Now is the letter of our discontent

17 Dec

Five of the six declared applicants to be the next Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham have co-signed a letter calling for the NEC to let local party members have a say in the selection.

VERY URGENT

15 December 2021

The Party Leader,

The General Secretary

And

The NEC Members

Labour Party UK

Newham Mayoral candidate Selection Process for May 2022

We, the undersigned applicants for Labour candidate for Mayor of Newham, request the Party Leader, the General Secretary, and the NEC members of the Labour Party to open the Newham Mayoral selection process for members via open ballot.

Labour Party members in Newham should be allowed to participate in the ballots to democratically select their final candidate. We understand this may have to be based on 2018 membership
lists as this was found acceptable for the previous Mayoral selection process.

Membership irregularities of course have to be investigated but it is vitally important that the process has legitimacy, transparency and credibility in the eyes of the Newham public given the powers of the elected Mayor who they will be electing . This can be achieved whilst addressing the issue of membership irregularities via the alternative we suggest.

We also ask you to take into account the recent letter signed and sent by East Ham MP Stephen Timms and GLA member Unmesh Desai asking for the local membership to be given some say in how their representatives are selected

Yours sincerely,

Canidates (sic) to have declared intention to stand so far

The letter is then signed (if crudely cutting and pasting images of signatures can be called signing) by Ayesha Chowdhury, Unmesh Desai, Lester Hudson, Lakmini Shah and Syed Taqi Jawad Naqvi. There’s a space for Rokhsana Fiaz’s signature, but it is of course blank.

Is this a principled call for democratic involvement, or a cynical ploy to play up to certain elements within the local party? For sure, the five signatories know they have little chance of winning the selection if it’s left up to the NEC. Barring some outrageous scandal, the party simply isn’t going to ditch a BAME woman as candidate. So calling for an open vote makes tactical sense.

But, as the letter acknowledges, the two CLPS in Newham have been suspended for ‘membership irregularities’. The party has no confidence that current lists are accurate and there may be dozens – possibly hundreds – of fake members on the books. The solution suggested in the letter is to go back to 2018 and use those lists.

Why 2018? Well, that was when Rokhsana Fiaz was selected and if it was good enough then it should be good enough now, right?

Well, no. The idea of using old membership lists is problematic, for a number of reasons. Firstly, does the party have an accurate list of who was a member in Newham in 2018 or could it realistically re-create one? Even if it does (or could) a significant number of people will have left the party (voluntarily or otherwise) or moved out of the area in the meantime. So the NEC would have to remove them from the franchise, unless the candidates think people who are no longer members or don’t live in Newham now should be given a vote!

Secondly, what date in 2018 do you choose for the freeze date – the 1st of January, the 31st of December, or any of the 363 days in between? (I should declare an interest here, as I re-joined the party in March 2018 – should I get a vote or not?)

But the biggest problem is that going back to 2018 doesn’t ‘address the issue of membership irregularities’ at all. They did not suddenly spring up out of nowhere in 2021 – the likelihood is that they have been going on for years. And the NEC needs to take the time to address them properly, not in some half-arsed rush.

Of course Labour members should get a say in who their candidates are. But they are not being denied that in Newham because of an authoritarian NEC diktat but because of significant misbehaviour, which needs to be investigated and rooted out.

All of the five signatories of this letter are longstanding councillors or CLP officers. They of all people should want the problems sorted properly.

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