Revealed: Party bosses open way for big money to dominate parliamentary selections with unlimited candidate mailings

by Atul Hatwal

New guidance from party bosses has transformed the basis of Labour’s parliamentary candidate selections. Previously, candidates and their campaign teams had operated on the basis of a strict limit of three mailings to party members during a selection contest.

Now, it seems there is no limit on the number of times a candidate can mail members, as long as the mailings are supplied by endorsers. These endorsers could be unions, businesses, voluntary groups or individuals.

The Labour party’s rules governing parliamentary candidate selection were apparently water tight,

“2.4 Each candidate may produce for general distribution

  • one printed leaflet or letter no larger than A4, delivered plain or in an envelope
  • two items, each no larger than a double sided A3 page. If any item is delivered in an envelope it may consist of (at a maximum) 2 A4 sheets of paper rather than a single A3 sheet.”
  • Third party endorsers were allowed to supply mailings to the candidate for distribution to members, but these were previously thought to count as one of the three candidate mailings.

    However, a clarification from Alan Olive, regional director for the London Labour party reveals that the strict limit on mailings is not so strict after all.

    Queries were raised by candidates in a recent selection on the numbers of mailings allowed, following one candidate sending four mailings.

    Uncut has seen e-mail correspondence with the London Labour regional director which makes clear that the number of mailings is unlimited, as long as they are from an endorser. The key part of Alan Olive’s e-mail states,

    “That’s correct. A third party may produce whatever they like although they don’t have the membership details to enable delivery. Candidates cannot pass membership data on but of course a third party could give you their mailing including stamps, for you to attach membership labels and post.”

    The revelation that candidates can have de facto unlimited mailings would seem to contradict the intent of Ed Miliband’s recent speech on one nation politics. As well as announcing a reform of Labour’s relationship with the unions, Miliband dealt with fairness in the parliamentary candidate selection process, stating,

    “So we will have a new code of conduct for those seeking parliamentary selection…we cannot have any part of the Party being able to stack the odds in favour of one candidate over another simply by the spending of money…That is why we will also urgently agree new spending limits for Parliamentary selections to include for the first time all spending by outside organisations. “

    One organiser, with several years’ experience of parliamentary selections in constituencies across the UK, spoke to Uncut off the record about the impact this will have on the remaining selections,

    “I’m gobsmacked. This means big money is going to play a massive role in future selections. Everyone I know had always taken the three mailings rule as the gospel. Now we are going to have some candidates putting out mails every week, if not more often. It will give candidates with deepest pockets a real advantage.”

    High quality all-member mailings can cost several hundred pounds. Assuming a 90p cost per individual mail (including design, colour print, paper and mailing) and a weekly mailing to members; an 8 week selection contest in a constituency with 500 members would cost £3,600. In comparison, 3 mailings would cost £1,350.

    This doesn’t take into account the potential cost of applying Obama style “big data” techniques, to micro-target sub-groups within the constituency on the basis of ethnicity, personal interest and lifestyle, with targeted niche mailings.

    Although direct mail alone will never be enough to win a selection, where the race is close with a margin of victory likely to be in single or low double figures, a quality mail campaign could make the difference between success and failure.

    At minimum, it is expected that this new guidance will trigger a financial arms race in those winnable constituencies’ that are yet to select candidates. The result could be a significant disadvantage to those candidates without access to several thousand pounds of funds to fight their campaign.

    Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

    Tags: , , , , ,

    14 Responses to “Revealed: Party bosses open way for big money to dominate parliamentary selections with unlimited candidate mailings”

    1. Felix says:

      Overblown, storm in a teacup twaddle. All candidates know members do not like being inundated with leaflets and pestered, so they’d be foolish to send out the full three, which is why most of them don’t.

      As for the drama queen quote, well, I suggest they get themselves a drag act down the Queen’s Shilling.

    2. Danny says:

      Spot on Felix.

      If a candidate sent me more than 3 leaflets/letters then they would be decreasing the likelihood of getting my vote.

    3. John Reid says:

      This doesn’t include the fact that if there are Co-op, Fabians, branch meetings between the selection and hustings they can hand out flyers,

    4. Anonymous says:

      Now this is interesting – the advice given by the London Regional Director is different to the information given by the RD in my area? During our selections third party leaflets did count as one of the candidates ‘three pieces of literature’ – candidates were however allowed to share the membership data with their supporters who were able to call/e-mail on their behalf.

    5. Bernard says:

      What this misses out is that we are getting some really competitive selection battles and some brilliant candidates.

      Most people I know read a piece, but want to go and see someone speak and debate.

    6. aragon says:

      It appears to me, that the intent of the rule is clear.

      The guidance that nullifies the rules, is a clear abuse of the process.

      1. to bring into existence; give rise to; cause: to produce steam.
      2. to bring into existence by intellectual or creative ability: to produce a great painting.
      3. to make or manufacture: to produce automobiles for export.
      4. to bring forth; give birth to; bear: to produce a litter of puppies.
      5. to provide, furnish, or supply; yield: a mine producing silver.

      The guidance attempts to make a distinction between production and distribution, and who engages in each.

      The act of attaching labels is production in this context, bringing into existence (1, 3 and 5) the product (leaflet, letter or item) for general distribution.

      Without the labels the product (leaflet, letter or item) can not be distributed and is therefore incomplete.

      Attaching the labels is part of the production (producing) of the leaflet, letter or item for general distribution.

      The guidance is nonsense.

      I am not a lawyer, but as you can’t distribute without the labels, To attach the labels is to produce a leaflet, letter or item for general distribution, triggering the restrictions.


    7. swatantra says:

      Maybe unlimited mailings by sponsors is a sop to the Unions. No wonder Len had a huge grin on his face, because Unite Unison and GMB sponsor many candidates and have unlimited resources and access with their members money. Its helped Labour enormously in the past, but if the Unions insist on sponsoring their Union candidates only then, its time to bring that cap in. I can see the time when some Unions will put up their own Union Label candidates and split the Left vote, and let a Tory in.

    8. aragon says:

      Re: Productions vs General Distribution.

      On reflection the boundary between production and distribution may not be clear, with allocation falling into distribution.

      However the processing of membership data, by the candidate on behalf of a third party is an issue. This should be explicitly prohibited by the Labour party as it is already likely to be breach the purpose for which the data was supplied by the data controller under the data protection act.

      S.I. 2012/1319 art. 2(4) commences (2012 c. 7)

      “2 Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.”

      The purpose is for the candidate not third parties to communicate with the membership and internal membership rules further restrict this communications.

      Sharing of the personal membership data with third parties, by the candidate will breach the act, unless within the purpose authorised by the data controller.

      I am not a lawyer but processing and sharing the data with or on behalf of a third party, is intended to be restricted by the data protection act, unless specific permission is given by the data subject and the data controller (Labour party).

    9. steve says:

      swatantra: “I can see the time when some Unions will put up their own Union Label candidates and split the Left vote, and let a Tory in.”

      The Unions will have to start somewhere. It’s only Labour’s proposed style of government that differentiates them from the Tories, not policy.

      So, if the Unions begin to stand their own candidates the chances of a non-Tory victory (in policy terms Labour should be considered Tory) must surely increase.

    10. John Reid says:

      Swatantra, unions funded SWP ,like RMT, and all those far left candidates like Socialist Labour got a handful of votes,

    11. Davi says:

      Mailings schmailings. For the recent European Selections I dont bother reading any of their emails or letters – they’ve all gone straight in the trash. I make my mind up from browsing their websites at my own pace.

      For selections with a smaller electorate, i.e. Parliamentary or Council selections, every fule knows its about how many you can contact personally.

    12. swatantra says:

      Just had an email from Len, my Union Boss, saying how EdM’s Reforms are the best thing since sliced bread, and how pleased he will be to be working with EdM and Labour in smashing this abject pathetic Tory Coalition and putting in a Labour Govt. Great to see Len fully on board; now lets see the other Union Bosses stepping up to the line and being counted. Well done Len, we need a lot more committed socialists like you.

    13. steve says:

      swatantra:”Well done Len, we need a lot more committed socialists like you.”

      What! Trade Union leaders, closely associated with Labour, calling for a general strike?! Is that really what you want?

    14. Bob says:

      “What this misses out is that we are getting some really competitive selection battles and some brilliant candidates”

      It’s all very well people saying how excellent the successful PPC candidates are but nobody ever cares about the many excellent candidates that don’t manage to win selections. In Lancaster & Fleetwood, the unsuccessful candidate was a trained hospital doctor with a formidable track record of defeating the BNP and the Tories. She got 40% of the vote in the selection against a candidate who had worked in Parliament for many years, had full trade union backing and who had been working the seat for years.

      Not being a “career politician”, the unsuccessful candidate may now be lost to Parliament forever. There is no support structure to prevent that happening – and that is Labour’s loss, not hers.

    Leave a Reply