Ask yourself, how do we know about the declared Labour leadership contenders in the first place? Four of them who achieved cabinet status in the governments of previous Labour leaders are without doubt talented people, but they are the creatures of patronage. Those who know me will appreciate that in drawing attention to this I am not seeking to get personal. But it is a fact that Labour in government adopts the constitutional conventions of the state, and not democratic socialism. The Labour leader selects a government. The Queen gives them their seals of office. The practice of electing a shadow cabinet, required when Labour is in opposition, is abandoned. And indeed it has been throughout the last 13 years.
I have already highlighted the Rules of the Labour Party that ought to have been followed by the General Secretary, Ray Collins, and the National Executive Committee (of which I am a member) when it set the timetable and the codes to apply to the Leadership election to replace Gordon Brown last Tuesday. Within two days the 9-day nomination timetable plan was in tatters. The deadline was extended by nearly a fortnight in the face of opposition particularly from MPs and TUs. It is still too short.
If there is one lesson that ought to have been learned by Labour in the wake of our defeat on 6 May, it is that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) lost its exclusive nomination rights for the Leadership in crowning Gordon Brown leader in 2007. The absence of debate within the Party following the resignation of Tony Blair left everyone struggling to make sense of what Labour stood for. So it proved on 6 May.
Labour MPs should now be under no pressure whatsoever to secure the necessary 33 nominations from their colleagues in the PLP. As was pointed out to beleaguered General Secretary Ray Collins the proposed nine-day deadline left no opportunity to consult local members. Astonishingly, Collins told then they had no obligation to do so. So much for promoting the widest possible discussion in the Labour Party of how it lost power, and what it must do to make itself re-electable across the whole of the United Kingdom.
What the Labour Party needs is the widest possible debate. There are now six declared candidates - gender, ethnic and political diversity has been added at a stroke by Diane Abbott, and the political spectrum of views has been extended to the left of the Party by John McDonnell. They and any other Labour MP should all be encouraged to take part in hustings between now and the second half of July.
CLPs and affiliated bodies are entitled under Rule to nominate whom they want. It is then beholden on such nominees to obtain the necessary PLP support two clear weeks before the ballot. Just imagine the uproar that is going to befall the Labour Party come Wednesday 9 June if Diane Abbott fails to achieve the necessary 33 nominations as required under the current NEC ruling. How can it hope to continue to recruit new members and encourage former members back if the Labour Party elite shuts out the candidates that had the political courage to oppose the Iraq War in the first place? In the meantime, the patronage candidates are waging a war of words about how it was wrong to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Sorry, which lobby did they go into. (Apologies Miliband E - I know you were studying in the US at the time. But you did not speak out then.)
The present timetable is not sustainable. My NEC colleagues all heard Collins claim on Tuesday that the proposals were legally sound. They all heard him cite the name of the lawyer concerned. I have asked Collins to produce the written opinion or dated office note to support that claim. If he can't produce it by first thing Monday morning, there should be an emergency NEC Procedures Committee, if not an emergency NEC to review the situation.
I sought to amend the Rules on Tuesday my intention was to remove all references to the fictitious 'supporting nominations' provisions. There is still time to overturn the constitutional coup staged by the Party's elite. The future of the Party depends on it.