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Blairites are up in arms about Falkirk because they fear they’ve lost their monopoly in fixing seats

It’s difficult to know what’s really been happening in Falkirk because the Tory press are having a field day, but you can never believe a word from the propaganda organs of the Mail, Sun, Telegraph or Times, while even the faintly ‘progressive’ press including the Guardian have been giving full voice to the anti-union brigade. It is repeatedly claimed, though without any supporting evidence, that Unite signed up a significant number of new members for the forthcoming selection.

Let us be clear about this: it is regular practice in most contested selections, and New Labour (and no doubt also the Tories and LibDems) have constantly resorted to this kind of tactic over the last decade or more. That doesn’t of course make it right or desirable, but it is noteworthy that it only comes to light in the media when it looks as though the ‘wrong’ side is likely to win.

There are indeed very good reasons why the balance in the PLP should be tilted, exactly as Unite says, towards making it more representative of the Britain it purports to speak for. At present it is anything but. The Labour Party is (or should be) the main organisation in Britain that fights for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the working class as well as for the prosperous, but principled, middle class.

Yet more than 80% of the PLP today would be categorised as middle class and the number of Labour MPs who genuinely ‘connect’ in culture, language and outlook with their working class roots is tiny. This is not healthy for the Labour Party, for politics or for Britain, and Unite and other unions and pressure groups are right to try to change it.

Of course it is right to clean up politics, but that is an all-round job. Why was the media never up in arms throughout the last two decades about the Blair-Brown party machines parachuting in their favourites from London and the South-East or wherever?

Why did they never investigate how they got them selected, by getting the regional secretaries put in place at the start of the Blair regime to instruct local parties who the candidate preferred by the leadership was and telling them actively to canvass for that person, and if all else failed there were always the ballot boxes and postal votes that could be tampered with? That is precisely how we arrive today at a PLP still heavily slanted towards the Blair-Brown-Mandelson Right, and though their influence is waning, it is still grossly disproportionate to Labour Party values and sentiment throughout the country.

Their one argument, which they ensured was constantly voiced at Question Time last night, was that the Labour Party should stick to the centre ground and not move Left. What they don’t seem to realise is that the PLP is currently out on a limb well to the Right of Centre, and that public opinion in the country is well to the Left , not only of the Westminster bubble, but also of the PLP.


  1. jaydeepee says:

    From the Guardian letters:

    However, the unions’ experience of the New Labour machine was the manipulation of almost all the parliamentary selections in winnable seats between 1994 and 2010. Research for my upcoming book on New Labour shows that candidates were, in effect, hand-picked. Leadership favourites were given exclusive advance access to local party members. This was frequently as long as two years before a selection. In many cases, “undesirable” candidates were not enabled to have contact with local members until the last week of the process. By this time many postal votes had been cast. Postal votes were freely given without evidence of need (as at Erith and Crayford in April 2009, reported in the Guardian). So, many postal votes were cast by members before they could meet and assess candidates, other than the favourite, at the final hustings interviews. Some candidatures, for example Calder Valley (2009), were won entirely on postal votes.

    Far from “welcoming and engaging with a whole range of people” as Blunkett recommends, the unions’ experience of selections under New Labour was that only Blairite disciples were acceptable.’

  2. John says:

    A good bit of, I know I am but what about you

    As a defence there, MrMeacher

  3. Lynne Jones says:

    And don’t forget the practise of offering peerages to facilitate the selection of favoured candidates in safe seats!

  4. John says:

    Any proof on this Lynne?

  5. Steven Taylor says:

    Tom Pendry, MP for Hyde & Stalybridge, gets a last minute peerage allowing that well known revolutionary James Purnell to be appointed candidate.

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