Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple

by Kevin Meagher

Not many people will remember David Young, I suspect. He was the Labour MP for Bolton East and subsequently Bolton South East between 1974 and 1997. A rotund Scot with oratorical flair, his conversational style was to adopt the manner and volume appropriate for a public meeting hall. He was my local MP when I joined the party 25 years ago.

As the constituency’s youth officer, I only ever met him on two occasions. The first, at an AGM in one of his infrequent forays north. The second time was at the meeting when we deselected him.

Not to speak ill of the dead, David was a less than assiduous attendee at party meetings and no-one in the constituency even had contact details for him. He was the classic absentee landlord with a job for life. The local party had taken enough. Reluctantly, they withdrew their support.

So I find myself not entirely unsympathetic to calls from Momentum for the mandatory reselection of sitting MPs. I accept that personal contact with some of our elected representatives can be a long way short of overwhelming. Public service is an honour and a duty and there will always be those who coast along and add little value to proceedings.

But let’s face it: this is not about giving a gee-up to a few indolent MPs. It’s about ideologically-cleansing the party. A Momentum spokeswoman, quoted yesterday confirmed as much:

“Recognising the groundswell of support from ordinary Labour members Momentum would like to affirm its commitment to the creation of a more open, inclusive, selection process which would open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs.

“Labour has to nurture the talent of its half a million members and we cannot let an outdated rule book hold back a new generation of MPs.”

This ‘new generation’ presumably needs the current generation of MPs to move aside. There is no talk here of co-existence or gradual attrition; what is sought is little more than a clear out.

By all means, Corbyn is entitled to promote his supporters into vacancies in the same way every other Labour Leader has. But creating those vacancies through a series of bitter, factional battles at local level will be utterly poisonous.

A political party is a delicate ecosystem. Maintaining a careful balance between right and left or between idealists and pragmatists is fundamental. I’ve argued before that moderate MPs could and should be doing more to show their bone fides in the age of Corbyn. (After all, passive-aggression isn’t achieving much). They should stop moping and help lead the charge against this government’s failings on all manner of issues.

An entire summer has been wasted with no coherent campaign on the Tories’ domestic failings. A dreary and under-skilled frontbench gives ample scope for the big beasts of the moderate wing to show their mettle. (Ironically, the best critique of Universal Credit has consistently come from Frank Field).

But mandatory reselection is little more than wretched navel-gazing; a stupid, worthless piece of processology. Self-indulgence at a time when so many are suffering at the hands of iniquitous economic and welfare policies and while the very future of the country lies in the balance over Brexit.

Moreover, it will trigger a sequence of events that makes wider intra-party conflict unavoidable. To understand why is merely to accept basic human psychology. The 28 Labour MPs who defected to the SDP in 1981 had been deselected – or feared it – by their local parties. If you leave people few options, they will act rashly.

The rest of the story writes itself. Shorn of MPs and activists from the traditional right, the party will be purer in the eyes of Corbynista ultras, but if there is no room for Labour’s social democratic tradition in this new avowedly socialist party, then public support will plateau out and we will have handed the keys of Downing Street to Theresa May and her next two successors.

Do we really have to relearn the folly of the 1980s all over again?

Kevin Meagher is the associate editor of Uncut

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10 Responses to “Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple”

  1. buttley says:

    still prescribing away Kevin?

    you ask the rhetorical question “Do we really have to relearn the folly of the 1980s all over again?”

    to which the answer is clearly yes, but this time democracy will be calling the shots, for good or ill.

    the labour right, are now the political equivalent of Millwall, nobody likes you, & you don’t care, enjoy your new party.

    genuine question to all,

    if it was okay for the founding fathers of Israel, to compare their own policies to Nazi ones, & agonise over how the wider international community would perceive this morally, knowing full well, that what they were doing was at best highly questionable (highly charitable here).

    why is this supposedly now a taboo comparison?

    or worse an alleged indicator of anti-Semitism?


  2. paul barker says:

    More bluster & hot air, another line drawn in the sand, preparing for another retreat.
    The comparisons with the early 1980s are ridiculous, in those days the moderates held The Leadership, The NEC, The Membership & the important Unions; now the Far Left hold all 4. Momentums NEC candidates beat the moderates 2:1.
    You need to split & you need a sense of urgency.

  3. Vern says:

    And the picture you paint here Kevin is the exact reason why I cannot support Corbyn or Momentum. They want everyone to think a certain way and those who have a different view are cast aside. This leads to disagreement and Corbyn, despite his 40 years in politics doesn’t know how to compromise or seek the middle ground which is what kinder and fairer politics was supposedly about. This makes him a fraud and his followers either dilusional or very naive -or both perhaps. You don’t have to look too hard either – Corbyn has nothing new to offer the people, just a negative rhetoric that pulls on the heart strings of those who have fallen for it. The Guardian and Independent appear to be giving him a wide berth now too which suggests they’ve eventually woken from their 2 years of worshipping the false idol. Meanwhile a credible opposition is falling further and further behind in terms of credibility

  4. Dave Roberts says:

    buttley sums up the Labour dilemma. The obsession is with Israel and the Palestinians. Nowhere else in the world where atrocities and disasters are taking place just in the history of the only democracy in the Middle East.

  5. Alf says:

    Many of the Blairites deserve deselection. I’m looking forward to, for example, Stephen Kinnock getting the chop.

  6. john P Reid says:

    Paul Barker but the unions aren’t as important in the party as now, also the far left held on to councils be they London ones Sheffield or the Coup that got hold of the GLC

    also I wouldn’t call Foot moderate, and the majority of the MPS were far left in 1980 and that went down by 25 after the split of the SDP anyway

    as for the SDP I didn’t have 9 too vote for, not sure on Ann Blacks stance but I couldn’t vote for any of the Labour first list except Gurinder and jo Baxter even though I’m a brexiter, and Gary Spedding and Mr speed, ,got a vote although I new they wouldn’t win

  7. John P Reid says:

    so what if it does, as it gives the electorate a chance to vote for more Chris Williamsons. it may lose votes,
    but it’s a moral victory..

  8. Anne says:

    I agree with most of this article. There is also something to be said for ability – just because someone is a member of Momentum does not necessarily mean they are the best person for the job.
    I was disappointed that all the eight voted on to the NEC were Momentum supporters, and I imagine many London based – this is handily a fair representation of the Labour Party, and yes I did vote. I was disappointed that Eddie Izzard was not elected, and agree with many that Peter Willsman should never have been allowed to stand – totally unsuitable. There are also some in the Shadow Cabinet who are underperforming.
    If Labour wants to win the next election JC really has to work much harder in uniting the party.
    I was pleased to hear Francis O’Grady, TUC, talking about doing more for our young people.

  9. John P Reid says:

    Alf, can you define what blairite is?
    Is it someone who’s not 100% Corbynista?

  10. Landless Peasant says:

    Mandatory Reselection is a democratic way of sorting out the dross, having a good clear out, after all we don’t want to have MPs sat on their arses collecting their cushy 78 Grand a year when there’s a Class War to be fought. Make them earn their money.

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