In Fred Gent’s article and the LI Conference blog you can read what happened to our motion on Open Selection at Labour Party Conference. I want to concentrate on what happens next. Like many people, I had thought we would run the best campaign we could, get to Conference, and then, win or lose, that would be that, at least for the time being.
However, events at Conference changed that view. Over 300 people attended the Open Selection fringe meeting on the Saturday before Conference began, to discuss how they could help get our motion carried. It was one of the biggest fringe meetings at the Conference. Over 90% of CLP delegates voted to hear our motion, together with the FBU and Baker’s union delegations.
Even when our motion was knocked off the agenda by a last minute motion cobbled together by the NEC, Unite and the other big unions, and supported by Momentum, there were still over 70% of CLP delegates who opposed the NEC position.
The idea of democratising the selection process for MPs is now firmly entrenched within CLPs and is not going away. The same cannot be said for the unions, with the honourable exceptions of the FBU and the Bakers’ Union. This was not unexpected. The unions have their own democratic structures, and it takes more than a 6-month campaign to change their policy positions. However, that is now the task facing us, along with winning over those CLPs who do not currently support Open Selection.
A meeting at the end of Conference identified a number of people who want to be actively involved in this process from CLP’s up and down the country, as well as Chris Williamson MP and Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU.
Whilst Labour International has, on its own, run the campaign that has got us this far, it is clear that winning over the support of the unions has to be done from within the unions themselves. This in turn means that the campaign now has to be fought in the UK by Labour Party and Trade Union members in the UK. That does not mean Labour International has no further part to play, far from it, but we are now able to co-operate more closely with people in the UK.
We will be taking a number of steps over the next few weeks to make this happen. These include:
- redrafting the motion, together with the Rochester and Strood CLP, to extend it to deal with the point they raised about the timetable being flexible enough to deal with snap General Elections.
- convening a meeting with those interested in the issue to discuss how best to take the issue forward, including identifying what needs to be done and who will do it.
- working closely with Chris Williamson MP, who has agreed to incorporate the revised motion into his Democracy Roadshow which is getting back underway.
- talking to Chris about the possibility of doing a Democracy Roadshow session for LI members on Zoom.
- developing a Steering Committee structure for the Open Selection campaign that brings in people from the UK who can and want to help deliver this democratic change.
There is a lot to be done, but the Conference showed that there is also a lot of enthusiasm for this issue, certainly more than enough to make it worthwhile continuing the campaign.