Friday, 18 January 2008

Selection battles

So, where are we at in terms of increasing or decreasing left representation in the PLP after the next election?

One near to home for me was Walthamstow where unfortunately left candidate Laura Bruni had to withdraw for health reasons and the candidate will be Stella Creasey, about whom nothing really needs to be said...

Frank Cook has just lost his battle for reselection to some PR schmuck.

Wareing deselected.

Simpson retiring.

Someone please give me some good news.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The problem of slates

An interesting debate is emerging about the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance and the extent to which it can depend on the votes of those whom it hopes to represent. Discussions have been taking place on Labourhome and at Grimmerupnorth, largely as a result of John Wiseman's decision to stand for the NEC.

I am very far from making a decision about this myself, but it is certainly something that we should be discussing on Labour Left Forum.

On one side of the argument, the CLGRA has served us very well, more-or-less since the inception of New Labour and, by bringing left and centre-left together in an, at times, difficult unity, maintained a significant left and centre left representation on the party's executive committee. Excellent NEC members, such as Christine Shawcroft, have owed their position thanks not just to the votes of their natural supporters on the left, but to the wider votes secured by standing as part of a slate with centre-left candidates. I have been a supporter of the approach from the beginning, and indeed proposed expanding the same approach to other aspects of internal party politics (many moons ago!)

On the other side of the argument, no slates in internal elections have such a mandate that they can demand the loyalty of party members - especially party members who have not played any part in the choosing of such slates. Any member is entitled to stand for the NEC. Any CLP can nominate that member. Any member can vote for any candidate. With that in mind, what do people on the left do when presented with a candidate who ticks all the boxes but is not on the CLGRA slate? Without in any way meaning to attack or criticise anybody on the CLGRA slate this year, because of basic issues of political principle, I find John Wiseman a more appealing candidate than some of them. John has made the point that he is standing not just as a grassroots candidate (though that is clearly a major part of his bid) but also more specifically for the younger grassroots, and there is certainly an argument that there is a gap there (and one that can not, at least without a concerted effort from SYN or something similar, be filled through Young Labour rep.)

The debate at Grimmerupnorth has also moved on to another area - which I would like to keep seperate from the issue of whether left-wingers should nominate/vote people outside the CLGRA - whether the GRA needs to be completely restructured in the future. The CLPD and STLP do very important work in the party grassroots, but there is certainly a case to be made that an opportunity to involve a far greater number of activists could be developed in the GRA, were the LRC and Compass to play a part in the organisation. I don't know whether LRC and Compass organisers have expressed any interest in this, nor whether both groups' membership criteria could pose difficulties regarding such a role. But the GRA slate would certainly be representative of a very significant tranche of party opinion if those groups were to be incorporated. Furthermore, there would be a real momentum for developing such organisation into areas such as the National Policy Forum, etc.

So - two debates, really! One - what to do about the admirable Mr. Wiseman! Two - how to deepen and improve the CLGRA for future years.

I look forward to reading the debate!