Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Wrong Mann

If there are two things I have in common with John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, it's that we're both Labour members, and we are both supporting Yvette Cooper's candidacy to be the next leader.

But where we differ significantly, is on the future of the leadership contest. Mr Mann has today called for the contest to be halted because of, what he called, 'hard-left' infiltrators.

The leadership rules were put in place by Ed Miliband in January 2014, and instead of the electoral college which had elected him. This college had been split into three, the Parliamentary Labour Party, Constituency Parties and Trade Unions and affiliates. As you can see from the breakdown here, it was the votes of the Trade Unions and affiliates section that decided it in Ed Miliband's favour.

This had caused a lot of controversy, and was considered unfair, so a new system of one member one vote (OMOV) was introduced. This meant that each member's vote was worth the same regardless of whether they were an MP, Lord, an ordinary member through a CLP, or were an affiliate member.

Additionally, those who signed up as 'supporters' would also be entitled to a vote in the leadership election, after paying a £3 fee. It is this that is causing problems for some members of the party.

Three of the candidates, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall, all gained the 35 nominations needed to be on the ballot before the cut-off date of June 15th. However, in order to try and ensure a proper debate, some MPs, who supported other candidates, 'lent' their names to Jeremy Corbyn, so there was a broader representation across the party.

It is these supporters that are now causing much angst to Mr Mann, amongst others, as it would appear that not all are committed to the Labour cause. There may be Tories signing up, encouraged by  Toby Young (whose application was rejected), in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, who they believe would lead the Labour party to a similar result to 1983. This is a pretty pathetic tactic, in my opinion, and perhaps indicative of a lack of confidence amongst some Conservatives that they've won the argument.

Then there are those who may be coming from other parties on the left, such as the Greens, or the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, which is largely made up of those who left the party following the invasion of Iraq, and the party's perceived shift to the right.

A lot of people joined Labour straight after our defeat, and many have joined since, some seemingly inspired by Mr Corbyn's candidacy, which they believe would take the Labour Party back to what they think it should be.

Whether these rumours are true, or at least exaggerated is difficult to tell, but the rules were set by Harriet Harman, and the acting leadership, so if true, they should take the blame. I have already written elsewhere my opinion of how the contest is being conducted, so I won't go over those again.

There was always a chance that something like that could happen, but there was such a simple way to avoid it. I have no particular issue with attempts to widen the debate, and bring in those who are Labour supporters, but for various reasons have not joined the party. But it was decided to have the closing date for signing up as August 12th, the day ballot papers start going out. A much more sensible option would have been to only those signing up on, or before the close of nominations to participate. Therefore, this problem has been brought upon the Labour party by its own leadership.

Democracy has often been an issue for leaders, because they can't always rely on the membership, citizens, etc to just go along with what they want. Under the Labour Party's system, it would appear that the 'outside' candidate (he's been an MP since 1983), Jeremy Corbyn, could not only win, but even do it on the first ballot.

The leadership are not keen on this outcome at all, and neither am I which is why I support Yvette Cooper, and I think a Jeremy Corbyn leadership would be a bad thing, but the rules are being followed, Mr Corbyn is making his case, and it seems to be speaking to a of of people.

So instead of trying to stop the contest, Mr Mann, and those who agree with him, should instead be making the case for their idea of how the Labour Party should go forward, and not rely on artificial methods to restrict the democratic choice of members and supporters.

As I said, earlier, and in my previous article, this is a mess of the Labour Party's own making, and not the fault of those who ordinary members who will be electing the leader.

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