Warning: this is really an issue internal to the Labour Party. I try to keep my comments on these things to a minimum but this has been such an irritation for so long I’m sure you’ll forgive my indulgence.
I know rule changes can be boring but this one from conference is big. It’s the only change coming from the membership that was passed and it’s something that has long been infuriating to members. It’s come from Momentum, so praise where praise is due; and I’m not normally a supporter of them.
Perhaps the Hartlepool by-election finally got us over the line on this one. Our candidate in the by-election, Paul Williams an arch remainer and only recently defeated in Stockton South, was chosen by the local party in Hartlepool from a shortlist of one. In a seat like Hartlepool it really couldn’t have been a worse choice. It was unfair to constituency and it was actually unfair to the candidate. The shortlist was drawn up by the NEC with no ‘official’ input from the local party and it was a disaster.
It was quite extreme for the party to only give the members one choice but manipulation by the national party and leadership is nothing new. They’ve always tried to control by-elections. Sitting MPs have also sometimes contrived to leave their departure before a General Election to the last minute, in order to ease in the successor of their choice. It’s been going on for years, not always with bad outcomes but invariably leaving resentment on the ground from good local candidates that were denied access to the shortlist.
In one fell swoop the party conference has killed this procedure. From now on where time constraints mean the normal selection can’t take place emergency panel will be set up, with an inbuilt-majority of CLP members to draw up the shortlist.
While you can’t rule out those CLP members being led by the national party to choose a contrived shortlist favouring a particular candidate, I think the chances are better of being presented with a proper choice and reflecting the locality.
I’m surprised how little attention this rule change has attracted and I’m sure the leadership will come back trying to change it but in many ways it’s seismic.
I don’t know how Stretford and Urmston delegates voted. I hope they voted for the change. I can see from the votes it was by no means unanimous (62% to 38%) with the NEC recommending it be voted down.