Anger towards NEC rises as local parties demand selections resume

Sienna Rodgers

Local Labour parties are increasingly demanding that their parliamentary selections are allowed to continue, after the decision was taken on a national level to suspend the process.

In seats with no sitting Labour MP or a retiring one, most selection contests – which give party members a say as to who will be the next Labour contender in their constituency – had either started or were about to kick off when the party said they would be paused.

It was decided earlier this month that reselections – via trigger ballot votes – would continue instead of selections. Jon Lansman, a member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), said at the time: “Party staff cannot oversee selections at the same time as preparing what we need to do to win.”

At its last pre-conference meeting, the NEC was told that – if party staff were able – the ruling body would be presented that same week with proposals for a truncated selection process. Ultimately, there was not time before conference and the plans were not offered up for discussion.

LabourList understands that the NEC officers group will be meeting soon and is set to discuss such plans. It is widely expected that the shortened process would involve shortlists drawn up by NEC panels, followed by hustings and voting at local meetings.

Since selections were paused, LabourList has been contacted by many members and Constituency Labour Parties from across the factional spectrum who are unhappy about the increasing chances of the NEC imposing shortlists if not candidates.

NEC sources are divided over whether truncated processes are justified. Some argue that it is necessary ahead of a likely early election because the full process usually takes nine weeks to complete.

Others point out that some CLPs have been demanding permission to start their selections for an extended period of time. A number of NEC members, as well as activists, have said selections should be prioritised over trigger ballots.

Vauxhall, where ten activists have publicly declared their interest in replacing Kate Hoey as the Labour candidate, saw its local party demand on Thursday 26th September that the selection be permitted to go ahead.

According to a well-placed source, the CLP has written regularly to individuals at the top of the party and to the party itself since September 10th. As well as demanding a full selection take place, there have also been concerns over the absence of an all-women shortlist.

It was recently decided by the NEC that Vauxhall would not be subject to an AWS, whereas Poplar and Limehouse – where Jim Fitzpatrick MP is standing down – would be. This has proved controversial in both seats.

The City of Durham CLP all-member meeting on Saturday 28th September unanimously voted in favour of calling for its own selection process to be “immediately restarted”.

In a statement, the CLP said: “The Labour Party NEC suspended the current selection processes across the UK on 13th September and although we were told that the NEC would decide how to proceed by the 20th September nothing has happened.”

Incumbent Roberta Blackman-Woods MP confirmed in early July that she would not be seeking reselection in the North East seat due to “family and personal reasons”. She currently has a majority of 12,364, and it has been a Labour seat since 1935.

Liverpool West Derby, where retiring MP Stephen Twigg has a huge majority of 32,908, passed a motion last week to “call on the NEC to allow our CLP to restart our selection process immediately”.

The demand concluded: “It would be a disgrace if further delays were to lead to a reduction (or complete loss) of our input into the selection process.”

The Merseyside CLP had been prepared to elect its selection committee on the day that the suspension was announced. North West TULO (trade union and Labour Party liaison organisation) had already elected their representatives to sit on the body.

Erith and Thamesmead, which wants to choose its own candidate to replace Teresa Pearce MP, overwhelmingly approved a motion expressing “deep concern” over the selection process at a recent GC (general committee) meeting.

“There has been the pending threat of an election for the majority of this period, but we have not yet begun selecting our candidate purely as a result of the NEC’s failure to put in place the process,” the motion reads.

It then resolves to elect a local selection committee at a meeting on October 24th, which “must be overseen by the NEC”. The motion says that if the national ruling body does not “put in place the proper oversight or determine a selection process” by then, the GC will hold a vote of no confidence in the NEC.

Erith and Thamesmead CLP had a selection controversy in 2010, when it was found that a ballot box containing postal votes had been tampered with. An investigation by then-general secretary Ray Collins followed and the selection was rerun.

LabourList now understands that a number of seats have been allowed to continue with their selection process, such as Ilford South, on the basis that their processes had already reached an advanced stage.

This is despite NEC members informing LabourList earlier this month that they had been told all selections – including Ilford South – were to be paused.

In other constituencies, such as Enfield North, the local parties are apparently continuing their selections without permission from the NEC.

LabourList understands that Jeremy Corbyn asked in the mid-September NEC meeting for selections in retirement and defection seats to restart as soon as possible.

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