The by-elections for three places on the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) aren’t drawing much public attention, but for Labour Party members they are very important.
The big question is whether the places will be filled by members from the left of the party, maintaining the current left-wing majority, or will they go to more centrist or right-wing candidates.
The Labour First and Progress groups on the right have agreed on a single slate for the three places, but the left is split, with a variety of slates from numerous different left groupings.
A further complication is that several left-wing candidates were suspended from the party during the election period. Jo Bird was leading on CLP nominations when she was suspended, but has since been reinstated. Mohammed Azam was suspended at the same time and decided to withdraw his candidacy.
The suspensions of CLP candidate Graham Durham and BAME candidates Mehmood Mirza and Keith Hussein came later. There have been calls to postpone the ballot until the suspensions are investigated, but it’s currently going ahead with the suspended candidates removed.
Labour International nominated Lauren Townsend and Deborah Hobson for the CLP vacancies and Mehmood Mirza for BAME after a OMOV ballot. This result would probably have been different if Jo Bird and Mohammed Azam hadn’t been removed from our nominating ballot due to their suspensions. Bird is now back as a candidate but Mirza was then suspended after our LI vote.
This table of BAME nominations shows that Mirza, backed by the Labour Left Alliance, was well ahead with one union and 75 CLP nominations. But now he’s off the ballot, the leading candidate is Carol Sewell, backed by Labour First/Progress, with 4 union and 43 CLP nominations. If nominations are a good indicator of votes, she looks likely to win.
But that depends on what potential Mirza voters do. If they can unite behind another left candidate they could beat Sewell. Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal has been suggested as a good substitute, but he has only 6 CLP nominations. Navendu Mishra looks like a better placed challenger from the left, with 4 union nominations and 12 from CLPs, plus Momentum’s backing. Jermain Jackman, with 28 CLPs and the Musicians’ Union, is also likely to pick up a good number of votes, although he isn’t on anyone’s slate. BAME members and unions will decide, and they might surprise us.
The table of CLP representative nominations shows 4 leading candidates with well over 100 nominations each. The two winners will probably come from among them. Johanna Baxter, at the top with 160 nominations, and Gurinder Singh Josan, in third place with 122 nominations, are both on the Labour First/Progress slate. The other two are on the left but on different slates. Lauren Townsend in second place has 140 nominations and is backed by Momentum and the CLPD. Jo Bird is backed by the LLA, JVL and LRC and is in 4th place with 111 nominations, though she would probably have gained more without her suspension period.
If members on the left largely ignore the left slates and simply vote for these top two left candidates, they have a serious chance of winning one or even two places for the left. But if they vote according to their preferred left slate, it’s likely to split the left vote and one or both seats could go to the LabourFirst/Progress candidates.