So, it seems that Alan Johnson is once again using the media to try and bounce the leadership around his way. This time he is busy trying to get the leadership to abandon Labour’s historic link with the trade unions:
“Alan Johnson, the Shadow Chancellor, led calls for the newly elected Labour leader to reform the party by dumping the unions’ voting influence over leadership elections.”
He wants to do this by the introduction of one member one vote in leadership elections in place of the current electoral college system. It is only fair to note that Mr Johnson seems awfully exercised about ‘union influence’ but not about the real democratic scandal of the electoral college; namely, the ridiculous and totally undemocratic weighting it gives to the votes of the Parliamentary Labour Party. His comments must be judged in that light; this is the bitter howl of a wounded animal whose pride has been scarred. The PLP still hasn’t forgiven the party for democratically electing a leader (who won over 20,000 more *individual votes*) it did not want. Nonetheless I agree with the introduction of one member, one vote but not for the reasons that Mr Johnson promotes it.
I agree with it with the proviso that the franchise (and therefore a party card) is extended to all individual trade unionists that pay the political levy. I want to defend the trade union link but not by defending the status quo – because the status quo is bad for trade unionists who see their democratic weight flattened by the PLP. Comrades, if I maybe allowed to use such an ‘Old Labour’ term, who have flooded the Twitterverse with wishes to defend the historic link (and those include comrades like Luke Akehurst) because it is part of what makes Labour Labour have to realise that defending the status quo is not the right way to strengthen this bond. The status quo neuters the power of trade unionists; atomising them into a segment of a college. Nothing is democratic about the bloc vote. The right way is through a reform which abolishes the electoral college but draws thousands of trade unionists into the party and our party life.
The right way to do it is to call for a program of democratic reform within Labour that is not undemocratically exclusive but establishes a fundamental tenant of democracy within this party; namely, the principle that no one vote should be worth more than any other. Imagine the outcry if those above a certain income or in a certain profession were allowed ‘extra weighting’ to their vote in Westminster elections? Imagine that and wonder why this situation is tolerated within this party where one body has an elitist weighting that affords it special influence. Its simply intolerable from a democratic standpoint that this is allowed to continue. This is the real democratic disgrace of the electoral college and it’s something Alan Johnson spectacularly ceases to mention. I wonder why?