Still arguing about the manifesto

How should Labour’s Manifesto be decided? This is what the rules say!

The NPF propose policy to Conference via their Report. Policy can also be created by passing motions at Conference and there are now 20 motion topics debated at each conference. This is a significant advance, so watch to see if any new leadership seeks to reduce this number. There is a party programme, did you know, and if Conference decides on a ⅔ majority recorded by a card vote then the policy item is included in the Programme.

The election manifesto for all national elections must come from the programme. This is another set of rules not read so often it would seem, because what happens is that an appointee of the Leader writes a draft and the Clause V meeting does what the fuckit wants! (The rules are all detailed in Chapter 1, Clause V.)

To this insight we should also add the contempt with which the NPF is held. I may regret this last statement as I think I might explore a run for one of the positions in London. …

On Open Selection

This is my experience of the reformed trigger ballots, others will have different ones.

The new rules did not make much difference. Only one MP failed to obtain renomination after losing a trigger ballot, although five lost their ballots. Some may have been saved by running out of time and or a lot of people stood down. However we i.e. the Left are losing because people aren’t turning up, and they aren’t turning up because we don’t know who they are and many of them have given up on us as leaders of the Corbyn project. People have not engaged in this process and it is not because of the fact they didn’t get a phone call or email. (There may be one or two places where piss poor organisation by the left had led to failure, and some where they ran out of time.) In some cases, the surviving MPs can be seen to genuinely have the support of the CLP membership.

We i.e. the Left have driven people away through our sectarian and indecent behaviour. We have failed to renew our leadership. The momentum database is now too inaccurate to be useful, incl. CLP/Ward Membership facts.

Those that support the incumbents are often better Labour Campaigners then we are, (except for some of our Trotskyist friends) and many of our recent members and new members first experience of the Labour Party is on the doorstep.

While this is controversial people are leaving! (Or were until the election.)

We need to discover nice, we need to build ward socials, and meet more people. Supporting Corbyn isn’t enough because people can think they do that by supporting him in the coup and voting for the JC9. They don’t have to support us, and don’t in many cases because we don’t talk to them.

In addition, by driving for All Member Meeting governance, we have ignored Branch activity and let them fail.

We have been looking in the wrong place.

ooOOOoo

This was originally written on 16th October. …

Some thought on Labour’s Leadership campaign

The Labour Leadership elections seem to be less inspiring than 2015. We should all remember and recognise that Corbyn’s victory in the 2015 Leadership election was the result of revolutionary change in British Politics, he surfed a wave; it was not created by the minuscule and impotent Labour Left. At the time, I was shocked by Ed Miliband’s defeat (at least its scale) and began to question my own sense of strategy. I engaged with several parts of Labour Left which I had not been associated with and found an entrenched sense of entitlement, that “it was their turn”. This has survived to today.

With respect to the current election, for Leader at least, I am concerned that should Lisa Nandy win, she’ll end up trapped like Ed Miliband, (and arguably Corbyn), in an office without the ability to win her policy agenda in the Party, either at Conference or in the PLP. It is my view that the faction around Ed Balls organised and blew Miliband of course and his genuine supporters were insufficiently powerful or skilful to defend his policy agenda. I sort of agree with her and Phillips that 40 second replies to “moderated” questions are not the best way to allow candidates to speak to the members, although Nandy has shown how well she can use even less time on the Andrew Neil interview. I also question the judgement behind her voting record over the autumn. She seems shocked that the Tories are reneging on promises they made to win Labour votes for both Brexit and the election and while her statements on Workers’ & Migrants’ Rights are welcome, her role in ending the Parliament and thus stymieing a “final say” referendum is not, in my opinion good.

For those that place the worst possible interpretation on Nandy’s comments on Catalonia and Scottish independence, you are wrong, she clearly did not mean to support the aggressive police or judicial response; suggesting she did  puts you in the same category as the anti-Catholicism surrounding Rebecca Long-Bailey. It infantilises our politics and buries much more important questions. Scotland and its relationship with the UK deserves a better debate than this.

Last night RLB made herself the first of the Leader candidates to commit to Open Selection. I suspect that I am in a minority amongst Labour’s Left in that I don’t consider that we failed to win re-selection ballots because of the rules, or the constraints/rules of the debate. It is clear that the argument, “we deserve a choice” didn’t have the resonance that one would have hoped, but, we lost the re-selections because on the whole people didn’t turn up, and they didn’t turn up because the Left don’t know who they are and many of them have given up on us as leaders of the Corbyn project. We must recognise that, we i.e. the Left have driven people away through our sectarian and indecent behaviour.

Another problem I have with Open Selection is that it is based on an elitist model of power. If we had a democratic policy making process which the leadership and the PLP would follow, then who the MPs are would matter less but that’s not how the Labour Party does and it’s looking as if the new Leadership nomination rules will end up restricting choice and not enhancing it.

I plan to look at my proposals over the last two years and see which one’s need to be resurrected, but we need to recognise that many of the democratic reforms stemming from the democracy review have not introduced member power, they have reinforced the power of the Party’s bureaucracy. We need a stronger Conference and stronger CLPs, but achieving these things will take a change of culture, the Party needs to become an instrument of collective endeavour not a battlefield of power.

In her speech last night Long-Bailey said,

This means open and democratic policy making at every level, properly resourced political education and a professional and accountable party operation. These are the basics.

Sadly Party Democracy is a critical issue, I’d prefer that policy and electoral strategy were at the centre but what the candidates say in response to my question will be critical in how I cast my vote and speak at the nomination meeting. …

A question

To Labour’s Leadership/Deputy Leadership candidates: What confidence can you give us that you will put a stop to the toxic culture of bullying & slander that comes from many parts of the factional disputes, often covered up, as shown most dramatically by Bex Bailey, by Labour Party full-timers, who in some cases act with impunity in breach of the law and the rules? …

The Trade Union Gateway

Sadly, Clive Lewis didn’t make it onto the Labour Leadership ballot paper, and we move onto the next stage. The candidates now need support from the affiliates or from 33 CLPs.

The affiliates rule is,

At least 3 affiliates (at least 2 of which shall be trade union affiliates) compromising 5 per cent of affiliated membership

Some of them, LIsa Nandy, Emily Thornbury and Jess Phillips, I am talking about you, will have some difficulty reaching this threshold, there are now only 12 Unions affiliated, six of which are above 5%. …

Accepting or rejecting Labour’s members

It’s that time again, people are scrutinising applications to join the Labour Party in great detail. I was asked my advice, and wrote and posted this. I am strongly of the view that we should on the whole take people at face value and believe them if they state they’ve changed their mind. I think we are all agreed that expulsions and exclusions should only be used in exceptional cases; they must not become a tactic of member management as was sought to be done in 2015/2016. Before you read the bollocks below, if you want to join the Labour Party, you can do so here.

There are two ways of being expelled from the LP and one way in which membership can be denied.

These, the expulsions, are campaigning for or standing as a candidate in opposition to Labour, supporting an organisation other than an official Labour organisation or being in breach of other conduct rules i.e. racism or bullying. (In addition, you might be expelled, or otherwise sanctioned for breaches of electoral law, other crimes, voting against Labour budgets in the Council, paying for someone else’s membership and or lying about one’s place of residence.)

CLPs (other than those in special measures) should review all applications for membership and recommend rejection if the candidates are ineligible for membership. These meetings should be done monthly so as to notify the GS in time for the eight week deadline.

Members must agree to accept the rules etc, be a Trade Unionist (if eligible), pay the Union’s political levy and be on the electoral register. They may not be a member of any other political party or an organisation incompatible with membership of the Labour Party. Members must also pay their own membership fees.

The rules are unclear as to how to request that a member’s application should be rejected although the decision is by rule taken by the GS, who may delegate this decision.

There seems to be an informal rule that if you stand against Labour, nominate or publicly donate to an opposing campaign, you need to wait 2 years, unless it would seem you are a public official; then we take you immediately. (This leads to the strange case, where someone who stands against us and loses can’t join while someone who wins can). …

What happened?

What happened?

So what happened? Where does it leave me and my allies? I have been doing a lot of reading much of which I have bookmarked on my diigo feed, tagged GE2019. I wanted to write something deep, insightful and original, but others got there first. The result has two highlights, the loss of seats in the East Midands, North East, East Coast, primarily leave seats, primarily seats that have voted Labour forever but secondly an overall loss of votes to “Remain” parties. Labour’s so-called Lexiters were quick out the gate blaming Labour’s promise for a second referendum as the core cause of the loss of these seats. Reality requires a deeper look; it also requires the recognition that some of those seats will have been lost because remain supporting labour voters chose to vote elsewhere. Would the result have been better or worse if we had not promised the second referendum? How many of these seats did we lose by less than the Green/LibDem vote? How many of the seats in the Leave voting majorities that we held, might we have lost if remain supporters had been less committed to us? It could have been worse! For a more detailed insight I need to wait for the Electoral Commission spreadsheet.

Labour had been losing presumably Remain support since May 2019 when the NEC decided to campaign in the European elections on, an “I don’t know what” position. It’s the problem with the leadership position, it was clearly anti-Tory deal but too many surrounding the Leadership either wanted to leave on any undefined terms and were not prepared to offer a “final say” choice to the people who issued the mandate. In the European elections, Labour lost four times more votes to remain parties than to the Lexit parties a vote share we never recovered. The chart below shows Labour’s loss of poll share over the year.

 

Labour’s move to where they were, was too slow and too grudging; its opponents legitimised voting Tory by making the issue existential. It certainly doesn’t make the idea of an eection rather than a referendum look too smart and Labour’s Lexiters need to say what terms of departure were acceptable or unacceptable. (We now need to address the aftermath of agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement’s citizenship clauses which we must oppose.)

The facts suggest it wasn’t just Brexit that caused these losses. DataPraxis published their analysis in a report called Tory Landslide, Progressives split and present evidence that the key causes were Jeremy Corbyn, although this can be difficult to unwind from Brexit, that this time the manifesto didn’t cut through, there remain those for whom Brexit was the key issue and these sit on both sides of the remain/leave debate. Labour fell into the trap that “soft brexit” satisfied neither side of a split society. Corbyn and Labour were no longer the insurgent.

It should be noted, often around the other two issues, that Tory remainers stayed with the Tories despite the extreme terms of departure being offered by the Tories.

The loss of the Leaver’s loyalty has been a long time coming and is documented by Phil Burton Cartledge, in his blog article “The working class politics of Brexit“, and by much of Paul Mason’s writings, but most recently in “AFTER CORBYNISM, WHERE NEXT FOR LABOUR?“. The working class fantasised of by the Labour Party no longer exists, and much of what it’s become is no longer loyal to Labour, nor can be won via an economic offering. In 2017, the manifesto was key in winning votes to Labour; this time it was not believed. Too much was added as an afterthought, if rectifying WASPI injustice, free railway travel and free broadband were so important, why weren’t they in the initial launch. For too many, it became seen to be unaffordable, the message against anti-austerity was lost as were other crucial parts of the promise although Mason argues, much of the “traditional working class” are no longer listening to these i.e. economic promises.

These three factors suggest to me that 2017 was the anomaly.

Another factor to be considered was Labour’s organisation and campaigning. The seat prioritisation was plainly wrong, polling data was ignored, the data in many of these seats/constituencies was dreadful because they hadn’t been worked and their membership as a proportion of vote is also low; Labour’s famed ½ million members didn’t and don’t reach to these places. We have been losing members since 2017 yet ignoring this. We must recognise that one of the reasons that people are leaving and those that stay have stopped listening to the “Left” is because the Left’s political culture is so unattractive.

In summary,

  1. The second referendum promise did not lose this election for Labour; without it, we’d have done worse in the North as well as in the Cities.
  2. The collapse of Labour’s votes has been decades in the making; 2017 was the anomaly.
  3. Labour lost more votes to remain parties than they did to the Tories
  4. The manifesto’s vote winning power was dissipated by late promises and failed to cut through; it was a disincentive this time.
  5. Corbyn lost us votes, much of it due to his personal history and some of it a failure to take sides on the Brexit debate.
 …