“Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was”
– Once in a lifetime, Talking Heads
Last week I asked what on earth was going on in London, and Len Duvall was good enough to respond. But it was always likely that what happens in one region wasn’t confined there – the change required in the party in deep, once in a generation stuff. The rot has set in across the organisation – this very much isn’t just a London problem.
The Labour Party – it seems – is addicted to fixing.
It’s a suspicion I’ve had for quite some time now, but one I’ve tried to bury away. Of course there had been examples of what seemed like blatant stitch ups, but I hoped they were one offs, or perhaps an innocent mistake.
But there are only so many times you an believe in innocent mistakes before you start to feel like a fool.
On the same day that Len Duvall was telling LabourList readers that “the Party and its staff must seek to maintain a ‘level playing field’ in its internal elections and its internal organisational debates”, the Labour Party in the North West sent out an email to members about the (no doubt impressive) work that local NPF members have been doing. Like the London email last week, this email appeared (somewhat too coincidentally) a matter of hours before ballot papers for the NPF election (and others) began to drop on doormats.
It could be an innocent mistake, but let’s be honest – if it’s a mistake it’s a howler. Let’s not pretend that senior people in the party are unaware when party elections are held. Such emails may well be within the rules (and I’m sure they are),but the party must – like Ceasar’s wife – be not just innocent of wrongdoing, but beyond suspicion too.
Or to be crude, it doesn’t pass the sniff test. Right now – in terms of internal democracy – the Labour Party still doesn’t smell right.
The examples in London and the North West aren’t the only internal selections of which questions have been asked either – although these two areas do seem to attract more criticism than most. Young Labour elections are a constant source of accusation and counter accusation, and their precious email lists are at once strictly controlled by the party and at the same time the source of some rather questionable timing.
In many ways Young Labour (and Labour Students) elections have become an extention of the sort of thing you see in Student Unions – and it is at this early stage where the fixing bug takes hold, and once you have it it’s hard to shake. When it comes to fixing culture – this is the party’s wild west…
And this culture takes many forms. One of my favourities is the use of “convenient” venues for conferences or dates of elections (always under the auspices of saving money though). And don’t expect the Police and Crime Commissioner selections to be any different – selections for new and ill defined roles are often the worst.
The party’s fixing addiction is long standing and deep rooted, but unless it’s dealt with swiftly and forcefully, the rot will set in with a new generation of activists, and it’ll be a little deeper, and it’ll be left for another generation to return us to being what it says on the back of our membership cards – “a democratic socialist party.”
Because at the moment, some of the actions that go on in our supposedly democratic party would shame a low grade banana republic.