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Corbyn considers granting members right to elect Shadow Cabinet

JC with ordinary folkJeremy Corbyn will give party members greater say over Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and policymaking, the Observer reports. This “democratic revolution” could entail democratic elections for shadow cabinet positions and digital consultations for members on policy.

Labour’s NEC is expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss a proposal from Tom Watson to reintroduce Shadow Cabinet elections, but where only the PLP will be entitled to a vote. 

Digital consultations on policy already exist, in the form of the Your Britain website, with policy-making decisions confined to Party Conference each year, and the National Policy Forum, which has been conspicuous in its obscurity this year – failing to meet a single time since Jeremy Corbyn’s election, and currently chaired by Angela Eagle.

Owen Smith, in his latest tactical masterstroke, has opposed the proposals before even seeing them, showing once again his contempt for Labour members having a say in running their own party. Smith said it would “deepen divisions” and was “an attempt to further cement his position and use the membership as a means of driving a wedge between the MPs and his leadership.”

Meanwhile the question of mandatory reselection, and the selection process for MPs affected by boundary reviews, remains an open one. Clive Lewis MP, Shadow Defence secretary and a Corbyn ally, told Marr yesterday morning that there was a “legitimate democratic argument” around whether members should be able to select their MP every parliament.

Corbyn has hinted that MPs may face selection battles as a result of the boundary review process, but that is simply in line with party policy. Currently, if an MP’s ‘new seat’ includes more than 40% of their previous one, they will be a candidate in the selection contest, but it remains unclear as to how open that selection will be to challengers. MPs already face ‘selection’ every parliament in a formal process, but these are only ever opened into full selection contests via a ‘trigger ballot’ in rare circumstances.

Many of these issues may be addressed in one form or another at Labour’s annual conference, which takes place from Sunday the 25th of September, to Wednesday the 28th.


  1. Bill says:

    First a very serious warning. If people who don’t like what you say or are looking to find reasons to deny new members a vote google you.what you post on left futures is open to them to make mischief of. I have had no such trouble myself but just saying……

    My observation and it does really make a nonsense of the argument is that Member of Parliament is not a job for life, unless the members of the CLP continue to vote for you. You got the job by being elected by the CLP so what is wrong with that?

    If you take the argument against selection to its logical conclusion then once an MP has been elected to Parliament they should stay in the job as long as they want and there is no further need for any General Election. They should stay as MP unless the general population are so dissatisfied they can’t hang on.

    So Labour would not oppose any Conservatives unless there were massive and public opposition to them?

    Going on to policy and rules of the party. Well its taking FAR too long!!! We need more direct democracy ad if it means changing the party fundamentally then we need Party Conferences. So FOUR should be held in the next 12 months.

    This Leadership Contest was unnecessary and again taking FAR TOO LONG! So my view is:

    Candidates for Leader and Deputy Leader should only need a proposer and seconder from the PLP. Then the support of say 20% of CLP’s. They should hold office until 20% of CLP’s trigger an election. That election should take place within 21 days.

    Remember it was only by accident that Jeremy Corbyn was on the original ballot.

    Final point and a serious question. If Jeremy wins again what is to stop the PLP starting a whole new election process?

  2. Danny Nicol says:

    There is indeed a legitimate democratic argument for mandatory reselection. MPs should be accountable to the Party in whose name they get elected, including for the recent coup. It is unfair to alternative candidates for sitting MPs to be cocooned from challenge by a “trigger ballot”, and unfair to rank and file members not to be able to hear alternative candidates unless and until they pass one. Let’s have a more chop-and-change attitude to Labour MPs: there’s no reason why they should enjoy superior job security to the rest of us!

    I’d look forward to being able to vote in elections for the Shadow Cabinet, but cannot see why party members should elect only a third of the seats. I want to choose them all! I would propose that party members elect the entire Shadow Cabinet. That would be far more democratic. Why accord MPs a privileged position? It can hardly be on the basis of their towering intellects, nor their feisty commitment to socialism. MPs and the Leader are all party members and we should all vote together on an egalitarian basis.

    As for digital consultations on policymaking, this needs thought. First, there should be no policymaking without discussion. We should not repeat the disgrace of Momentum’s email referendum on the EU, which took place without any debate whatsoever. That was a very New-Labourish piece of manipulation – a nice example of “identification with the aggressor”. Secondly, the relationship between these votes and policy decisions of Annual Conference would need to be clarified. Thirdly I would be concerned about the word “consultation”, which implies that Labour’s parliamentarians could ignore decisions with which they do not agree. That would render the exercise pointless.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Isn’t some exageration involved when a university professor suggests that he has less job security than an MP?

      I can agree that MPs should be up for selection prior to each election (just like councillors). The issue is not, in my view, about its desirability but about the usefullness of pressing this issue at this time when urgent issues of party unity will be on Corbyn’s to do list if/when he is re-elected. He has asked for this not to be pursued at this time. I think he should be listened to.

  3. Readers may like to know that the Australian Labor Party-a sister Party of British Labour with a very similar history and values to our own- has rules which insist on mandatory re-selection for all Federal MPs before each Federal Parliamentary election. These are not considered to be controversial by Australian Labor members. I discovered this when working with the ALP over several years.

  4. C MacMackin says:

    I agree that there should be mandatory reselection as a matter of principle. Until told otherwise, I just assumed that was how all parties worked. Members electing the shadow cabinet is an interesting proposal. What system would be used, however? If it is a winner-take-all election for each individual post, then the shadow cabinet would be grossly unrepresentative. Yes, right now it would happen to benefit the left, but that doesn’t make it alright. A list-based approach could be used to elect individuals, without specifying their post, and this could ensure better representation of different wings of the party, but then members would have no control over who got what portfolio. Some thought will be needed on this.

    This does create an interesting question, however. If the members can elect the front-bench when Labour is in opposition, why should it be different if they are in government? Would it be appropriate to elect actual cabinet ministers? I don’t know what to think about this, but Corbyn’s proposal does raise the question.

    I agree with Danny Nicol’s concern about what is meant by “consultation”. We also need to ask how online involvement in this would actually be achieved–it’s not trivial. I’ve been working on a web app to try to do something like this (although, at present, it is little more than a blog for which you have to register before commenting) which everyone on here is welcome to take a look at (and leave comments on the 10 pledges):

  5. John P Reid says:

    I seem to recall when Harriet Harman didn’t get on the Shadow cabinet in 1993′ they just stuck her in anyway

  6. David Pavett says:

    Newsdesk says “Owen Smith, in his latest tactical masterstroke, has opposed the proposals before even seeing them”. Maybe so but where are the proposals so that the rest of us can comment on them in an informed way? The link given is to a Guardian article about the proposals and notbto the proposals themselves.

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