Last week, Jim Fitpatrick wrote a strongly worded letter to Ray Collins, questioning the legitimacy of Labour’s selection process for the London mayoralty. Fitzpatrick was concerned that “the process and timetable that you and the NEC have put in place for selection for London Mayor…just doesn’t meet the fairness and openness tests.”
Ray Collins has now responded to Jim Fitzpatrick’s letter, to “correct a number of inaccuracies contained within it” because “it is vital correct information is disseminated about the London Mayoral selection”.
Ray’s full letter can be read below (bold and underlining in original):
13 June 2010
Thank you for your letter dated the 10 June 2010. My reply is lengthy but I felt it important to go through the points you made in detail to correct a number of the inaccuracies contained within it.
I agree with you that we need our processes not only to be fair, but seen to be fair. I note that you circulated your original letter to all members of the NEC and that it was subsequently published on LabourList. That is why I have taken the exceptional step of allowing Labourlist to publish my reply – and I am very grateful to Alex Smith for allowing me to do so.
It is vital correct information is disseminated about the London Mayoral selection.
Dealing with your points in turn.
1. I am unclear why you believe the ballot has been brought forward from Christmas. It has not. The NEC discussed the London Mayoral selection in March 2010 and agreed to receive a report on beginning this selection immediately after the General Election to ensure Labour’s candidate was in place for this year’s Annual Conference.
2. The staff code of conduct that we have put in place for the Leadership election following consultation with our employees’ trade union representatives’ states that ‘at all times staff must behave in an entirely impartial manner’ and that they ‘should not engage in any activity which might mitigate against this.’ It also states that if any staff member wishes to join a candidate’s campaign team they must resign from their post at the Labour Party. The principles contained in this code apply to the Mayoral selection contest.
The member of Ken Livingstone’s Campaign Team to which you refer was employed on a temporary contract for the General Election as a political researcher for London from January 2010. His contract came to an end immediately following the General Election.
A number of staff were employed by the Party on this short-term basis in the run up to the General Election. This is not unusual. In addition, we have had a couple of staff resign from the Party to join Leadership Campaign Teams.
I am absolutely determined that the Party’s administration and resources remain neutral in these contests and can assure you that no assistance has been given to any candidate to disadvantage another. However I do not accept that being a former staff employee gives one Mayoral candidate or Leadership candidates an unfair advantage over another candidate.
3. As regards the selection process, can I be completely clear here and say categorically this selection is being run entirely in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Party and is exactly how the London selection was run last time.
On Tuesday 23 July 2002 the NEC agreed this exact wording:
An electoral college made up of 50% Party members and 50% affiliates (OMOV in all sections) to select the Party’s candidate for London Mayor.
This was to allow the members and affiliate members a greater say in the process.
It is therefore false for you to suggest that the selection process was ‘rushed through’ and wrong to suggest it is being run contrary to Party rules.
4. I must refute your suggestion that Oona King and her campaign team are deliberately being kept in the dark for which there is no evidence.
There has so far only been one request for a briefing on the process by a campaign team – and that request came from the Oona King campaign. Soon after the General Election two members of the campaign team visited Victoria Street and met with the Party’s Director of Finance & Compliance, the member of staff designated to answer all procedural queries. They were briefed on the process, timings and had the opportunity to ask questions. At this meeting it was explained that the Code of Conduct was not yet ready to be issued but that it would follow the model Code of Conduct approved by the NEC for the Leadership election. A PPERA briefing pack was given out and the campaign team were advised on the importance of the need to ensure full compliance with donations. Indeed, since this time, another conversation has taken place with Oona’s campaign team and a number of questions were answered. No other campaign team has had a similar campaign briefing.
5. The NEC has agreed the arrangements for enabling candidates to communicate with members and this is exactly the same procedure in place for the Leadership election. It gives every candidate fair access to the London membership. I do not accept that this action is intended to stifle campaigning.
In reply to your closing specific points:
* The process for selecting the candidate was agreed by the NEC eight years ago and was re-confirmed in May 2010.
* All short-listed candidates will have equal access to the CLP secretary and affiliates list on payment of a £100 fee.
* The Code of Conduct will be issued shortly as indicated to the Oona King Campaign Team previously.
* Party membership lists will not be supplied to candidates. All short-listed Mayoral candidates can equally access the lists in the same way as the Party’s Leadership candidates.
* A senior member of staff to answer procedural queries has already been assigned.
* Every year local parties and affiliates have the opportunity to debate the Party’s process and procedures at Annual Conference. I welcome this debate and look forward to it.
Finally, I want to reiterate that I believe this process to be fair and democratic. It gives our members and affiliates a greater say; it ensures equal access to information for all candidates; and the ballot will be conducted by the Electoral Reform Society as our independent scrutineers.
I hope this clarifies the Party’s position.
CC NEC Members
CC Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP