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In defence of slates

Labour Internal ElectionsIt’s spring of an even year, and time therefore for an excess of self-promotion on social media. Why on earth, I hear you cry. Because in a few months time ballot papers will hit the doormats of two hundred thousand Labour members, for that most glamorous of glamorous elections: for members’ reps on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).

These elections have, since they were reformed in the late 1990s, been fought out between two slates of candidates. On one side, the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance: a loose coalition of left groupings which has most recently included the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), the Labour Democratic Network and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). On the other, a slate of figures from the party’s right has been put forward by the shadowy Labour First grouping. In recent years this slate has been promoted jointly with the Blairite group Progress. This year the agreement appears to have disintegrated somewhat: Labour First putting forward three candidates (Luke Akehurst, Peter Wheeler and Ellie Reeves) and Progress two (Florence Nosegbe and Kevin Peel). Labour First has, however, recommended its supporters to promote the two Progress candidates alongside “independent” Johanna Baxter.

Left Futures is supporting the Centre-Left slate, which includes sitting NEC members Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft and Ken Livingstone; CLPD secretary and former NEC member Peter Willsman; Unite activist, community organiser and NHS worker Kate Osamor; and Welsh Labour Grassroots secretary, PCS union official and Cardiff City councillor Darren Williams.

At this stage in the cycle, it is not uncommon to hear party activists say they will vote for some of the candidates on the centre-left slate, but not others. Here are three commonly-made arguments, and reasons why they are misjudged:

“I don’t like slates – I judge each candidate as an individual.”  If there is one lesson we should take from the late, great Tony Benn, it is that politics should not be about personalities, but about issues. All of the centre-left candidates have committed to a clear programme that has been distributed to CLPs along with requests for nomination, available here. Slates make candidates more accountable.

“I won’t just vote for the centre-left slate because we need balance on the NEC.”  This presumes that the election is for the entire NEC – rather than just a small section of it. The Labour leadership controls at least five places on the NEC to begin with: the leader, deputy leader and three leader’s appointments. The CLP reps on the NEC have the job of holding the leader to account, and standing up for ordinary members who are all-too-often forgotten in party machinations. Labour party staff have routinely promoted Labour First and Progress supported candidates in internal elections. Why? Could it be that candidates from the right are more likely to toe the leadership’s line? If you want your NEC reps to stand up for members when it comes to the crunch, don’t vote for candidates who are more concerned about toeing the line.

“Ken Livingstone and Ann Black voted for the Collins review, so I won’t vote for them.” It is unfortunately true that they did. But no-one is perfect, and both Livingstone and Black have proved exemplary representatives in other areas. Both have opposed the Iraq war, PFI and many other New Labour disasters. Livingstone has vociferously opposed stitch-ups of Labour candidates. Black has been thoroughly persistent in ensuring rules are followed by party staff. She has also repeatedly attempted to get the National Policy Forum to adopt policy against Trident replacement, only to be voted down by trade union delegations understandably concerned about their members’ jobs. As Christine Shawcroft wrote in the latest Labour Briefing, “We don’t have a Left slate, we have a Centre-Left slate: and that means compromise. The Blairites want to see the destruction of the CLGA. Don’t give them a hand.

CLPs have until June to make NEC and national constitutional committee nominations – but many are pressing ahead already. Make sure yours puts forward not only strong candidates – but a platform for a more democratic Labour party with a radical agenda.

3 Comments

  1. peter willsman says:

    The closing date for noms.is 20 June.The other elections are for the NCC and Treasurer.The CLGA are supporting Gary Heather for the NCC and Diana Holland for Treasurer.There is a second NCC seat and discussions are underway to agree a woman comrade as a candidate for this seat.CLPD and LRC have now reached agreement on an excellent candidate.Details will be available on LFs very shortly.By the way,as a result of our constant P taking,LabourFirst are becoming less “shadowy”.But their Sec’y,Luke Akehurst,insists on calling them “Moderates” rather than “Right Wing”.This is one of the many things I can talk to Luke about when he moves to Oxford!!

  2. John Reid says:

    I,mean really, the link that highlights the ca
    I’m that staff wants ogress, Labour first people,not that they’re linked or even combined 6 of them standing this time, doesn’t actually show any names or proof of this, the claim that the non 6 ‘centre left’ as you call them ” candidates ,are right wing is ridiculous,as far as I know, neither Johanna Baxter or Peter wheeler have ever supported wither of the Milibands for leader, and this nonsense about these Blairites,who ever they are waNt to destroy theCLGE, is ridiculous,as if there’s any power to do such a thin,g I’ll be voting for a mixture of labour first,and some of the centre left,even though I think,they’re far left, it’s just I think some are rather good,

  3. John Reid says:

    Having read Peters comment I was just wondering about the 13th person standing Crispin ,is he neither moderates or cough “centre left” lol,

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