On Monday an article appeared in the Times which has caused a lot of concern throughout the Labour Party. Its key controversy, fuelled by unnamed sources, being that its future candidates programme could be used to funnel supporters of a particular politics into the commons in the guise of seeking new talent, regardless of whether they were Labour members or not and overriding established selection processes.
The Party have since denied that this is the case, perhaps seeing the backlash from across the Labour movement. But for those of us on the left of the Party it seems once again that despite the rhetoric, elements at the top of the party would rather busy themselves with internal battles than appealing to the country.
It is no secret that we believe that work must be done to make the Parliamentary Labour Party more representative of those we seek to represent.
In recent decades our party has made monumental strides in promoting women, LGBT people and people of colour but in the background the party has tended away from its working-class roots and towards those from more middle-class managerial backgrounds. It is no wonder that our heartlands have felt such a disconnect with the party formed by them.
The work being put in to solve these issues was being done by our Community Organising Unit (COU), but sadly, this year they were let go. The COU went into communities, worked with local people on issues that mattered to them, identified leaders and supported them. This is a deep-rooted problem and the work that needs to be done cannot be replaced by a future candidate’s programme seeking applicants online. Like existing routes to being an MP it is likely to be dominated by those who understand and can game the system and it is undoubtedly the case that there is none better at this than the sharp elbowed middle classes.
Waiving and bending the rules has always been a tool used by the Labour Party leadership, indeed Sir Keir himself was selected despite not meeting membership criteria in 2015. The interference in the past year in selections however has been something to behold. Whilst it paid off in Batley and Spen it was disastrous in Hartlepool.
It has been suggested that the leadership is seeking a directory of candidates, in their own political image, in a Labour version of the Tory A-List. That it produced such leading lights as Liz Truss, Brandon Lewis and Andrew Percy should sound warning bells, what could possibly go wrong?
Only this week humanity was put on red alert because of a climate crisis that so called sensible politicians have failed to act upon. In the coming crisis, sliding into the warm bath of candidates who simply agree with the leader cannot deliver the answers to the problems the country and the planet will face.
We need candidates rooted in their communities who can inspire and bring out the best in those they work with. To do this we need to go out and find them. In the working-class communities who turned away from Labour parachuting in PPE graduates from elsewhere is finished. We need to look at our membership, stop denigrating them, work with them and to trust in them.
Our members are more than door knocking fodder or cheap leaflet deliverers. It is they, not a distant and remote cabal in the Leader of the Opposition’s office in London, who connect us to the wider country and offer us the route to a Labour government in the future.
Ian Lavery, Laura Smith and Jon Trickett
No Holding Back