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Is ‘efficiency’ undermining Labour’s democracy?

Claims party's new councillor selection process is down to a 'bureaucratic bungle'

21 September, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Keir Starmer MP and, right, Cllr Georgia Gould

IT’S quick. It’s efficient. But is the latest change in the way Labour selects its candidates for next year’s local elections democratic?

Under the new rules, apparently introduced by the party’s national executive council last year, if the only candidates are the sitting councillors, then – assuming members nod them through – they become the new candidates.

There is no discussion, no questions asked – the sitting councillors don’t even have to turn up at the meeting.

“Shocking! Irregular!” exclaimed 80 year-old Giles Taylor, who has been a Labour member since his father, the historian AJP Taylor, arranged for him to join the party in Oxford when he was a youngster after the Second World War.

Mr Taylor protested at the end of the 45-minute meeting of the Kentish Town ward branch on Monday evening with another member but his protests were dismissed.

He said he had attended scores of selection meetings over the decades – and every time the candidates had been subject to questions and challenged to express their views on local issues.

Either the new rules were not explained to the 35 members at the Kentish Town Community Centre – or explained so badly they had not been understood.

Mr Taylor put the selection process down to a “bureaucratic bungle”.

“I’ve never known anything like this before,” he said.

Members were able to see two large folders containing profiles of all the candidates in the coming borough-wide elections, including the names of the sitting Kentish Town councillors – Meric Apak, council leader Georgia Gould, and Jenny Headlam-Wells.

Presumably, the meeting was conducted properly considering that among the audience was the St Pancras MP, Keir Starmer, who as a lawyer and a key shadow cabinet member, would have objected if it had not been.

All efficient, and according to the party rules, but democratic – that’s another matter.

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