Primed for Change: why we need primaries in the Labour party

12th October, 2009 3:08 pm

PrimaryBy Alex Smith / @alexsmith1982

On the day that Parliament returns to its duties, Sir Thomas Legg’s letter to over 500 MPs asking them to justify their expense claims or to repay them in full will remind our representatives of the disconnect between the politicians and those they seek to represent.

Yet in spite of the public anger, little has yet been done to change how our democracy functions or to increase people’s involvement in our political process.

Now, a new study carried out by Will Straw and Feni Ajumogobia has shown the need for greater participation in selecting our parliamentary candidates.

At a time when membership of political parties is at its lowest ever point, the report shows that most PPCs across the political parties are selected by an average of just 40 party members.

For some time, I’ve argued in favour of primaries as one way of overcoming this problem. In January, I wrote that we should find ways to “amplify the voices of the electorate” by involving people in the process from an early stage and last month I said:

“I have never felt more involved in a political campaign than in the weeks and months before Super Tuesday. The people I worked alongside in Brooklyn came out to have their voices heard, working tirelessly on cold mornings and bleak nights to influence a process and to shape history from the earliest opportunity. What I saw inspired a movement, and I’ve never seen democracy work better. Labour needs that inspiration now. We need to energise our party, but more importantly than that we need to open our tired structures to the voices of the under-represented. Primaries will not solve everything, but they are the purest way to begin.”

Some have suggested that the call for primaries is based on factionalism within the Labour party, that the Blairite right want to find ways to further diminsh party democracy. I don’t accept that argument. To me, primaries are a way to adapt to a contemporary culture in which people demand the same flexibility and openness of engagement that they find elsewhere. And as one reader of LabourList has noted, I’m no Blairite.

Ken Livingstone and David Lammy have also both come out in favour of primary selections – opening up the possibility that the next Labour candidate for the London mayoralty will be selected that way. It’s a development that I welcome in finding the strongest candidate for our party and putting that person in touch with the electorate early.

As we enter into the last session of this Parliament and move into the general election campaign, and as we develop ways to make politics and democracy more meaningful to those it is meant to sevre, we must consider primaries as one of the most exciting and involving options before us.

I’ll be live tweeting from a Progress event tonight, reporting back on the voices for and against primaries, including Will Straw, David Lammy, Luciana Berger and Chris McLaughlin.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Video Miliband on music, cricket – and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

    Miliband on music, cricket – and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

    Ed Miliband sat down with Absolute Radio’s Geoff Lloyd today, and was question on his taste in music, whether or not he’s a geek – and (because there’s an election on) Labour’s immigration policy too. Questions also came in from England Cricket legend Geoff Boycott (a sporting hero of Miliband’s), former snooker player and commentator Willie Thorne – and Ali from the Monsoon curry house in Kentish Town. Miliband also reveals what last made him cry – and dispels some myths about his childhood. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Labour release their own letter, signed by businesspeople, supporters and zero hours contract workers

    Labour release their own letter, signed by businesspeople, supporters and zero hours contract workers

    After a Tory supporting letter appeared on the front page of this morning’s Telegraph, the Labour Party have tonight released a letter of their own – signed not only by businesspeople and Labour supporters, but also by many on zero hours contracts – backing Labour’s plans, including cracking down on zero hours contracts. Update: The party have started letting people add their names to the letter. The letter has been sent to – and will presumably be splashed on the […]

    Read more →
  • News Unions Labour launches workplace manifesto

    Labour launches workplace manifesto

    Labour’s major announcement today has been on zero hours contracts – but that shouldn’t obscure the unveiling of a much broader set of policies (of which the zero hours contract crackdown was only one) as part of a “workplace manifesto”. The other key policies in the document (which have largely been announced over the past few years, but which are now collated into a single offer for working people) are: Raising the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 Scrapping the […]

    Read more →
  • News Peter Mandelson standing in Manchester: Labour peer in running for top job

    Peter Mandelson standing in Manchester: Labour peer in running for top job

    Former Labour Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson has confirmed that he has put his name forward to be the next chancellor of Manchester University. Mandelson, who was elevated to the House of Lords by Gordon Brown, said he is “excited about what’s happening in Manchester”. The New Labour architect was the minister responsible for universities between 2008 and 2010, and is thought to consider widening participation in Higher Education is one of his proudest achievements of the Labour Government. Although the role is […]

    Read more →
  • News Video Labour winning web wars as over a million watch Martin Freeman election ad online

    Labour winning web wars as over a million watch Martin Freeman election ad online

    Over a million people have watched Labour’s latest election broadcast online in just two days. Labour today confirm that the video, starring Martin Freeman, has been watched more than 1,152,000 times. In contrast, the Conservatives latest broadcast, which also came out on Tuesday, has been seen just 91,000 times – that means Labour’s has been viewed by almost 13 times as many people. Last week, more people engaged with Labour’s Facebook page than any other party, with almost half a […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit