So there will be no debate on Open Selection at this Conference. It has been knocked off the agenda by a last minute proposal from the NEC as part of the Democracy Review which, ironically, had been prevented from considering this particular issue in the first instance. The vote is however telling with the NEC position gaining only 65% of the vote showing a clear split between the wishes of the CLP’s and the unions.In place of Labour International’s proposals for straightforward selection before each election we have now got a watered down version of the current trigger ballot system.Let’s be clear it’s not what we wanted but it is better than what we have. It means replacing a failing MP will still be a contentious and ill-tempered affair. However it will now be a little easier to do. And Labour International can take some of the credit for that.
At this time last year nobody believed that the current system would change. The new system we have now, which is pretty well the Bristol West position as supported by Momentum was seen as a radical change which would be resisted and quite likely not carried. Labour International’s genuinely radical proposal and the campaign we ran in support of it changed all that. Our proposal for a genuinely simple, democratic and transparent selection process now has the support of the overwhelming number of CLP’s.
That the NEC and the right wing had to manoeuvre to keep it off the agenda, to prevent a debate and to prevent a vote tells you that they feared that it would have been carried if debated. Unite the union, whose vote was critical in preventing the motion being heard, confirmed that if it were heard, they would have had to support it because of union policy. They were desperate to avoid that dilemma.
And let’s be clear that Unite’s vote was critical. The reference back to hear the motion was lost by 53% to 46%. Unite hold a 20% share of the vote. Their NEC will be faced with answering some awkward questions over the next few months as was made clear by a number of CLP delegates who are also Unite members. Equally Momentum’s timidity in rushing to support the NEC’s position, a position let us remember designed to help protect that small number of MP’s who have lost the support of their CLP’s, will also be the subject of some sharp questions towards that organisations leadership and its future direction.
The hugely successful Labour International Fringe Meeting shows that this issue will not be put back in the bottle. We have started the process of democratising the Party’s structures. That process will continue. Labour International will continue to play its part in that process but we will be doing so as part of a much larger campaign involving the vast majority of CLPs and a growing number of trade unions.
We didn’t get everything we wanted, you rarely do, but it still adds up to a very good result for our campaign and something we can all be proud of and on which we can build for the future. One thing coming out of this is unquestionable – conference delegates now know who Labour International are and in the eyes of many we are held in high regard.