Applicants to represent the Labour Party in the Nottingham East parliamentary constituency are not likely to have to face a hustings. Some 500 members in what many regard as a vibrant Constituency Labour Party are going to be denied a vote. This follows a vote last night on the National Executive Committee's Special Selections Panel (in flagrant breach of policy agreed last November) by 8 to 7 to impose a candidate following receipt of applications.
This is further evidence of how the Labour Party has or perhaps remains institutionally undemocratic.
In mitigation, there was discussion yesterday about how CLP officers could be involved in the final decision about which candidate to adopt impose. The proposal was not put to a vote by the SSP and there is uncertainty about whether that would involve the SSP members assigned to decide travelling to Nottingham. The enforcers are understood to comprise: Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, NEC chair Ann Black, NEC vice chair Norma Stephenson, USDAW's Paddy Lillis and BAME representative Keith Vaz.
I am assured by local members that a CLP hustings could be organised for Monday next week. If I was a member there I would organise one and demand respectfully request that the SSP 'five' meet on Sunday at 5pm (the deadline for applications) agree a shortlist, so that the hustings can proceed the next day.
There have been persistent rumours that 'No. 10's' preferred candidate is former MP Chris Leslie, much to the disappointment of the PM's deputy political secretary, Jonathan Ashworth. And the latest twist is that the SSP vote last night reflected a majority who believe that the Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants Chris Leslie as the next MP for Nottingham East. I find it very difficult to believe that the PM would risk his reputation as a democrat over a mere selection. But he is not the only big beast alleged to have ambitions for former aides and allies. Deputy Leader Harriet Harman's special advisor Ayesha Hazarika is still looking for a seat. I sincerely hope that if Ayesha were to apply, Harriet would remove herself from the enforcers' panel immediately.
The NEC decided unanimously in November last year the following form of words concerning selections after the General Election was called:
When the General Election is called the right of members to select their
candidates will remain a priority consideration for the panel. However, where
election timetable constraints make this impossible, the panel has the power,
under delegated authority from the NEC to select candidates on behalf of
For the avoidance of doubt, the vacancy in Nottingham East arose before the General Election was called. The only reason that it was not declared Open at least a week ago was due to dissembling by party staff about the CLP's position concerning how a replacement for John Heppell should be decided. Therefore the SSP (IMHO) has no powers to change the procedure in this instance.
It is not too late for sober reflection by the powers that be. The Labour Party's reputation nationally could depend on members being given a say.