Labour needs to urgently review the selection rulebook…..
Dark mutterings are abroad that the selection process in Oldham East & Saddelworth may once again have seen undue influence from the Party centre being brought to bear. I don’t know the ins-and-outs but certainly it is surprising to see neither Councillor Afzal Khan nor Josh MacAlister on the list. Nonetheless its hard to be specific without knowing more; however, we can generally say that our selection process is deeply flawed and needs urgent review.
We can, for example, say it’s totally wrong that the selection for a seat far in the North of England takes place in London under the auspices of people whose local knowledge and background appears to be highly questionable. If the linked too account is relevant then it might well be pertinent to ask what the point of having Constituency Labour Parties is at all if they are going to be completely sidelined.
The location of this decision in London is unacceptable and exclusionary of people from low income brackets in particular. It sends worrying signals about how a London-centric leadership feels about northern working class communities. Rather than build-up links locally, prospective candidates are encouraged to network amoungst the London literati and this again is deeply unhelpful for developing a community party.
Another thing we need to question is the role of the NEC in selections. Intervention in these matters by the centre should be the exception yet in some instances they are regarded as the acceptable norm. Even when the centre has to intervene it should be to aid local structures developing in the right direction; not to permanently supersede them. This unhealthy culture of the ‘NEC knows best’ must be ended and once again it is a barrier to building a Party rooted in local communities. No wonder our core vote only flocks to us when our opponents scare it so much it has no other choice.
Overall whatever the specifics there is clearly a lack of transparency and accountability in this process and that must be ended. Not only are these decisions taken far away from the communities they effect but they are taken by people whose affiliations and other interests are unclear. Part of this is battling to make the NEC more transparent but in general the Party centre also has far too much power in this regard and a Party serious about trusting its members, about politics rooted in local communities would end this. Given the manner under which we select people its no wonder complaints of stitch-ups are frequent; they are taken in an atomising and dis-empowering way and in a way that automatically alienates Party members from their Party. This has to change and a radical rethink of these rules is part of the struggle to democratise the Party…