Could you be one of our 70 candidates? Well, only if you had known…

3rd January, 2013 4:37 pm

If you are a Labour Party member you have probably received the party e-mails asking you “Could you be a candidate?” for a parliamentary by-election and shrugged your shoulders – of course I cannot be a candidate in Rotherham if I live in Plymouth, or in Middlesborough if I live in Cardiff.

But these e-mails say two things. They keep open the idea that party members may one day be candidates, and they remind activists that an election is going to be going on and the activist may just consider whether to lend a hand.

Now how about an e-mail that said “Could you be one of our 70 candidates?” Sounds a bit better you would think. It would be better still if these candidates were needed across the whole of England, Wales ans Scotland, in regions not tied to traditional constituencies.

I am of course talking about Labour’s selection process to choose its candidates for the European Parliament elections 2014. The UK has 73 MEPs, including 3 from Northern Ireland, so 70 for England, Wales and Scotland.

The deadline, in case you were wondering, to make applications to be on one of the Labour regional lists was… 31st December, and the e-mail asking “Could you be one of our 70 candidates?” was of course never sent. Instead the only notification for members by e-mail that I can find was buried under information about the Croydon North parliamentary selection in an e-mail dated 20th October (screenshot of the e-mail here – h/t @ThePennyDrops on Twitter), and that e-mail had a generic “Could you be a candidate?” title. No mention was made of the selection on the party’s Facebook Page, nor on the party’s Twitter account. Information was available on the Parliamentary Selections page on MembersNet.

To make it crystal clear, I am not personally bitter about this – I have long since abandoned any personal ambition in Labour. But I am still involved in debating EU matters in the party, and indeed in the UK-EU ‘debate’ in general, and this whole process has passed me by. The Labour friends I’ve asked about the process, admittedly not EU nerds, also had no idea there even had been a deadline recently.

I can only draw two rather sobering conclusions from all of this. First, despite Ed Miliband’s speech about EU matters this autumn, European Union politics remains a very low priority issue for Labour. The party seems to be doing its bit to make Jon Cruddas’s comments about UKIP and the European Parliament elections a fait accompli. Second, despite the party trotting out ideas that it needs to diversify its candidates and draw from a wider pool of people, it cannot even manage to get the basics of communication right with its own members about a nation-wide selection of 70 candidates. You had to be an insider to even know this European Parliament selection process was even happening.

  • http://www.robbiescott.com/ Robbie Scott

    After being leapfrogged by UKIP in 2009 I think this selection process could have
    been handled much better. Why does the party automatically assume that we want
    to keep our current MEPs for the next round of elections or keep them at the
    top of the regional list?

    I didn’t receive the email you linked from October. I received an email from the London Regional Director on the 22nd of December which mentioned the European Selection, admittedly berried under lots of other information: http://postimage.org/image/gx2jdceed/. A bit odd as we’re both in the same CLP (if you’re still based in Tower Hamlets).

    Leaving it to October and then December to start looking for
    candidates with a New Years Eve deadline is a bit silly. Just out of curiosity
    do CLPs/Regions have any influence over who goes where on the regional list? There’s
    virtually no point applying unless you’re in the top three slots in London, and
    with UKIP polling well probably the top two. Does anybody know how that’s
    decided?

    • http://twitter.com/jonworth Jon Worth

      Thanks for the info re. the London Labour e-mail. I sporadically get those, but didn’t get that one, but the point still stands. I’m actually now living in Denmark, but I’m still on the same e-mail lists (unless Labour is more efficient at removing people than it is at adding them!)

      AFAIK CLPs don’t have a direct say over the list order. They can choose to approve (or not) the sitting MEPs, but it’s one member one vote to decide the list order. It’s a regional board that decides the composition of the list.

    • Redshift1

      On the assumption of keeping MEPs – we have a trigger ballot.

      All CLPs are meant to send in the results of a vote at one of their meetings asking if they want their current MEPs to continue topping the ballot for the party in their region. If more CLPs say they don’t, the MEP goes through the ordering/selection process in the same way as every candidate.

      This system does of course give a significant advantage to MEPs, but if people felt a particular MEP wasn’t pulling their weight, etc, they could campaign amongst the CLPs in their region to not reselect in the trigger ballot.

      • http://twitter.com/jonworth Jon Worth

        Re. MEPs and pulling their weight – I’ve looked at this in a previous LabourList piece. I would favour the Lib Dem system of a free for all on the list – trying to deselect someone for just not being very good (as opposed to being outright malevolent) is very hard.

      • Robbie Scott

        Thank you for your response i’ve only just noticed it in my emails.

        You can’t really campaign amongst CLPS on a regional basis as a member or even a group of concerned members logistically. How could you do it in say London ? Also, we ought to know who perspective candidates are before deciding whether we want to change the order of the list. You might have people more suitable in the application stream. They dont’ care of course so meh.

  • Chilbaldi

    1. why have you abandoned any personal ambition in the party, if you don’t mind me asking?

    2. of course you can be a candidate for Rotheram even if you live in Plymouth – these sorts of distant candidates get selected all the time! (usually they live in London and work in the party however – ho ho).

    • http://twitter.com/jonworth Jon Worth

      1. It’s a long story, summed up here. I don’t think I have the right character for it – I am not conformist enough, and other who want it more will put in the hard slog more than I will.

      2. Ha ha, yes. Maybe I should have said “a normal party member living in Plymouth”

      • Chilbaldi

        thanks for replying. A shame that you feel that way, and have left those careerists to it. You are right about the process too of course, and I fear that such blog posts will still be written about Labour selections in 20, 30 years time. Let’s face it – beyond the gallery-playing rhetoric the current lot aren’t actually going to change it are they?

        Keep up the blogging (and the replying – what a novelty on Labour List!)

        • http://twitter.com/jonworth Jon Worth

          For me hitting ‘Publish’ on a blog post should only be the start – it’s important to learn from the comments. That’s the problem with LabourList sometimes – I am just greeted with a series of rants from people, and that can be annoying. But constructive criticism and debate I will always engage with, time permitting.

          As for the future of this… something will, at some point, break in UK politics. The FPTP election system for Westminster is hiding the deep illness there is in UK party politics. Maybe it will be a by-election win for UKIP, or a party getting the most seats in Westminster and not winning the popular vote, that might make people sit up and realise that things cannot go on as they are.

          Conversely the problems are complicated, and no mainstream parties in Western Europe have really managed to deal with the simultaneous challenges of the decline of deference, lessening of ideological (and class?) affiliation, the rise of the networked society, and the decline of union and party political membership.

  • Prince

    Dear Jon

    Sorry to hear you have had to abandon any personal ambition in the party, my experience has at times been like this too, but i guess i am just one of those people that wake up starting afresh again. Nevertheless couple of issues on eu i wanted to speak to you about if you could pm me at

    [email protected]
    As i wanted to pick some of your knowledge to help me,
    many thanks
    Prince

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