Friday 4 September 2015

For Mandatory Reselections

If you want to know what a good slice of political journalism in the 21st century looks like, Michael Crick's "scoop" is an exemplar. It has it all. The anonymous source. The wild claims. Guilt-by-association. Bandwagon chasing. According to Michael, the "far left are preparing to oust several Labour MPs". Sounds serious. He names the two MPs for Lewisham, Tristram Hunt, and Simon Danczuk as possible targets, at least according to some unnamed Unite organiser. However, as Unite and the Jeremy campaign make clear this had absolutely nothing to do with them, and that said activist is neither a lay official nor Labour member. In other words, our anonymous source has managed to nick some of the limelight by shooting his mouth off to a journo who long ago cut his teeth on a sensationalist expose of the far left.

Has Michael rendered much of a service to those stubbornly welded to anti-Jeremy scaremongering? I doubt it. Undoubtedly some representatives of the party are scared about what tens of thousands of new members could mean for their reselection hopes, but so what? Our mysterious Unite activist, and indeed quite a few members on Labour's left might dream about ousting certain MPs (there won't be any tears in this house for Danczuk, it has to be said), but that's what they are at the moment: fantasies.

That isn't to say it's going to be this way forever. As we know, what with Dave's boundary review coming up to "cut the cost of politics", as he puts it, a sizeable chunk of Labour MPs are going to have to be reselected anyway. Looking at my patch, and having seen the proposed boundaries from 2011-12, it's very likely that the North Staffs conurbation (Stoke-on-Trent + Newcastle-under-Lyme + Kidsgrove) will go from four seats to three. Depending on how they stack up, all could be scrapping for reselection. As well as interested others too. So the fear that some in the party have of mandatory reselections might not happen seeing as many MPs are facing them anyway. This in mind, assuming he wins Jeremy could avoid pushing the issue for party management reasons.

That said, we should have mandatory reselections. A lifetime's entitlement to a particular seat is utterly inconsistent with democratic principles. That, and it's bad politics too. Look at Scotland. Look at the rotten fiefdoms scarring many a safe Labour area. The absence of internal challenges led to sclerotic local parties, to lazy local parties in which membership dwindled and campaigning seldom happened. One of my comrades, who recently went for a selection in a "safe" Scottish seat, told me the constituency was divided into two urban areas. The outgoing MP had, for 20 years, only bothered with one-half of the seat. That was where the meetings were. Where most of the members were, and was therefore unconcerned with what happened to the party in the other half of the seat so long as matters remained tickety-boo in his.He had no incentive to bother talking to the members, so didn't.

Of course, compulsory reselections aren't a magic bullet. Sitting representatives have certain incumbency advantages, such as status (people new to the party might be shocked by the small number of members who treat the office of MP as a sacred thing), or resources to get a reselection through, but better this than the alternative that has helped cost this party dear.


asquith said...

Would this redistribution be the death knell for Smeeth? :)

I looked at the proposed boundaries, I was glad Cleggover stopped them because the new boundaries would have made so little sense administratively or culturaly, there would have been wildly differing needs pulling MPs in all directions. I support electoral reform and multi-member constituencies but the plans I saw, I have to return a solid "no thanks" to that.

So much for them being conservatives, it's difficult to see what they actually are conserving other than their own social position.

Phil said...

I'm like you, as a confirmed STV man I'd like to see multi-member constituencies. Anyway, the boundary commission are holding a meeting this Tuesday in which the principles guiding them will be revealed. I expect they're going to be similar to last time, because the only way constituencies can be equalised is by ignoring local authority boundaries.

Igor Belanov said...

One of the problems with the last Boundary Commission proposal was that they felt that there was such emphasis placed on the need to have areas of equal population that the constituencies proposed were of often ridiculous shapes and with no identity in common.

Given that every individual's vote is wildly unequal in FPTP and that elections in this system produce inherently unfair results, it is immaterial what size the constituencies are. They'd have been much better concentrating on forming areas that shared some kind of identity and logic rather than obsessing about making them of equal population.

That said, fully with you on STV.