track record on their position on Collins, with some who opposed it strongly and were handing leaflets outside the Excel Centre now supporting it and some who supported it now wanting to revisit it. My view on any change is there does need to be a consistent 6 month vote/selection rule to allow the national party and local volunteers to process applications. This would be fair across the board from now on.

    Trigger ballots for Councillors through a ward member vote would still in effect be a very clear vote of confidence or no confidence in them so it will still be more direct than the indirect branch based one for MP’s. Again we probably do need a consistent policy across elected reps.

    More Councillor reps seems a good idea, but I would like CLP reps to go up by 1 or 2 as well.

    More damagingly for the case made by this article is it does not mention the ‘obey the law’ amendment. This is the current political equivalent of not having a position on the EU – a vote that has massive ramifications for places like Scotland and Northern Ireland!;) However what the amendment should really say, is that Labour will co-operate with Police and Courts when dealing with judicial and quasi-judicial processes as that would say the same thing without leading to a debate over NVDA which does has a good history in the party. This is the issue that the SWP, WRP, Comrade Bala etc fell foul of when it came to rape apologism and thus the Labour party does need need something that indicates it recognises ‘bourgeoise law’. This would clearly define it against definitionally ‘elitest, catastrophist, opportunist’ groups themselves often vulnerable through democratic centralism to domination by unaccountable charismatic psychopaths that make up the declining revolutionary groups in the UK (eg 40,000 in 1979 and just 5,000 today). A ‘no enemies on the left’ position which might have worked in the 80’s will not work in a more complex world as the Labour Party post-Savile has a safeguarding role for 14-18 year old members and we need clearer policies to protect them when there are groups in the party that neither have a published ‘safe spaces policy’ after all the rape allegations in revolutionary groups or have a clear position on how they would deal with an allegation or rape in their small organisation through the law. The definition we need in the Party will come soon, so better left and right agree a consensus on it before the media forces people defensively and grudgingly on the subject

    1. Luke Akehurst says:

      We would like 11 or 12 CLP reps. But this can’t be debated until 2018 due to the 3 year rule as it was defeated at Annual Conference last year.

  8. Richard MacKinnon says:

    If The Labour Party were a bowling club the committee have been in session since 1892 without yet voting on agenda item #1 and the greens are a small patch of equatorial rainforest.

  9. Bazza says:

    Labour (PuttingThemselves) First are right and I have to admit as a working class man that we working class men and women are thick; we need the ‘Great Men and Women History’ in Labour to lead us, to think for us; they know what is best. Simply put “We are not worthy.”
    Compared to them we are mere children and should listen to the adults; and follow unquestionably our betters.
    But then again… when I wrote that the Leadership of Labour was about members power and YOU, I meant it; and it still is, so let’s finish the mass democratic job.
    Some of us on the Left have been out campaigning to get Labour elected since December (I have been helping in two local wards) yet all we seem to have seen from the Right during the last few months is a slagging off of the Leader in the full view of the media and plotting against the decision of 60% as demonstrated here!
    I am proud to say I have just joined Momentum (and the information in the post confirms the need to do so) and whilst we are fighting for MORE MEMBERS DEMOCRACY we see how the elite right wing political imbeciles are behaving.
    So let’s get left wing democratic socialists elected as conference delegates; get left wing democratic socialist policies passed at conference (and rule changes) to give all of the grassroots MORE POWER AND DEMOCRACY (and not some of the Right more power); support the Left Wing slate for the NEC (and next time make it more democratic), and next time support left wing democratic socialists as Parliamentary candidates.
    In the end in Labour debate, ideas, and mass democracy will decide unless of course political philistines crush this flower.
    To misquote Pablo Neruda:
    “Rise up with me against the organisation of the miserable!”

  10. David Pavett says:

    I note that in an article on Labourlist in February 2014 Luke Akehurst said of the then forthcoming Special Conference on the Collins proposals (some of the decisions of which he now wants to reverse):

    The proposals have been described to me by someone near the process as a curate’s egg. This strikes me as a bit unfair, as a curate’s egg is partly bad.

  11. Bazza says:

    Oops! ‘The great men and women of history.’
    By the way left wing democratic socialists should read Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg as she destroys ‘bourgeois socialism’ – the top down, undemocratic, centralised rule, by an elite central committee, with for God’s sake secret police etc!
    Socialism FOR not socialism WITH!
    And for even more humanity read Paulo Freire and empowerment for the oppressed by drawing from people’s own experiences – bottom up.
    Throw in the politics and love from John Lennon and you have grassroots, bottom up, participatory, left wing, democratic socialism for the 21st Century.
    Plenty of theory and life experience to guide the democratic left.
    Love, peace & international solidarity!

  12. Syzygy says:

    I keep seeing ads promoting Bex Bailey on Fb … who is funding her? Progress? Labour First?

    1. Peter Gates says:

      That seems to be the case yes. One, or both. Certainly the nomination from our CLP only got through because it was done clandestinely without any reference to the membership or the GC.

    2. Luke Akehurst says:

      Not us. She is probably paying for it herself, it doesn’t cost very much.

      1. Andy Anderson says:

        Luke. Do you really think people here are brainless? We know exactly what you are up to. You are not that good at covering up. Bex fit through our CLP only because the membership wasn’t informed. There’s no way she would have even got a second look otherwise. You have people placed in the CLP and work against the democratic structures of the party. You know that. I know that. Every body reading this knows that. What some of us have is the capacity to uncover what you are up to….

  13. PETER WILLSMAN says:

    Charlie,CLPD was outside Excel with leaflets opposing Collins,we still oppose Collins.
    David,Trigger Ballots, for both MPs and cllrs.,are designed to support the status quo,which is why CLPD intends to replace TBs and is precisely why LF are so keen on them.
    John,you are a new member and may not be aware(although I have tried to tell you)that LF can be traced back to Frank Chapple and the destruction of democracy in the ETU.John Spellar MP,the Guru of LF,was Frankie’s bag carrier and down at Hayes Court kept files on all Lefties.Since that time LF have been up to every dirty trick in the TUs and in our Party.Under Blair they worked in an uneasy alliance with the Blairites(John S once told me Blairites were Right wing Trots.Unlike Blairites,LF are pro TUs(esp.when they are on Right)and so,again unlike Blairites,we have to take a deep breath and accept they are part of(the very broad!)broad church).LF have always operated in secret and often their people denied knowledge of it’s existence.But over the years some TU Gen.Secs.have(and are)always been part of LF,just like Frankie.At least Fixer- Luke is bringing LF out of the darkness.This means old and new members can see what the reactionaries are up to.Don’t say you weren’t warned!

  14. John P Reid says:

    What a sneer at the cincensus meting last night (hope Jon Lansman carries a report) it was mentioned that, we were far behind in social media, that cracking down on anti Semites who’ve infiltrated the party should be a top priority) and that many old fashioned CLPs with, long time Myers we’re going out of their way to welcome new momentum ones
    There were many people such as Sarah Hayward and Seema,who were at the labour first meeting in November at parliament who were there.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Damn typed publish before I could edit, concensus and members

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