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Labour Party democracy hangs in the balance

Delegates clash over open selection of MPs as NEC looks for compromise

LABOUR delegates clashed today over plans to democratise the party, with results of a card vote on open selection of parliamentary candidates due tomorrow morning.

Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) had agreed on last night, without an individual vote, to back a plan that would require either a third of local party members or a third of local affiliated trade union members to vote in favour of an open contest to have sitting MPs deselected.

The changes were agreed as part of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to make the party more democratic after a democracy review was carried out by his aide Katy Clark.

But supporters of open selection, including grassroots group Momentum, say that the compromise does not go far enough and fought for MPs to be automatically placed in a contest for reselection in an open process in which any member would be free to stand. A card vote was held at the close of conference today.

Derby North Labour MP Chris Williamson said: “The NEC’s proposal to amend the trigger ballot is a small step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

“It flies in the face of the overwhelming grassroots support for open selections.

“Fettering democracy is an affront to democracy so the struggle will carry on and I will be continuing my Democracy Roadshow after conference.

“The demands for open selection will not be squashed by bureaucratic machine politics.”

At an open selection fringe meeting last night a few hours before the NEC decided to back the compromise, Mr Williamson pointed out that even the secretary of Mr Corbyn’s allotment has to stand for election every year and that is how “democracy should work.”

He denounced MPs that believe they should be in their positions “for life,” and added that attendees to his Democracy Roadshow meetings have shown unanimous or overwhelming support for open selections.

Labour’s trade-union backers, who have historically fought to retain their influence over leadership contests and MP selections, have spoken in favour of the compromise.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said during a conference fringe meeting that the compromise is something he “is prepared to trust and stand by.”

“It may well be just a staging post for a fully democratic party that we want,” he said.

“I promise it’s not a situation of unions against constituencies …

“… Some MPs are asking to be deselected. They don’t want to be part of this exciting transformation taking place.”

He was asked about the reselection process during the Q&A session at the Unite and Mirror fringe meeting by Unite regional officer for Cornwall Deborah Hopkins.

She told the Star that she was in favour of the compromise and that Labour members cannot waste energy on fighting instead of “focusing on the common ground.

“Where we focus our energy is where we get success,” she said.

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