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Skinner knocked off Labour executive – election interference seems a yearly event

Dennis Skinner1Dennis Skinner was yesterday unceremoniously booted off Labour’s national executive by Labour MPs. Voting for two of the three seats representing backbench MPs and all MEPs (Margaret Beckett was elected unopposed under gender balance requirements) put chalenger John Healey miles ahead on 216, with Steve Rotherham edging Dennis Skinner out by 133 to 121. Dennis Skinner has represented backbench MPs on the executive for 15 years and had previously represented constituency parties for twenty years until a ban on MPs standing in that section was introduced. As we reported last week:

Given the closeness of some recent votes on the NEC and the fact that both Steve Rotherham and Dennis Skinner are known to speak their minds and vote accordingly, it isn’t difficult to work out what is going on in this contest.

Although those standing must be backbench MPs (or MEPs), the electorate includes all MPs (in accordance with party rules although in the last election, in error,  only backbenchers were allowed to vote). With the front bench entitled to a vote, it is very easy for the leader’s office to influence the outcome.

There are likely to have been a substantial number of trade union and left MPs who will have voted for both Dennis Skinner and Steve Rotherham – almost certainly a clear majority of each of their votes. With an electorate of 258MPs and 20 MEPs, arithmetically, we know that there were up to 43 abstentions plus up to 86 people who voted for only one candidate. We can therefore deduce that there must have been a significant number of voters who cast just one vote for John Healey.

Had the leader’s office wished to influence the outcome it would have been sufficient to persuade a reasonable number of front-benchers to vote only for John Healey (the one candidate who could be relied upon to back Ed Miliband in any issue where he needed it) to guarantee his election and a fairly small number to back Steve Rotherham who may have been seen as preferable to Dennis Skinner, in order to ensure that he came second. That would minimise the chances of being seen to be interfering, or campaigning against Skinner and  is certainly consistent with the facts. And the size of John Healey’s lead is frankly implausible without such an intervention. And it is supported by the Guardian report that “one party source said Skinner had been a victim of the leadership’s determination to ensure that Healey, a loyalist, was elected to the NEC.”

Mark Ferguson at LabourList says “That doesn’t ring true to me” of the suggestion of a plot to get rid of Skinner and his colleague, Emma Burnell adds “This isn’t conspiracy, it’s maths. The votes just went a different way. To other excellent candidates.” I disagree. The maths says the opposite.

John Healey is a popular MP. He did come in second place in the 2010 shadow cabinet elections with 192 votes having not previously been in the Cabinet. That made him the ideal candidate to persuade to stand. But on that occasion, MPs had to cast at least 12 votes and most cast more than that. On this occasion, MPs could only cast two votes and both Skinner and Rotherham are also widely liked and respected. The proof is in the wide range of MPs who have tweeted their sorrow at Dennis’s rejection:

Of course, just because someone regrets Dennis’s departure you shouldn’t assume that they actually backed him. With this range of support, Dennis should have topped the poll.

Party members will miss Dennis. His removal is a travesty. After last year’s fiddling in the conference arrangements election, election interference seems a yearly event. You may well wish to change the outcome. You could always sign the Change.org petition which currently has not far short of 5000 signatures.

10 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Some of those tweets come on Murphy are you kidding me, the bloke is a Blair-rite Progress, to him and his kind Dennis would be the people they want gone.

  2. jeffrey davies says:

    it seems his showing up the tories has rifled his own little tory party and had that stab in the back by the blairites jeff3

  3. swatantra says:

    Well done! Rotheram. Congratulations!

  4. peter willsman says:

    Many Party members will take the same line as LabourList and want to convince themselves that elections in our Party are fair and above board.Sadly this is not the case.Last year after the CAC Election a number of delegates,from several different Regions, came forward and said full time officials encouraged them to vote against Katy and myself.This is totally against the Code of Conduct and, to me, is little different to ballot rigging.An investigation is underway.We have a good idea who was behind it.LeftFutures will keep you updated.

  5. Robert says:

    I think over the years and if you have been around politics of all parties you know the issues and the rigging that can go on.

    The offers if you vote one way of another, nothing surprises me anymore I think maybe that Dennis seat is now required for the son of some leader or MP…

  6. Dan Filson says:

    May I humbly suggest that the reaction to Dennis Skinner’s enforced retirement from the NEC is safely predictable and wrong. There was no conspiracy and to talk of ballot-rigging is plainly absurd.

    Given the relative weakness of the left in the PLP, as witnessed by the problems Diane Abbott and John McDonnell had in getting nominations for the leadership election, his 121 votes should actually be hailed a triumph, as it represents both the respect in which he is held by many in the centre of the Party as well as on the left.

    I suggest that no member of the NEC has a seat for life and whilst there should be no upper age limit it would have made sense for him to have retired with dignity and got MPs to back a younger member like John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn, both of whom speak for many in the Party. Whether either, or anyone else for that matter, would have done better than Dennis, I cannot say, but one thing is certain: the problem is that the PLP is essentially not very radical and afraid of those who both are and are also articulate.

  7. Paul says:

    “Arithmetically, we know that there were up to 43 abstentions plus up to 86 people who voted for only one candidate. We can therefore deduce that there must have been a significant number of voters who cast just one vote for John Healey.”

    This is the only part of the article that has any evidential basis, and even this is incorrect. If a dozen people didn’t vote, then you could deduce that 62 only voted for 1 person. But whether they voted for Healy isn’t something you can deduce, it’s something you’re guessing.

    As someone who generally agrees with the policy positions of Left Futures, I find it rather ridiculous that you’re supporting a petition that says we reverse the results of a democratic election because the result seems like something that wouldn’t happen in an uncoerced vote.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Paul: My conclusion that “here must have been a significant number of voters who cast just one vote for John Healey” is based on the premise (admittedly my own supposition) that “There are likely to have been a substantial number of trade union and left MPs who will have voted for both Dennis Skinner and Steve Rotherham”. The more people who backed both Skinner & Rotherham, the more must have voted for only Healey.

      I don’t actually think that the result of this or any other election should be changed just because of a petition saying that it should (though I am in favour of a power of recall to trigger new elections for MPs). I just wanted to draw attention to the petition which I do think is a way of registering solidarity with Dennis Skinner in an election in which I suspect there has been coercion.

      1. Paul says:

        I think your supposition is incorrect. Healey is the second most popular MP in the PLP according to the shadow cabinet vote, so I’d argue he’s likely to attract votes from across the party, including among trade union and left MPs.

        Your suspicions are not well supported, i’ve seen Daily Mail articles with more meat on the bones of speculation.

  8. SoulBoy says:

    If every MP who had tweeted or commented that they were sad to see Dennis lose his seat had actually voted for him, he would most likely still be on the NEC.

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