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Editorial: Labour's anti-democratic antics in Liverpool have a national significance

LABOUR’S astonishing decision to pull the plug on the Liverpool mayoral candidate selection process and ban the entire shortlist speaks volumes about the paranoia and authoritarianism of the new leadership.

Voting was about to begin when the party abruptly called a halt, reinterviewed the three women on the ballot paper and then announced that nominations were reopening and none of the existing shortlist would be allowed to apply.

There has been no transparency on the decision. The party does not even bother to claim any discrepancies in the original shortlisting process. 

Instead its email issues a veiled rebuke to the local party (and, presumably, the BFAWU, FBU, GMB North West & Ireland, Unison, Unite and Usdaw unions, which had all endorsed one of the existing candidates) for failing to come up with suitable applicants: “The people of Liverpool deserve a Labour mayor and the Labour Party needs to select the right candidate.”

The insinuation is that it is the Labour Party machine, and not its members, that understands what it takes to be the “right candidate.”

The control-freakery is explained in the previous sentence: “The role of Liverpool mayor is a high-profile and hugely important figure.”

Labour’s concern is not that the “wrong” candidate might lose it the city. It received over 50 per cent of the vote at every previous mayoral election in Liverpool.

Nor has it suffered the decline, locally, that the party has in many parts of the country: as Anna Rothery, the candidate backed by the Unite and BFAWU trade unions, has said, the city delivered its highest ever vote for Labour when Jeremy Corbyn led the national party.

No, its concern is that the one-member one-vote candidate election might deliver this “high-profile and hugely important” role to an independent-minded politician of the left, one proud of the enormous expansion in Labour membership under Corbyn and with the guts to object to the vicious persecution of the former leader by the Keir Starmer regime.

Labour has denied that public statements about Corbyn have anything to do with these developments, but Rothery’s call for the whip to be restored to the Islington North MP is certainly awkward when branch and constituency party officers up and down the country have been suspended merely for allowing discussion of the question.

A conspiracy of silence surrounds the extraordinary scale of the purges in Labour. A mass media that harped constantly on divisions in the party under Corbyn, inflating every poisonous aside from a disgruntled MP into national news and derailing every policy launch with wall-to-wall coverage of supposed scandals, last week allowed Starmer to deliver a vacuous reset speech without mentioning the ongoing excommunication of his predecessor, the foundation of the Labour in Exile Network or the calls for an emergency recall conference.

Nor is the monopoly press inclined to hound Labour over the failure to address concerns over anti-black racism as it kicks the Forde inquiry into 2020’s leaked report into the long grass — concerns likely to grow following the ban on Rothery, a black woman who has been an outspoken defender of the Black Lives Matter movement, from standing for Liverpool mayor.

Coverage of former official Emilie Oldknow’s lawsuit against the party has focused on the potential privacy breaches involved in leaking the report, not the outrageous anti-democratic misconduct it exposed.

That is why the suppression of democratic choice in this internal selection process matters beyond Liverpool, and beyond Labour.

The motivation is to keep a socialist out of a position where socialist policies can be put directly to the electorate or aired on the national stage.

It forms part of a wider effort to put the movement that attracted millions under Corbyn back in the box, to disarm a mass party membership with ideas above their station and to banish anti-capitalism to the political fringe.

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