Ensuring NEC nominations are fair.

So I am at work casually searching my filing cabinet for chocolate supplies when I am informed Luke Akehurst has complimented me in Labour List. Oddly, I read the article earlier on the way to work, but half way through a survey appeared, which I couldn’t get rid of so I missed my Warhol moment (PS: Labourlist sort out those survey’s – they are annoying!).

I was curious. Luke and I have a strange relationship. I find Tweeting him a really good way to deal with my PMT every month and he finds Tweeting like he has PMT all month a good thing. We are definitely not two people who could survive being trapped in a lift together.

Jokes aside I really appreciated Luke’s kind words, even if they have scared the fucking shit out of me and I now have left-wingers looking at me like I’m some right-wing infiltrator.  However, I do feel I need to respond, as even though the intention was nice, I don’t feel they reflected what he wanted to say….. or what I wanted him to say.

Whilst I did feel the part where Luke highlighted what could have happened in Walthamstow with Bex Bailey as a bad thing, but his failing to acknowledge that what did happen to Rhea Wolfson was the same thing, contradictory and hypocritical, the rest of the article about CLP nominations actually mirrored exactly what I wrote to Iain McNicol and Jeremy Corbyn in my letter to them two weeks ago and was spot on.

Except one small thing that I couldn’t let go…. I don’t believe the process in Tottenham was down to me being a ‘perfectionist’, you can be unfair perfectly (as Luke well knows) – the process used in Tottenham was about fairness and transparency. Luke highlighted a lot of practices in his article that I too have heard, for example only one ‘slates’ statements being given to members or the vote elected in ‘slates’ rather than individuals.

Although I consider myself as a ‘lefty’ and some of the practices described above may have equally benefitted the left as-well as the right wings of the party, it makes my stomach turn every-time I hear such practices take place. But what angers me is that the party have for years ignored the fact that a lack of standardised processes leave the whole system open to abuse and manipulation.

It also leaves CLP Secretaries open to allegation, sometimes publicly via social media. They may have picked up how to do NEC nominations from previous CLP Secretaries or even just made it up. CLP Secretaries are volunteers and procedures should ensure they are protected. That said it was only until the Rhea Wolfson case I found out that the way I done the NEC meeting was not standard process. I thought it was until I read what other members said online about what happened at their meeting. It appears I made it up!

Tottenham CLP did vote for the ‘left slate’ and I am confident they did so because they made a democratic decision. All of the statements I received were put on our website, with the link circulated to members and NEC candidates with the notice of the meeting. Limited copies of all statements were available at the meeting. All of the candidates were on the ballot paper with 2 empty spaces for people to state if anyone was missing or for members to put themselves forward.

Yes we did have ballot papers (on coloured paper as I’ve seen the ‘bring spare plain paper to meetings’ trick before where there are more votes than people in the room!) The count was conducted by two non-voters and they had to sign the count sheet.The whole meeting collectively did a roll-call and counted the people in the room, so we all knew the amount of papers expected back.

It is not being a perfectionist – it is being transparent and electoral transparency comes with ballot papers, count sheets and verification. We would not accept anything less in public elections. So my only gripe from Luke’s piece is, transparency should not be seen as perfection, it should be standard because we are dealing with people’s right to vote and if we as a political party cannot get that right, something is wrong.

I’m glad that even though Luke did not get the Tottenham nomination, the transparent process made him confident it was not because I stitched it up. As a ‘lefty’ of course I am pleased the ‘left-slate’ received the nomination, but I am pleased because the left candidates won the nomination on merit not manipulation. Two years ago, Luke got the Tottenham nomination, it was nauseating for me, however, he won in a fair democratic process.

There are many CLP Secretaries who have carried out this role with fairness (and probably better than I did), but I am flattered Luke chose to single me out. (Although, the last time Luke singled me out, was a bit more fun if I am being honest!) However, it shouldn’t be a choice to be fair – the party need to ensure fairness, transparency and openness by having proper accountable processes. It should not be a postcode lottery for members to have access to democracy. Luke’s (and other NEC candidates) national insight should not be lost as this needs to be addressed.

So I agree with Luke’s recommendations (as it’s what most of us as CLP Secretaries do anyway) but would like to add some:

  • I know many Secretaries who get emails after their nominations meetings of new candidates and who do feel bad that they weren’t entered into the ballot. So a cut off date needs to be applied for those wishing to stand.
  • I do think CLP Secretaries should send their results to Region (like with the London Mayoral) and it should be signed so someone is overseeing it.
  • I also think the party should email all members letting them know they can stand for NEC and how to put themselves forward
  • Lastly, I think the nominations should count as a short-listing method like the Mayoral election candidates in London, not an ego boost, and that they should be mandatory for all CLPs to conduct.

I do find the ‘home nomination’ requirement completely stupid. We didn’t need it for the Leadership or Mayoral nominations. I have no idea why we need it for NEC nominations. Luke’s merit list was not enough to change my mind, Rhea Wolfson is a very active activist and was still denied, so they fact she has moved and is now eligible seems like great news as members can democratically choose to have her or not.

As for Luke commenting on ‘appealing across factional lines’, it’s a bit like Bernard Matthew promoting vegetarianism!

Anyway, thanks again Luke for your kind words, I’ll put it on my statement when I re-stand as CLP Secretary just to make our CLP AGM much more amusing – besides it could increase my share of the votes by 4.5%.

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