Jeremy Corbyn may have won the leadership contest but the right wing of the party just stitched him up where it counts.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) has created an additional two places on its own body for more Scottish and Welsh representation. But rather than ordinary people choosing who represents them (by becoming Labour members and voting), the proposals state that Scottish and Welsh Labour leaders dictate who will fill the spaces.
Considering Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish leader, and Carwyn Jones, her Welsh counterpart, are opposed to Corbyn, the Labour elite has been accused of more anti-Corbyn gerrymandering. Dugdale has already appointed herself to the NEC, while Jones is to select another Corbyn critic.
At the party’s national conference, Young Labour representative Max Shanly took to the stage, exclaiming:
The package going forth will gerrymander the NEC, and allow for the decision made at the weekend to be vetoed by Parliamentarians who are not accountable to this movement!
The Guardian reports:
the extra NEC seats would be seen as a key win for the anti-Corbyn faction in the party.
Meanwhile, a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) delegate, Steve Walker, called out:
an NEC that’s composed of a significant number of people who’ve been voted out and will be leaving at the end of this week, to try to rig the deck afterwards.
In August, pro-Corbyn candidates won a clean sweep in all six democratic elections on the party’s NEC. But that will only be enacted after the party conference. So it’s the outgoing NEC that just passed these proposals, containing two members of the Labour right who have already been voted out.
Before the motion, only six of the NEC’s 33 places were elected by party members. Instead of increasing democracy, the NEC has now made that six of 35 places.
Leigh Drennan of North West Young Labour also criticised the move:
I shouldn’t have to support what is effectively a stitch up by the NEC.
The plan to add the extra anti-Corbyn NEC seats is contained within a mixed package of other reforms. These include a clarification of the party rules to automatically include the incumbent on the ballot in a leadership challenge and an increase of power for the National Women’s conference. The Labour elite has refused repeated calls to vote on each matter individually, so critics concluded that the mixed package is designed to make the anti-Corbyn NEC expansion more attractive.
Indeed, Unite the Union opposed the plan to let Dugdale and Jones dictate who represents Scotland and Wales on the NEC. But they abstained on the package as a whole.
Tipping the balance of power further towards elites within the NEC will restrict Corbyn’s ability to reform the party.
The elites may wish to prevent an investigation into alleged gerrymandering of the leadership contest through widespread banning of pro-Corbyn members by the NEC. Earlier this month, Corbyn said he would investigate such claims.
The anti-democratic expansion of the NEC will also make it much more difficult for Corbyn to permit open selections for Labour candidates after the constituency boundary changes ahead of the 2020 general election. Some sitting Labour MPs would have to garner enough support from their own constituency to win the chance to stand again. This is called ‘deselection’ by Corbyn’s critics.
Referring to the top-heavy control of the Blair years, Novara Media’s Tom Scriven explained the contradiction of opposing more democratic control:
If Mandelson (Tony Blair’s former Director of Communications) can force candidates on CLPs in authoritarian gestures from the top of the party, then surely Corbynites can similarly replace candidates through democratic processes coming from the bottom.
On the other hand, if those MPs, members and supporters think the top-down interventions of the Blair years were wrong, then to be consistent they must be in favour of more democratic control.
But now the party’s ruling body has been gerrymandered by an outgoing NEC it will restrict the expansion of democracy in the party. More Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC is a good thing, but who fills the additional positions should be voted on. Now democratic reforms will be harder to achieve.
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