This meeting has been cancelled: Labour selections hit by protest

WHILE it was a sleepy night in the council chamber yesterday evening – even by the standards of Camden’s full council meetings, last night’s session was one devoid of all fire and passion – a more chaotic scene was developing at West Hampstead Library. There, a Labour Party candidate selection meeting ahead of next year’s boroughwide elections was shut down without conclusion as protesting members complained that the process was flawed and they had not been given a chance to properly familiarise themselves with the contenders.

I may as well retire to work on a farm or a tea shop or something, however, as rather than us all trying to piece together what happened behind closed doors from sources and leaks last night, we can see an almost instant description from Jack May, a Labour Party member and journalist who was in the room. His tweets described the meeting as being like a “living hell”, adding: “It was like a civil war in there. About three minutes away from physical violence at any moment, lots of swearing and we achieved nothing”. One member called another a cunt, he added.

These tweets were being roughly shared back at the Town Hall where councillors wondered in the corridors what had gone wrong up in NW6. The accusations that “Corbynites had derailed everything” were refuted by one or two who had “heard a different version of events” from the library. And, yes, there was some quick clicking through Mr May’s Twitter profile to find he had written a sort of ode to Tony Blair for the Independent earlier this year, leading to suggestions from some of those more aligned to Jeremy Corbyn that any report of the meeting needed more sources. The adjoinder to that: People would be uncomfortable talking about it on the record in the same way as Mr May had done as it would breach the confidentiality of the meeting.

What is not in doubt is the meeting was an ugly affair with raised voices as almost immediately the process was called into question. Some of the critics of the council’s West End Lane development were said to be among the protesters here as complaints were issued over the time members needed to have been in the party to take part. There were arguments about the freeze date, with the answer coming back that this could not be changed but this was normal procedure.

A motion was then put to the floor that the meeting needed to be shelved for the evening, with seven supporting and seven opposing (yup, I know… this is a 750 word post about a meeting attended by less than 20 people), a deadlock which was broken by the casting vote of Marie Lynam, the branch’s vice chair who sided with halting proceedings.

The rebellion follows weeks of backstage agitation about the process but with organisers insisting the rulebooks have been fairly followed. As discussed here, a familiar question has been around why the window for applicants was not re-opened after the June general election as a way of drawing in as many possible candidates as possible.

After councillor resignations and change of hearts about standing, plus one or two not making it past the basic interview stage, the party was left with 54 candidates for 54 slots, an unusual squeeze given Labour is said to have around 5,000 members across Camden’s political constituencies. Slightly ironicly, it has left the party ready to open the process up again after all to new applicants, albeit only for women.

Let’s put it baldly, rather than writing in code, many left-wingers feel the process has been kept deliberately discreet to avoid the attention of those… dreaded new members that their opposing wing are said the fear. The other side flatly finds this a laughable suggestion whenever you raise it with them.

With interview appeals running over into late last week, four wards saw shortlisting and selection meetings scheduled for the same night, when they are usually held separately. This has also led to suspicion, although again organisers were reminding members this week that they have been trying to get all this done through a series of interruptions beyond their control including Theresa May’s snap election. Soon conference season will be upon us.

Those unimpressed by last night’s events say it was a “destructive” protest rather than a thoughtful challenge which had suggested any new, realistic programme of finding candidates. The meeting will be rescheduled and if there is a repeat of the trouble, a warning has wafted around that Region will order candidates to be imposed without a selection vote.

An interesting consequence is that West Hampstead, as a ward, goes from the front of the queue in Labour’s ward by ward, nightly selection cycle to a so far unknown date. This means some of the candidates who were seeking selection last night may get picked elsewhere before the postponed meeting finally goes ahead. Everybody is too polite to say the ward may get left with the leftovers if it is put to the back of list, but history shows strong candidates are often snapped up swiftly.

Next stop: Fortune Green.

 

 

 

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3 Comments on This meeting has been cancelled: Labour selections hit by protest

  1. Not entirely sure which meeting Mr May might have attended from his description of it but, if accuracy is of any import, he did write that he was attending his “first ever Labour Party CLP meeting” which is not quite the case. Given that, by his own admission, this was his first meeting it’s hard to fathom how he might have known who was or wasn’t a ‘Corybnista’. That’s “neo-Blairites” for you.

    The meeting featured in this article was billed as a Candidate Shortlisting & Selection Meeting.
    However, it was a shortlisting and selection meeting (like all the others scheduled to take place across Camden under the aegis of the LCF) in which the democratic-sounding process of shortlisting and selecting candidates has been inverted by the LCF such that a select few members of the not-so-long-list of 54 had pre-selected the ward in which they wanted to stand, rather than the other way around.

    The point of the meeting should have been that West Hampstead ward members were allowed to select their preferred candidates from the panel of 54. Unfortunately, the only place that the full list of candidates appeared was on this blog. The panel was never distributed to members eligible to participate in the meeting, neither in advance of the meeting nor even at the meeting. Instead, members were greeted by the waving of single copies of half-a-dozen applications (some seven pages long) to be somehow shared among those in attendance.

    That the long-list barely scraped 54 only after three appeals were upheld, or that the long-list was still deficient in the number of female candidates required for the list to be considered valid, seemed not to bother the LCF sufficiently, and so they are ploughing ahead with proceedings all the same. Presumably, any late-entrant female applicants will later be fobbed off with hard-to-win or unwinnable seats. Who knows, perhaps West Hampstead will be the ward in which the late entrant female applicants will stand?

    Yes, there was definitely some shouting after the vote was held but this was predominantly by various long-term installations of political furniture that, frankly, should know how to comport themselves more appropriately; even if they did lose a democratic vote that they would rather have won.

    One individual even resorted to raspberry blowing for at least ten seconds, like some petulant, incandescent, Tourettes-ridden toddler whose favourite rattle had dropped out of the pram. And this was after directing most of his rage at several women in the room, including those that had abstained from voting.

    Suffice to say that those who voted in favour of the motion did not resort to any such tactics, preferring instead to endeavour to have the rules upheld, as defined in the Labour Party Rule Book 2017 (oft-referenced, little-followed).

    It’s a bit rough, and counter to specific rules designed to enfranchise the membership, to expect participants in the meeting to have been members for longer (13+ months) than is required to stand for elected office. After all, these disenfranchised members are the very same people that will be expected to pummel the streets drumming up support for the same candidates they were excluded from being able select.

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  2. I was at the meeting. Mike Katz was the LCF observer. My main concern is the circumstances in which he was nominated onto the LCF in May 2016, ( By West Hampstead ward). He then became chair of the Camden LCF.

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  3. Care to elaborate on what you mean there A Watson? What irregularities were there? Who chose the chair of the Camden LCF?

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