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Questioning the Alliance

Update 0810: I was wrong, utterly wrong, about the LRC (see below).  See comment 2 from Andy Fisher, Joint Secretary to LRC, to whom an apology will be forthcoming.

Followers of my tweets may be aware that, as I near the end of my time as a councillor, my mind is turning to what my role in the wider labour movement might be.

I have a few ideas, some settled, other less so, and in the ‘less so’ category is seeking election to the Labour party’s National Executive Committee.  Initial tweet feedback was mildly encouraging.   

Should I decide to go through with this, I’ll no doubt be setting out my experience and skills here, and Comrade Dave has already offered to support my cause by ‘interviewing ‘ me, and such like.

But there’s a problem.

Ideally, I would like to be considered for inclusion within the  slate of candidates put together by the Grassroots Alliance, made up of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Save the Labour Party, and the Labour Representation Committee.  Yet when I come to look into that possibility, I found that:

For the six constituency places on the NEC, the Grassroots Alliance have so far narrowed the possible slate to eight contenders.

To be frank, I had no idea this process had taken place, despite being a member of the Labour Representation Committee.  Did I miss something?

I enquired what the process had been for the drawing together of all ‘contenders’ and the subsequent ‘narrowing’, so as to work out whether I might still seek inclusion.  The reply I received from Jon Lansman, who had announced the eight contenders in his blogpost, was brief and to the point:

Consensus of participating organisations.

I struggle a bit with this.   How was consensus reached?  Who did the consensus reaching? What was the original process for inviting expressions of interest?  None of this is made clear either by Jon or on any of the websites of the participating organisations.  Indeed, I’m not even sure of Jon’s function in all of this, and why the list is being set out on a new blog ‘Left Futures’, not apparently part of the Alliance set up, and then picked up at Socialist Unity as fact rather than opinion.

Indeed, for organisations which are keen to stress the importance of open internal party democracy, the process for ending up on the slate of said organisations seems far from openly democratic.

Now, I don’t want to make too much of this.  As with my mild criticism of the LRC process over their announcement of John McDonnell as preferred leadership candidate, I’m sympathetic to the fact that processes of democracy are administratively heavy, and difficult for volunteer, shoestring organisations.  Nor do I have any reason to believe that the eight ‘contenders’ now being promoted as the Grassroots Alliance slate are anything other than good and worthy candidates, though I know little about some of them.

But it does leave me in a quandary.  

Had I understood what appears to be something of a quiet ‘who you know’ process, would I have sought to get on the slate via that process even though it apparently has its faults, or would I have objected to the process in principle and sought my own nominations separately?

Should I now seek nominations from CLPs in spite of not being on the Grassroots Alliance slate, because I think I can do a good job on the NEC, or would that be too great an act of hostility towards an Alliance whose aims I broadly agree with? 

Could I work slate members elected to the NEC as effectively if I – a Johnny-Come-Lately with a couple of fancy blogs and a few election results to my name – were being voted on separately and were then perceived to have bumped one of their closer comrades off the NEC?

Should that concern me, or should I just take the attitude that the person who gets the most votes is the worthy winner?

Answers, in the usual form please, to the usual comments box, especially if I’ve simply got the wrong end of a stick somewhere.

  1. May 25, 2010 at 1:10 am

    As you’ll probably know from voting for the NEC, the top of the slate are all people who have been around for years – on the NEC for years. I don’t know who picked them, and I know some of them are politically a bit weak. I suspect the slate is worked out by each grassroots organisation compiling a list of their people and then trying to find out which members of the list of the combined organisations are likely to have the support necessary to get on the final agreed list. I doubt very much it is ratified by particular decision rather than, as Jon Lansman says, by consensus – simply being acknowledged because few will bother to challenge it.

    I could be wrong.

  2. May 25, 2010 at 6:58 am


    The LRC had hustings at our November 2009 AGM for two places on the CLGA slate. Every LRC member was notified well in advance and four candidates put their names forward: Gary Heather, Susan Press, Christine Shawcroft and John Wiseman. Their was a democratic hustings – with statements from each candidate and Q&A with AGM attendees. There was then a secret ballot in which Susan and Christine were elected as the LRC nominees. Again this was publicised to members following the AGM. This week we emailed members to ask them now to seek nominations from their CLPs for Susan and Christine.

    As for our announcement of John McDonnell as our preferred candidate: our NC met on Saturday 15th May – before John declared and without him present – and voted 22-0 in favour of John standing. Again this is on our website and was circulated to members.

    Andrew Fisher, joint secretary, LRC

  3. paulinlancs
    May 25, 2010 at 8:23 am

    andy @2: Thanks for this full reply. I’ve checked back on my Nov 09 emails and…..It looks like humble pie is mine on the LRC front. Fuller apology and re-reflection to follow in new post.

  4. May 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

    No worries Paul – I just wanted to set the record straight. We strive to be as open and democratic as possible. We’re not faultless, and like you say we’ve constrained resources – no paid staff – but we entered the CLGA process to try to democratise it. I think we’ve played our part.

  5. paulinlancs
    May 25, 2010 at 9:01 am


    Can you advise on why Jon L is saying the ‘contenders’, made up from 3 organisations, have been narrowed down to 8, if the LRC only nominates two people to go forward the the slate? Do the other two orgs get 3 nominations for the slate each?

  6. Rory
    May 25, 2010 at 9:46 am

    There are more affiliated bodies than those listed above, and the CLGA unfortunately doesn’t have a strong written mechanism for how it narrows nominees down to a slate when there are more than six. I believe this is subject to ongoing negotiations.

  7. Andrew Fenyo
    May 25, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    CLGA was founded by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) and what has – in effect – become Save the Labour Party (STLP). Other organisations (Briefing, Socialist Network, Labour Women’s Action Committee to name just a few) have also been involved. LRC joined the CLGA for this year’s slate-making. There never have been votes – the object being to reach compromise on a balanced (left vs centre, male/female, black/white) slate all of whom sign up to a minimalist statement of objectives. It has never been easy, but has, in the end, worked, giving us a group of candidates – principally for the NEC, but also (in part) for the National Policy Forum, who a wide range of members are prepared to support.

    The LRC decided to ballot its members, and other groups – particularly CLPD – have been criticised for not doing so. This misunderstands the nature of the whole process. It is not a question of identifying the 6 most popular people on the “left”, whatever we might think that is. If continued (and even greater) success is to be achieved, the slate needs to be a balanced one that will gain the support of the non-Blairite centre of the party. The left alone would be hard pressed to win places without them.

  8. May 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Andrew has explained the LRC’s role. We have undergone a long ( and often tortuous process) to get where we are. The LRC, which should be proud of the fact we held democratic, open hustings, is lobbying for myself and Christine Shawcroft. On a personal note I would also put in a word for Peter Kenyon who has worked his socks off to improve Party democracy. The six of the 8 candidates who get the most nominations are likely to be the final CLGA slate. Can I also suggest this post is perhaps removed and re-drafted as most of the charges it levels are erroneous and unfair on the LRC. Cheers. Susan

  9. May 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Andrew F @7: Thanks, this is very useful info, especially in respect of the (unstated?)objectives of the slate.

    Susan @8: Yes, I’m inclined to support Peter as well.

    I’m less inclined to make major changes to the post, and certainly to delete it. The main focus of the post is the on the way in which the slate is drawn up the the Alliance, and that’s a perfectly justified area for enquiry, as the feedback has shown; there is a level of unwritten agreement where success depends on fitting within the cultural milieu of this area of activism (e.g. knowing that it’s the number of nominations from CLPs which helps), and it’s useful to bring that to light.

    When I look back at what I said about the LRC’s process specifically, I can’s see where I have actually ‘levelled charges’ at it, other than to link back to the mild criticism over the process for support of John McDonnell (which I maintain – see last post). All I did was ask questions of the process, get an answer from Andrew (Fisher) clarifying the pre-Alliance process and then add a note to the top of the post acknowledging that I should have researched that bit better. Indeed, while I say ‘I’m utterly wrong’, that’s more of courtesy to Andrew in the event of any personal offence called through my reference to the Alliance’s ‘administative’ lack of resources as a whole; there’s no criticism of the LRC’s process itself.

    Overall, therefore, I can’t see that an interactive post/response/response process like this is unfair to the LRC, and it has given ‘senior’ figures in the LRC the chance to set out its position in respect of the Alliance.

    There is a more substantive issue whci Andrew Fenyo raises about why the slate ends up as it is and who decides the balance between centre vote-attracting potential and the qualities of the slate candidates, but I’ll leave that to another post.

    Finally, I like what the LRC is seeking to do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be a member. Investigating how it all works shouldn’t be seen as being unfair to it.

  10. May 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Paul – I shall be voting for Susan and Christine but I may not vote for all the members of the CLGA slate. I would certainly vote for you if you chose to run outside it. I would also vote for Gary Heather & John Wiseman if they chose to run independently of the slate. I don’t think it would be an act outrightly hostile to the LRC to run independently of the slate, as you could still recommend people vote for Susan & Christine (even adding up to three of their slate comrades) but it may cause problems for the LRC in future negotiations with other constituent organisations of the CLGA.

    However in practice it is extremely unlikely that anyone will get elected who isn’t on either the CLGA slate or the LF slate. So you’d need to bear in mind the very slim chances of success too.

  11. John Wiseman
    May 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I am standing for the NEC of the Labour Party (CLP section) to bring
    about more accountability within party structures, better regulation of
    parliamentary selections, more accountability of our MPs and their advisors,
    as well as more of an input by our members.
    Our members need better communication and a better understanding of
    the rules. This can not all be left to the few. This must be left to the
    many activists that work hard to make the Labour party work. The left
    in this country needs to be united.
    The expenses scandal has left the party weakened, we need more accountability
    of our MPS and we need a strong socialist campaign group.
    Party officers must be accountable.
    Overall we need:-
    More accountability to the membership,
    Education and training of the membership eg rules,
    No use of external companies during parliamentary selections,
    Better policy consultation—power to the members
    We need the membership to have more of a say at conference
    (OMOV a step forward). We also need drastic changes in policy eg
    the war on climate change, further equality measures, as well as the
    anti-trade union legislation. I am a CLP secretary for St Helens
    South and Whiston as well as being on the regional TULO, NEC
    Cooperative party, Shop Steward, Area Committe of Merseyside
    Unite, National and Regional Political Committee of Unite.
    Vote Change and Nominate John Wiseman
    Membership No L0023586
    CLP : St Helens South and Whiston

  1. June 7, 2010 at 5:00 pm
  2. June 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

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