Defend Conference policy on candidate selections!

Following on from Labour Hub’s recent article on how the Labour leadership is disregarding Conference policy on the selection of candidates in by-elections, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is circulating a model motion on the subject for branches and CLPs to consider.

The NEC is taking control of Labour’s by-election process in Old Bexley and Sidcup, despite a rule change passed by Labour Party conference which explicitly gave local CLPs control over Westminster by-elections and snap elections.
You can read more about this on Labour List here and on Labour Hub an article by CLPD EC member James McAsh here. NEC member Mish Rahman has also highlighted the issue here.

 Please take to your CLPs and Branches and send to Labour’s NEC, a list of which can be found here.

Model motion for Branches/CLPs to consider

The Labour Conference decision on shortlisting panels should be respected

To: Labour Party NEC

This CLP notes:

1)     Labour’s Annual Conference is the sovereign body of the Labour Party. The Rule Book, Chapter 1.VI.1 clearly states: “The work of the Party shall be under the direction and control of Party conference”;

2)     the composition of shortlisting panels for snap parliamentary elections was agreed by Labour’s 2021 Annual Conference as: 3 CLP reps, plus 1 NEC rep and 1 REC rep;

3)     despite this, the Party assembled a shortlisting panel for the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election selection comprising of: 3 NEC reps, plus 1 CLP rep and 1 REC rep;

4)     the justification for not following the rule agreed by Annual Conference, according to a report on Labour List, is that the new rule was “inexpertly drafted”;

5)     the Party employs staff to advise on “technical” matters and in the past, if HQ has considered something was ‘poorly drafted’ staff would have advised the CLP before Annual Conference;

6)     whether the drafting was carried out “expertly” or not, the intention of the rule was clear to Conference and remains clear now.

We support the decision of Annual Conference and believe that CLPs should play the key role in selecting their parliamentary candidates.

Accordingly, this CLP calls on the NEC not to overturn party democracy and instead to respect the decision of Conference that the composition of shortlisting panels should be: 3 CLP reps, plus 1 NEC rep and 1 REC rep.

(242 words)

Supporting Arguments
Passing NEC procedures for a by-election selection with 3 NEC reps 1 CLP and 1 REC (as reported by Siena from Labour List) rep is an explicit wrecking of the decision taken by Conference for these shortlists to be decided by a panel of 3 CLP 1 NEC and 1 REC rep.
The rule change agreed at Conference represents a view shared across a broad swathe of party members that by-elections and snap elections should not be used as an excuse to override the rights of members to choose their candidates. The excuses traditionally given to do this (equalities considerations, legalistic concerns, media scrutiny) simply do not wash especially given the track record of the NEC in stitching up shortlists and imposing (directly or indirectly) candidates for solely political reasons and to the detriment of other considerations.
The NEC’s constitutional role and responsibility is to issue guidance which gives effect to the clear intention behind the amendment, not to rewrite it in the NEC’s own image. This is because Conference is sovereign. Chapter 1.VI.1 states: “The work of the Party shall be under the direction and control of Party conference”. The NEC’s discretionary powers to issue procedural guidance and intervene in selections must be understood in light of that.
It is true that Chapters 5.I.2 gives the NEC discretionary powers to issue its own procedural guidelines on selections and ultimately impose candidates. However, these powers are to be used in the face of particular circumstances and the NEC is not permitted to use its discretion unreasonably. Similarly, Chapter 2.II.7 states that the Party must exercise its discretion in good faith and not treat members unfairly. In other words, it is unlawful for the NEC to use its discretion to wreck Conference amendments.
The reference in the NEC statement on Friday to “inexpert drafting” is regrettable and demonstrates contempt of Party members. Party rules often leave areas of ambiguity out of necessity and it is the NEC’s role to develop additional guidance consistent with decisions agreed at Conference. In addition, the rulebook cannot be said to be expertly drafted.

Image: Party Conference 2021, by Emma Tait.

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