Friday, 25 May 2007

What are the lessons?

Okay - a controversial one, I guess (judging from some of the debates that are going on around the blogosphere); but what lessons should the Labour left take from the John4Leader campaign? Obviously people can discuss what they want, but I'd like to avoid this being a thread about 'if only...' or 'what if...' - there are plenty of other threads for that: I'm looking entirely at the positive lessons we can take from it for the next couple of years (a couple of years in which there is unlikely to be another leadership election).

My own fourpenn'th:

  • There is a large constituency in the party and the movement (some of them newly recruited) who rightly feel disenfranchised; they also feel under-represented in the PLP

  • The New Labour clique has not successfully colonised the Labour Party outside parliament: it has hollowed out the party of its activist base in many places, but - given the prospect of a proper debate where socialist views can be aired - 'Real Labour' people are there in force and are ready and able to get involved in campaigns

  • The left can make excellent use of the internet and, just as Tribune was invaluable to the Bevanites of the 1950s, so internet forums, etc. can be a key organisational tool for the left today

  • In John we have a champion who can communicate left ideas and priorities, and lead campaigns in the mainstream media, and help us drive the left out of a 'usual suspects' ghetto: his performance at the one leadership hustings and in various media outlets during that brief time when a contest looked likely underlined that point very well indeed

  • That future campaigns (whatever they may be - and that's an important thread for another time) should, like the John4Leader campaign, begin outside parliament in the grass roots, because that is where our power base is.

I realise that some will think that I appear to have forgotten that the campaign was 'unsuccessful'. I'm sure others may disagree, but - in the end - the defeat of the campaign beneath the Brown steamroller was out of the left's hands; as - this time - was the political make-up of the PLP. It's worth bearing in mind that even those on the 'centre left' (such as El Tom) have expressed doubts that the 'soft left' could have delivered the 16 votes we were missing. My one bit of 'what if' 'if only' is that, had John got 30 plus nominations in the first public declaration, then I think that could have put the brakes on the Brown steamroller, and those people that had previously suggested that would have liked to ensure a contest may have maintained that position. So rather than debating 'what went wrong' (though I'm sure others will) - let's look at the positives. The left is stronger in the movement (outside the PLP) than for any time in the last 20 years, and we are building, growning, and our confidence is developing. There is an appetite for organisation, and there is a determination to build our role and our voice in our movement.

Of course there's got to be some reflection, but let us be clear that we are reflecting from a position of increased strength.


ian said...

Just found this blog.

Good news that the debate can start around the lessons learned from the john4leader campaign. I share the view in the post. While it is early days can I suggest we build on the influence John had and plan a strategy for future interventions?

Can I also boldly suggest as a southerner for all cxomrades who took part in the john4leader campaign to gather at the Tolpuddle martyrs festival in July (14th/15th). I believe we can here make our presence felt as a permanent fixture.


marshajane said...

Good idea Ian, as most of us will probably be there anyway makes sense for us to do something other than getting drunk :)

Mike Baldock said...

Not so much a lesson maybe, but something to try and push for might be to try and reduce the nomination threshold to 5% of the PLP, or of CLPs or TU nominations or something.

I've tabled a motion for our next GC calling for a 5% threshold. Maybe if we got a stream of these coming in from the CLPs it might get debated at conference or something?

And then ignored of course!

I think there are some members who feel peeved about not having a vote even if they would have voted Brown anyway - let's build on that a bit whilst we can.

C21Soc said...

I'll speak to my CLP next meeting Along with the 5% I'd also add another motion that PLP nominations are by ballot paper - to opened only at the end of the contest.

Anonymous said...


Good, I hope that as many CLPs as possible will pass the resolution demanding a lowering a of the threshold.

What do you mean by "that PLP nominations are by ballot paper - to opened only at the end of the contest" ?

I would agree with the idea that PLP nominations should be made public only once the process of nominations closes, but revealing only once the contest is over seems to be a slightly sterile measure and, what is more, an unclear suggestion.

C21Soc said...

I still think that a a lot of the PLP just wanted to back the winner - to prove that they were "right". If no-one knows the running totals while the ballots are being collected then there's a better chance of MPs applying some thought to their decision and to have some independence?

A secret ballot would be even better - don't know how practical that would be.

For instance, at my work if we had the head of my dept resign and we could choose our new boss, if my senior came round asking me to nominate them - I'd really worry about my future prospects if s/he knew I had no intention.


Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean now, but I still think that nominations must be made public once the actual race opens.

Had Gordon Brown - after having won a contest did not take place, so this is based only on speculation - decided to "punish" those PLPers who nominated McDonnell without his approval, he would only have further exposed his dictatorial nature. In fact, such scenarion might even have been for Brown than the present one.

I hope that all made sense.

As far as the implementation of a "secret ballot" is concerned, I really don't think it would be practical. Party members have a right to know whom their MP has nominated - that right is, in my opinion, more important than an MPs "right to a career/suck up to Brown (in this case)".

I truly think the Labour Left ought to focus on lowering the threshold and keeping nomanitions secret until the end of the preliminary process as opposed to demanding that the ballot be made "secrtet" as such.

grimupnorth said...

Guys, the Campaign For Labour Party Democracy recommendation is 7.5 per has a much better chance of getting thorugh. They also have a model resolution which won't get chucked out by the machine. Email me for details ....... SsPre2@aol.comTHE DEADLINE IS JUNE 8 so you will have to move fast........

Anonymous said...

7.5%, that's what I thought I'd heard. Thanks, Susan!

Curlew said...

Mikael, we are in agreement - when I said secret until the end of the contest , I meant the PLP nomination phase.

Curlew said...

p.s. the clock is wrong on the blog? I make it 18:48.

Anonymous said...

Aaaah, now I understand what you meant; you meant the contest, so to speak, of obtaining nominations.

What do you think though, 5% or 7.5%? 5% may well sound better (I think it does), but Susan may well have a point 7.5% could be easier to obtain.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that. How do you change it?

Anonymous said...

I found out how to do it! Done and dusted!

el Tom said...

Indeed, I think your analysis is reasonable.

I can't commend the grassroots strategy of the McDonnell campaign enough, but I do think that there were problems in a parliamentary context, which is something any campaign in this party must be adapted for.

That does not preclude a campaign for a rule change, about which, I should add, the noises coming from some of Cruddas's lot are good.

I think we all agree that 12.5% is too high a threshold (personally I think that the PLP getting a third of the final vote is quite enough).