No, with elections in five weeks' time, now is not the time to write discursively about Labour Party internal democracy. So I will.
An early morning coffee with Labour Democratic Network chair, Andy Howell, prompted a heated debate about the politics of pasties, petrol cans and parliamentary selections in no particular order. We were ensconced in a newly opened italian-style cafe in that Labour managerial stronghold, the London Borough of Hackney.
Did Labour leader, Ed Miliband further Labour values by being filmed queuing with Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls for sausage rolls in Gregg's, Britain's biggest baker and therefore victim of the proposed imposition of value-added tax (VAT) to freshly baked products such as pasties?
As a symbol of how a Conservative government led by a pack of multi-millionaires is out of touch with the vast majority of 'hard-working' people, the pasty tax is resonating. Recent measures of public opinion suggest support for the coalition is waning. Labour's challenge as ever is how does is rebuild trust with the electorate, and establish a membership/campaigning base in every electoral ward nationwide?
In that regard, like the ambient temperature test for taxing the pasty, I find myself going hot and cold when it comes to judging the Labour Party's commitment to democratic socialism. Inevitably to my mind it's going to have to get personal.
Ed Miliband has evidently given up any pretence of believing what forms the first sentence of Chapter 1, Clause IV of the Party's Constitution, namely:
The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.
Since his election he has accepted the Labour First/Progress domination of the party machine as a given and continued with Blairite top-down practices marginalising the National Executive Committee, and the National Policy Forum, and taking the practices of personal preferment and patronage to new depths. Abolishing shadow cabinet elections, and retaining the appointed and unconstitutional posts of Party Chair and Deputy Chairs are but two examples.
Among his advisors, egging him on in this anti-democratic fashion, is Lucy Powell, now deputy Chief of Staff in the Leader's office. She was the unsuccessful prospective parliamentary candidate for Manchester Withington in 2010. She is still a member of the National Policy Forum representing the North West who reportedly ran on the Labour First/Progress ticket. Yesterday, she was short-listed by the NEC panel as one of four for the prospective parliamentary candidate selection in Manchester Central. (Sitting MP, Tony Lloyd, is standing down to run as Police and Crime Commissioner for Manchester.) Andy and I wondered whether local members in Manchester might be interested to know about her role in, for example, trying to stop Iain McNicol being selected as General Secretary, preferring the Labour Party Deputy General Secretary, Chris Lennie, instead?
Maybe the majority of Manchester Central members would approve of her actions in that regard, as well as keeping the unconstitutional posts of Party Chair, and Deputy and scrapping shadow cabinet elections. But how would they ever know? Of course, party rules forbid personal attacks in internal elections. However, for any member concerned about the rise and rise of the political class in the Labour Party, we have got to ask ourselves how is that trend ever going to be reversed?
If the nasty party can get a media pasting for taxing the pasty baker. The Labour Party nomenklatura can expect one for playing the 'known quantity' gambit. Nudge, nudge, local woman, local champion, backed Ed Miliband for Leader, we need a woman MP in Manchester...... That was the line being promoted by local fixer, Kevin Peel on Twitter last night. Actually, there are women - Hazel Blears and Kate Green - representing Labour in neighbouring Salford, and Stretford and Urmston. But those constituencies are not in the City of Manchester. Geddit?!
By the way the shortlist includes another woman, Rose Battle. So if the 'let's have a woman MP in Manchester' bandwagon gains pace - local members have a choice. Time will tell whether she was included as a candidate on merit or a make-weight as we saw with so many 'Selections in the Spotlight' in the run up to the 2010 General Election campaign.
Local members will never be sure whether they are being used until they demand local control of selections of Labour candidates for elected office, with regional or national oversight.
Sadly, for the foreseeable future I fear party democracy is in the same place as an untaxable pasty - the deep freeze.