Mandatory Reselection: Democratising the Party

A statement from Young Labour's National Committee on why it is proposing drastic changes to parliamentary candidate selection.

Editorial note: Yesterday (June 5th), Young Labour’s National Committee voted to send a rule change on a form of mandatory reselection forward to the 2019 Labour Party conference. If adopted, it would radically democratise the process of selecting Labour parliamentary candidates, ensure far more effective accountability of sitting MPs and empower members to create a Parliamentary Labour Party which reflects both their own political priorities and those of the communities of which they are a part.

With the very real prospect of a socialist Labour government coming to office in the near future, it is vital that it is able to rely on the support of its parliamentarians in order to implement its programme. Unfortunately, a dwindling - though by no means negligible - band of MPs has continually made it clear, even in the wake of last year’s general election result, that it has no intention of reconciling itself to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. These MPs have thereby set their face against the overwhelming majority of party members as well. However, the current trigger ballot system makes it very difficult (by design) for any such MPs to be removed as Labour candidates.

New Socialist therefore strongly supports the change endorsed by Young Labour’s National Committee as a major step forward for party democracy. In a recent article on mandatory reselection, @NormCoresky noted the dangers of any attempt to implement a left programme with an unreformed PLP, and added: “a parliamentary party that supports the party as a whole is therefore imperative, and mandatory reselection the only method to realising that goal in the time we are likely to have available to us.” We agree completely, and to that effect we reproduce a statement from the Committee on its proposed rule change below.

Since the summer of 2015, the Labour Party’s membership has grown massively. This has been witnessed most evidently in our youth membership, which has skyrocketed under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

These young members have overwhelmingly and consistently elected principled socialists to positions of political leadership within the youth structures of our Party. We, as these socialists elected to provide leadership, have been mandated to move Labour onto a radically democratic, avowedly socialist path.

To achieve these aims, we must begin the democratisation of our Party, and the meaningful opening up of Labour to its mass membership, and the communities that this membership is embedded in.

Democratising the Party and revitalising public trust in Labour’s elected representatives means that the membership must have a far more concrete say over those it chooses to represent their communities in parliament.

For too long, we have heard from young workers and young voters that Labour MPs in ‘safe’ seats have a ‘job for life’. In some Labour safe seats, some MPs have been alleged over the past few years to have had as little as a 0.3% contact rate with their constituents.

There is a far too widespread - and deep – perception that many Labour politicians are aloof from the concerns of the communities they represent and can afford to ignore the worries of their constituents. In parts of the country, we believe this breeds a certain cynicism towards our Party - and to the prospect of political change more generally.

We believe that this imbalance in structural accountability with regards to Labour’s parliamentarians breeds an unhealthy, lopsided political culture inside the Party. This could not have been exemplified more clearly than in the disgraceful parliamentary coup against Jeremy Corbyn in summer 2016, where the MPs that we fight to elect fought against the decision of the membership.

We also believe that the membership understands precisely when we say that there is a small core of MPs who, far from committed to the politics consistently re-affirmed by the Party’s membership, seem actively hostile to the entire Party. Many of these MPs stand in stark opposition to their local membership and seem content with hiding in Westminster away from them.

Beyond mere strategy, we also believe that various Labour MPs do not meet the standards that should be expected of Labour parliamentarians in their personal and ethical conduct. We believe that party members should be able to address these issues and decide as to whether certain candidates should be able to represent Labour’s programme in their communities and areas.

If we are to expect Labour members to fight on the doorstep and wholeheartedly convince the unconvinced of our vision for a better world, they need an instilled faith in the prospective candidate they are fighting for. We want to dismantle a disjointed, undemocratic and unhealthy political culture that has grown inside of our proud Party for too long.

We are proposing this rule change to ensure that a better culture emerges in the Labour Party where our representatives are far more accountable to the membership. We need to show to communities we seek to represent that we are sincere in electing the best people for the community to Britain’s lawmaking bodies. For a vibrant, representative, reflective and in-tune parliament that ordinary people can have faith in - this is why we support this rule change.

Young Labour National Committee