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Unite conference votes to endorse mandatory reselection

Len McCluskeyUnite’s Policy Conference sent a very clear message to rebel Labour MPs yesterday by voting by an overwhelming majority to support a rule change to the Labour Party rulebook to reintroduce mandatory reselection of MPs before each general election.

The rule change, first introduced in the 1980s and then abolished under Neil Kinnock, to be replaced by the current system of ‘trigger ballots’, ensured that every sitting MP would face a full selection procedure before each new election. Initially a rule proposed by the Labour Left and the CLPD, it was designed to ensure parliamentarians remained accountable to their local parties.

The proposed system, which is the same as that which exists for Labour councillors, would allow a local party to ‘deselect’ a sitting MP if they acted against the interests of members. In fact, this is the explicit context in which Unite delegates viewed the motion, the text of which is below:

161 Re-Selection of Labour MPs

Conferences welcomes the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader as a reflection of the general mood in the labour movement against austerity. We endorse the union’s support for him.

However, we condemn the attempts of right-wing Labour MPs, in concert with hostile sections of the media, to destabilise and remove Jeremy from his democratically-elected position despite his overwhelming mandate from party members, affiliated and registered supporters. We believe these attacks are designed to return Labour to a pro-austerity position.

MPs have not got ‘jobs for life’. They represent their constituency but ultimately they are selected by and accountable to their Constituency Labour Party. To ensure democratic accountability and the rights of party members to select candidates that reflect their views, conference supports the need for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in each Parliament as essential.

We also call on Unite to support moves to bring more democracy into policy making by returning powers to the Party Conference.

The current procedure for ‘trigger ballots’ was explained in a recent article on Novara Media:

At some point in the run up to a general election the national executive committee (NEC) sets a timetable for re-selections. The NEC also sets the guidelines for this process, within the very broad parameters set out in the Labour rule book.

If the sitting MP wishes to re-stand for election the ‘trigger ballot’ process begins. This is organised by a nominated officer of the constituency Labour party (CLP), normally the secretary, and overseen by the regional office (appointed staff members).

If a majority of branches/affiliates vote ‘No’ then a full selection procedure takes place. The sitting MP has the right to appeal this decision to the NEC.


In order for the party to re-adopt mandatory reselection, it would have to be submitted to party conference, then would be debated a year later (due to the much-criticised ‘One Year Rule’, a manoeuvre to prevent left rule changes).

Many MPs may face the likelihood of a form of reselection in this parliament regardless, as MPs whose constituencies are merged may have to face each other in ‘run-off’ contests nonetheless.


  1. Tim Wilkinson says:

    Given that the party old guard is willing and able to pull off faits accomplis with as far as I am aware no legal challenge being organised, I would expect that they would attempt to see off trigger ballots, for example by delaying timetabled reselections so that trigger ballots are forestalled by dissolution of parliament.

    Where is the legal action? Momentum and the leader’s office should be initiating or co-ordinating legal challenges to all of the NEC’s recent outrageous actions. Party rules without legal enforcement clearly will not constrain these people while they remain at the levers of power. Any illusion to the contrary is demonstrably risible at this point and needs to be dismissed. FFS.

    The right didn’t waste any time instructing m’learned friends to challenge the decision that (fairly ineluctably) went against them. Why are we not doing so – when unlike the vexatious litigants of the right, we actually have a compelling case?

    For the first time my patience is getting strained by our side’s failure to implement simple, obvious and necessary measures.

  2. Syzygy says:

    @ Tim Wilkinson

    I feel the same frustration but there are rumours that legal advice is being sought.

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    I’m surprised there’s no legal action by our side as well. The enemy are fiercely fighting a determined war of attrition for every single scrap of ground. We need to do the same.

    If we can paralyse them with legal challenge after legal challenge, and injunction after injunction, then, even if we don’t win, it’ll cause inumerable delays – and all the time, Corbyn continues to remain as leader.

  4. Tony says:

    Yes, I hope this happens. Most Labour MPs were selected from carefully vetted lists. Anybody to the left of Peter Mandelson would, therefore, have found it all but impossible to get selected.

    And Angela Eagle was not the choice of her local party in the first place.

  5. David Jameson says:

    Is nobody accountable for crashing the world economy in 2008. What makes the right think that they are the moderates ??? and why do we not hold them to account for it. An open goal missed. Get shut of the lot of them.

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