The Labour Party isn’t particularly good at letting members know about consultations, so you may not be aware that the Labour Party is currently consulting on ways to improve the local government selection process. I recently submitted my own personal views on this and decided to share them with the world in the hope of encouraging more people to engage in the consultation and start a debate about the way we select our council candidates. The recommendations I made are below:
1. The automatic re-nomination of sitting councillors without having to go through any sort of selection process means that some inneffective councillors who have been in the seat since the dawn of time can carry on and on and on and on and… well, you get the picture.
There should be a full, open and transparent selection process in every seat for every election, regardless of whether a sitting councillor is up or not.
2. We need to agree a process where all candidates are asked the same questions in a selection at any level. I know examples in Parliamentary selections where lesbian and gay friends have been asked questions not asked of other candidates in an attempt to highlight that they are somehow not suitable. Whilst I don’t have any personal knowledge of this happening in council selections, I don’t think it is out of the realms of possibility that it is going on. These don’t have to be questions imposed from on high but should be agreed locally before a selection process begins.
3. We need to trial new ways of running selections. At my own selection there were 10 people in the room. Whilst I’m obviously very happy that I got selected, I do wish I could have started with a stronger mandate. I’d like to see us looking at closed primaries – allowing members to select a shortlist (which should be mandated to have X number of candidates, including a gender balance and some BAME representation) and then opening up the selection to the wider public.
We have a crisis of democracy at a local level – turnout in my ward was 22% in 2011 and that was 10% higher than it has been in other recent local election years. I really believe engaging more people in the process of selecting our candidates will help with that.
4. We have a particular job to do with women. I have found it very difficult to encourage women to stand and don’t feel that enough is being done at a local level to remedy this. We need a national strategy to recruit more women to get involved in the party. Funding should be put in place for targeted training to build up the confidence and skills of women members so that they feel able and willing to put themselves forward. Local parties need to be supported and provided with proper resources to enable them to take positive action.
5. All of this is meaningless without recruiting more people to the party, engaging more effectively with existing members and providing proper training for members thinking about standing for council. I have in the past organised my own training sessions to encourage young members to stand but it shouldn’t be up to individuals to do that – the party should fund and provide regular training on becoming a councillor in every town and city to open up the process, bringing in not just more women, but more BAME people, more LGBT people, more disabled people and more people from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Feed your ideas into the consultation, suggest pilot schemes you may want to run locally, and highlight best practice examples to share with others by e-mailing your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.