Exclusive: New selection process agreed by Labour’s ruling body

Sienna Rodgers

A new, fast-tracked parliamentary selection process has been agreed by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) that will see the ruling body take partial control over contests for candidates.

Labour’s NEC officers decided on Monday that the NEC would draw up long-lists of potential parliamentary candidates ahead of the next election, then mixed panels – comprised of NEC, regional board and local party representatives – would establish shortlists.

Under this agreed plan – which applies to those seats most important to the party, i.e. defection or retirement CLPs – the final stage and decision will be taken by selection meetings of Constituency Labour Parties. The entire process is intended to be conducted over just seven days.

In seats not currently held by ex-Labour MPs or retiring Labour MPs, a similar truncated process will be undertaken but the NEC does not have the capacity to longlist and sit on the shortlisting panels. Instead, these steps will be under the control of regional executive committees, working in partnership with CLPs.

LabourList understands that an all-members selection process – which would not have given an additional level of control to the NEC – was rejected by members of the NEC officers group in favour of the course of action outlined above.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader who sits on the NEC, argued unsuccessfully for a more member-led process. This would have been identical to the normal selection process, but significantly sped up.

Jeremy Corbyn pushed for this more member-led process, but neither the leader nor the deputy leader were successful in making their case. This is because other NEC officers had concerns about a fully member-led selection taking place over just seven days.

Opponents of the entirely member-controlled option concluded that it would not be possible to shorten the process to just a week while ensuring that applicants without senior local positions – who are not councillors, for instance – would have a fair hearing.

“I think we’ve come up with a reasonable position – with speed and with maximum member involvement,” one source told LabourList.

Another plan, which would have given total control to the NEC and seen parliamentary candidates imposed wholesale, was also rejected by the ruling body with a number of members expressing opposition to it on the basis that it would not be sufficiently democratic.

The meeting did not decide that there would be exceptions to the fast-tracked process, LabourList understands – but it has been confirmed that in Nottingham East, where longlisting was already completed before the selection pause, the CLP longlist will be used.

The vote was taken by members of the NEC officers group, which does not comprise all NEC members but only: Corbyn; Watson; NEC chair Andi Fox; vice-chair Ian Murray; treasurer Diana Holland; chairs of NEC panels Jim Kennedy, Claudia Webbe and Ann Henderson.

Commenting on the newly agreed system, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “This fast-tracked selection process will ensure members can democratically elect their candidates ahead of a possible early election.

“After the 2017 general election, Jeremy Corbyn proposed that selections be held in key marginals to ensure that members could elect their candidates ahead of a possible early election. As a result the party has already held democratic selections in 117 key marginal seats.”

Parliamentary selections have been paused across the country since mid-September – a decision that saw many CLPs demand that their contests resume ahead of a likely early general election. Parties such as Vauxhall and Nottingham East have previously had candidates imposed by the NEC and there was vocal opposition to this happening again.

The party has decided that truncated processes are necessary because the full, standard process for selections usually takes nine weeks to complete. There may not be sufficient time for these to be undertaken before an election is called.

But some activists and a number of NEC members have pointed out that CLPs have been demanding permission to start their selections for an extended period of time. It has also been argued that selections should be prioritised over trigger ballots, which are ongoing.

Further details to follow…

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