Conventional thinking in our party politics, at least in my experience in the Labour Party, is that when an election looms, its heads down and focus on getting our candidates elected. Last night, I appeared on Newsnight commenting on the Erdington selection of Jack Dromey, as did Andy Howell, a Labour Party member from a neighbouring Birmingham constituency
Without relentless, on going scrutiny, the Labour Party risks further alienating its members, undermining its own capacity to campaign locally on the doorstep, raise money and, ultimately, win the next and future elections. So it is important for all champions of party democracy to keep the spotlight ON these secretive Labour Party workings. When it comes to talking to the media, Labour Party officials and staff have no authority to interfere in our freedom of speech or expression. However, it is significant that not a single member in Erdington felt free to talk on camera to Newsnight last night. Such is the 'reign of terror' that continues to pollute the Labour Party.
Incidently, that's why, I am raising fundamental questions about the standoff between Stoke Central CLP and the National Executive Committee (well documented publicly on local web-based new blog, Pits'nPots). There, the sitting local MP, Labour's Mark Fisher is facing the BNP Deputy leader, Simon Darby, and 1/3 of the local council seats are up on 6 May. Instead of enabling the local party to rebuild and develop the 'powers that be' are conducting a vendetta against the leaders of a successful campaign to get rid of an elected-Mayor - a Blairite flagship local government imposition.
On the selections front elsewhere, questions are being asked in Ashfield about why that seat has been declared an All Women Shortlist. The vacancy created by Geoff Hoon's decision to stand-down (faced with a possible CLP vote of no confidence). There is a strong suspicion that this is an entirely cynical move intended to provide a justification for declaring Mansfield (should sitting MP Alan Meale stand down) an OPEN selection. It is rumoured locally that a male aide of Prime Minister Gordon Brown (should the seat become vacant) is waiting in the wings.
All this speculation is highly corrosive to local member morale. The arrogance of office, thoughtlessly exercised, over the past 13 years risks the prime purpose of party politics - achieving and retaining power.
I confidently expect to be accused of undermining Labour's electoral prospects when the National Executive Committee next meets, without any sense of irony on the part of those pointing their self-righteousness, issuing 'faux instructions' and baying.
In the meantime, I don't know (officially, as a member of the NEC) any of the details about the proceedings of the Special Selection Panel, other than which seats have been declared OPEN or AWS. So though we know that Jack Dromey won the Birmingham Erdington selection, we don't know: how many votes were cast, how many votes were valid, how many votes were cast for each candidate, and as it was an eliminating ballot, the results of each round of transfering votes (if any). That's before putting all the preceding steps of the process in the spotlight.
So the suspicions remain that someone, or somehow this seat was fixed for Jack. That means some members will not campaign. Some voters will cast their ballot for another candidate, if they bother to vote at all.
That's why, Jack , I invite you to join me in demanding that there is full publication of all the key facts relating to this and every other PPC selection under the NEC fast-track procedure.