Richard Price reports on the problems facing Labour Party members in London selecting their candidates for May’s elections.
One of the things the Labour Right prides itself on is professionalism, and nowhere more so than in local government. To read Luke Akehurst you’d think that all that stands between us and a descent into Dark Ages barbarism or – worse still – a return to the chaos and disorganization of the Corbyn years (sic) is a thin pink line of rightwing councillors. No matter that in 2018 Labour had its best result in London in 47 years, winning nearly 44% of the vote on a 6.3% swing. So now the Right is in control of the London Regional Executive and rightwinger Amy Fode is Regional Director how’s it shaping up for May’s local elections?
According to LabourList (13th January), with elections taking place on 5th May, six London boroughs don’t have candidates in place. According to the party’s Rule Book, in councils that elect every four years, candidates should be in place 12 months before the election. As things stand, we’ll be lucky in some boroughs if they are selected two months in advance.
It’s not just the Left which is up in arms. Even loyalist Local Campaign Forums are complaining about the failure of the London Region to respond to queries for weeks on end. Party branches are being expected to campaign with no literature, no candidates and no policies.
The Right will no doubt blame the pandemic, although since Shortlisting and Selection meetings will be online this doesn’t hold water. Instead, the failures are down to the new regime. In some boroughs the process was delayed while the Right waited to take power from the Left to ensure it could pack the LCF. Then there are the cuts in staff, the result of massive membership losses and expulsions. The loss of outsourced membership data to a ransomware attack has created havoc with compiling accurate membership lists.
Last, but by no means least, is the Right’s determination to restrict applicants passing interviews to a bare minimum. Disgracefully, this has fallen disproportionately on BAME and particularly Muslim applicants. This combined with a vindictive purge of any sitting councilors showing the slightest independence has resulted in a tsunami of appeals. And to complete the picture of chaos, the Region is struggling to fill Appeal Panels.