The Kafkaesque farce of the Labour Party “special measures” revisited…

3rd July, 2013 10:20 am

The Times(£) reports this morning that Labour has released the list of CLPs currently under Orwellian sounding “special measures” in the wake of continued accusation and counter-accusation around the Falkirk West selection. Regular readers of LabourList will know that “special measures” has been a bugbear of mine for some time – I was writing about it in February, as I tried to draw attention to the “Kafkaesque farce” of Warley CLP being under “special measures” for many years without any explanation, or any idea of how to leave it. What I learned then was very simple. Let me sum it up like this:

Congratulations Falkirk West CLP, you have now entered administrative hell.

The response I received from the party at the time was long but not particularly revealing, failing to tell me when CLPs entered “special measures”, how many were in such a situation (I was told it was a “small number”) or how exactly a party could return to normal. Now thanks to the Times report we at least know that the number of CLPs under “special measures” is 14.

Yet what is misleading about the Times report is that there seems to be a conflation between the current situation in Falkirk (placed in “special measures” in 2013) with Slough (placed in “special measures” in 2012) and 12 other CLPs (including Warley) placed in “special measures” pre-2005. I’m no fan of “special measures” as you may have gathered, but attempting to pin – even tangentally – a dozen CLPs placed under “special measures” by a Blair leadership on Ed Miliband, the party or the unions should be firmly rebuffed.

That said, the news that a dozen CLPs have been placed on what effectively amounts to administrative detention for 8 years – one as long as 18 – shows us the real flaw of the “special measures” system. If it actually worked, these CLPs would have been able to exit “special measures” by now and return to normal membership processes. Yet instead they’ve spent the best party of a decade being forced to jump through byzantine hoops by the party in order to recruit members.

Every CLP – including Falkirk West – should be asking the following questions of the party:

– Why was my CLP placed under “special measures”? If a report was prepared by the party as part of this process, will it be made public or shared with the CLP?

– How long has my CLP been under “special measures”?

– How can my CLP leave “special measures”?

Because until we know the answers to these questions, it’s impossible to know whether or not “special measures” is a proportionate response to any allegations or wrongdoing. And unless a CLP knows how to leave “special measures”, the party in these areas – finding it harder to recruit new members – could just wither and die.

Here are the 14 CLPs currently under special measures:

  • Bethnal Green and Bow
  • Poplar and Limehouse
  • Brentford & Isleworth
  • Ealing Southall
  • Falkirk West
  • Feltham & Heston
  • Oldham East and Saddleworth
  • Oldham West and Royton
  • Birmingham Hall Green
  • Birmingham Hodge Hill
  • Birmingham Ladywood
  • Birmingham Perry Barr
  • Warley
  • Slough

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