“What’s wrong with the London Labour Party” – a response

25th May, 2012 9:01 am

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.

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  • “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.”
    I was with you until the word “but”, Len. 

    It appears to be endemic within certain parts of the party that favourtism rules the roost. You don’t have to be Inspector Clouseau to realise the alternative motive for Ms Twycross to email the entire London membership list just days before a crucial internal party election.

    It always gives off more than a whiff of a suggestion that the party doesn’t care all that much about Data protection where its favoured candidates are concerned.

  • LondonVoter

    Len, you are missing the point, not sure whether deliberately or not. Fiona did not write to us just as a London-wide AM. She wrote as a candidate for the NPF for London as well.

    So in the interest of transparency, will the London Labour Party now be sending out emails from all the other NPF candidates as well? Giving access to sending out emails to Nicky, Murad & Tom is irrelevant (well maybe not in Nicky’s case if she’s standing again).

    • “will the London Labour Party now be sending out emails from all the other NPF candidates as well?”
      This is the issue.

      I’ve just received an NPF newsletter with the cv of a sitting representative (not London region) attached. I don’t mind people sending me stuff (it makes a change from the usual ‘increase size’ info) but if insiders get this opportunity then all other candidates should too.

  • AlanGiles

    It required a response from the Labour Party. Many of you know that the Labour Party does not respond to articles like this”

    Perhaps it was about time they did, and stopped being as aloof as a Bavarian princess. Better still, the party should be transparent and open at all times.

    “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?….and if the party says it is not four, but five, then how many?.

    I think everybody will have a very good idea of what motivated Ms. Twycross. I also agree totally with David Talbot over the little matter of data protection.

    * Bud Shank (1926-2009)

    • Winston_from_the_Ministry

      Nice reference 😉

  • Duncan Hall

    I know this is a very small point, but the phrase “reflecting all political views within our Party from Progress to Compass” doesn’t feel terribly inclusive to those of us a long way to the left of Compass…

  • I agree with MOST of this article. I find it hard to believe that the specific person involved was not aware of the advanatge that sending the email might give her..but perhaps I am just cynical.

    I do beleive however that when rules are opaque then it is easy for candidates in internal elections to make mistakes or take action which the believe is appropriate when it is not. If Ed Milliband and others want Labour to becoming the grassroots party it once was, as they say they do, then we need to ensure that our party is based on the values of transparency and openess and that all of our internal elections and selections are based on a shared and clear code of conduct. With this code then any supposed ‘favouritism’ can be clearly exposed and activists new and old can faith in our party’s structures and democracy.  

  • Inside Labour

    The email in question was sent from an official London Labour Party email address. 2 years ago, the text message from the same person (in advance of the first ever OMOV NPF election) was sent from the Labour party’s text messaging system – costing the party money at the same time. Local party’s had to pay the national party for using that text messaging system. Was the cost of corruptly promoting one candidate just absorbed by the national party? (i.e. from our membership fees) or did the candidate in person pay (per text) to have access to the system? At least one member of Labour party staff made arrangements for these communications – who?

    Providing other London Assembly members with the entire membership list is not the answer, and is very possibly in breach of data protection legilation. How are members wishing to stand in OMOV ballots for any internal posts or selections in London going to be able to compete fairly with those privileged few who now have access to the entire membership list?

    Long past time to route out the corruption that’s been eating away at the heart of the party.

  • It would seem that Mark struck a nerve here. Well done him.

    Len Duvall’s response here is generally sound, and the idea of a code of conduct in conducting communications is probably a good one.

    We can still see some of the vestiges of machine-talk though. I was especially intrigued to read the sentence, “The timing of the circulation was not of the author’s making.” ???????

  • Nellie

    The trouble is Fiona Twycross and her regional office friends have form. During the last London NPF votes, strangely Fiona was able to text and email (having all mobile numbers and emails because of her priveleged access). She knocked off experienced but less priveleged people off NPF.  Complaints were made- of course to the very region but the regional officers did not bother to investigate one of their own


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