Saturday, 13 August 2016

In the future McDonnell will be grateful Labour used 'a grubby little device'

I can guarantee you that there is no one who wants to see Jeremy Corbyn lose the Labour Party leadership more than me.

Mr Corbyn may well be a decent guy, although I have some reservations, but I strongly believe that sadly he is not only incompetent but wrong on a great many issues.

As a lifelong, centre left, Labour voter there is nothing I want more than to see the party return to its more moderate ways. I have a feeling that this leadership election will determine whether I continue to support the Labour Party or not in the future.

For me it's vitally important that in a few weeks time Owen Smith becomes the next leader of our party.

But I also have, I hope, an inbuilt compass for fairness.

When the rules for the Labour Leadership election were published I sort of felt that, especially given the fact we now had a registered supporters scheme all party members, no matter how long it was since they had joined up, should have had a vote.

The fact that the Labour Party implied that new members would, via their website, in my mind validated my view.

But on the day of that interminably long National Executive Committee meeting, when the main question was whether Jeremy would or would not be allowed on the ballot, the NEC with precedence decided to set a six month freeze date.

I kind of think the NEC was wrong, even though the decision probably favours the candidate I support.

But crucially the NEC, the final arbiters of party organisation in Labour, decided that that is what would happen.

So as has happened time and time again over the years, in a democratic party with a democratic structure, I accepted it.

I don't believe for one second that if you are a member of an established political party with long established procedures that if you happen to disagree with one you go running off to the courts.

Yet that is exactly what 5 new members, allegedly backed financially by a major trade union did.

At the start of the week those new members had their case heard and upheld. They were to be allowed to vote and their registered supporter fee was to be returned to them.

Although I thought the result was, on balance, right I was fearful for the future of Labour and all political parties that the courts had intervened in party structures. It was a dangerous precedent and I was pleased leave to appeal was granted.

So yesterday when the appeal was determined I was delighted that the higher court had recognised that, indeed, the NEC should be the final arbiter of procedures in the party.

For me the five new members of Labour who had brought this action were both incredibly foolish and ignorant of the history of our party. I am perfectly comfortable, in fact completely agree as a deterrent from more vexatious actions, that they were ordered to pay costs.

But there is an important point here, a point which we should all be mindful of.

The Labour NEC election results have been announced this week and undoubtedly the party has swung, massively, leftwards.

Anyone who has ever been to a Labour Party meeting will know there is nothing that party members love more than process. I'm told new members are even more procedurally pedantic. Labour Party members love motions, recorded votes  and points of order.

Can you imagine if the NEC doesn't protect its final decision making body just how many times in the future their decisions will become challenged in court?

There is a real possibility that every substantial decision they make would end up in our legal system.

Labour would not run Labour. Factions and judges would. Anyone with the funds to bring an action.

When John McDonnell criticises the Labour Party from defending the supremacy of its decision making as a 'grubby little device' he should perhaps be mindful, given the propensity of the left to use every possible device to appeal, that in the future he may be grateful that they did.

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