When Mark Ferguson published his article nobody should have dismissed his remarks out of hand. It required a response from the Labour Party. Many of you know that the Labour Party does not respond to articles like this. Therefore I’m responding in a personal capacity, although the London Regional Board are aware that I am responding to individuals who have emailed me about this, and that I was considering a response to Mark’s article.
Mark was right to assert the position of Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Party in seeking to restore trust within the party over how it handles internal matters; but it’s not just Iain, this has come from the top of our party through the various statements that Ed Miliband has made since his election. This has had a major resonance with a vast bulk of activists reflecting all political views within our Party from Progress to Compass, from those of the left, the centre and the right of our party who are fed up with the fall out and implications of where issues have been badly handled, where factions or individuals have sought advantage by abusing processes even for themselves or particular policy stances.
It’s also a certainty there are still a small group of individuals who don’t quite get the message, their actions and behaviours need to be challenged and they will be challenged.
These people are not doing our party any favours. It’s usually about giving preference to ‘favourites’ or political factions. The Party and its staff must seek to maintain a ‘level playing field’ in its internal elections and its internal organisational debates. Even recently there has been some frankly ‘strange and bizarre’ advice from the Labour Party to CLPs in establishing local campaign forums and in determining what are the rules and what are discretionary matters for local parties to decide what works best for them. This is not helpful in achieving consensus or indeed in the spirit of Refounding Labour.
In the case that Mark Ferguson highlights in his article, on the surface, may look bad, but if examined and set in context, no rules have been broken. The content of the email is one of which I applaud and fully support. It outlines a campaigning role that I, and others, believe that London Assembly List Members should undertake. The timing of the circulation was not of the author’s making. Of course people will draw conclusions based upon past practices and their own experiences but I think they would be wrong to do so in this case. Poor judgements have been made and no doubt various individuals will reflect further on this.
Although the individual in this case has done nothing wrong, for me this incident highlights a strong case for some form of code of conduct covering the communication by elected individuals when seeking internal party decisions. The code of conduct should not just be aimed at the individual seeking internal but also Party staff and office holders who may be involved in taking decisions when internal elections are taking place.
In the interests of transparency I can now inform you that all Labour London Assembly List Members have now been offered access to the Londonwide Party Membership list, something that has long been available to our MEPs. For many years the London Assembly List Members have been seeking this information and only a matter of months ago were still denied this right. This matter has now been clarified and rectified.
And finally, Mark’s article has continued a debate which was originally started by the Leader of our Party and which Iain McNicol is seeking to implement practices that match that vision. This is a debate that needs to continue for the sake of maintaining the integrity of our Party.
Len Duvall, writing in a personal capacity, Chair of the London Regional Labour Party.