The new regenerated Labour Party has yet to rid itself of the stench left by Blair. This means purging the rulebook of restrictions imposed to ensure that the Party remained in the control of a political élite.
It should start with the procedure of selecting parliamentary candidates. Those applying to become Labour candidates are expected to fight an election on party policy. But that should not prevent them declaring their political commitments to those whose help is needed to make them an MP.
For example, a member wanting to become an MP can write in their statement, “I believe that a good education is the finest gift a nation can give to its children”. This is an eloquent but hardly controversial statement. If it was followed by, “So I intend to fight for the abolition of university fees,” it would be censored. At the selection meeting a question about support for Trident would be ruled out of order.
Since Blair, the only purpose of a selection conference is to decide who would be the most presentable candidate. A set of white gleaming teeth is more likely to win selection as the prospective Labour candidate than a conviction that the rich do not pay enough tax.
It is hardly surprising that some constituency parties eventually feel they helped the wrong person into Parliament. Often the discovery is made only when an MP’s actions at meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party turn out to be in sharp contrast to their own opinions.
We should all be concerned at threats of violence made to MPs; threatening behaviour ia a criminal offence and should be reported to the police.
But we should be a little suspicious of some accusations of bullying and harassment. Being told by members of your constituency party that they do not want you as their candidate at the next election may be distressing. But it is no more bullying than telling your local restaurant you will no longer dine there because rats and cockroaches have been found in their kitchen.
Hardworking party workers are now asking if a winning smile, the big hello and the firm handshake are quite enough qualities for a Labour MP. The rules on selection procedures should reflect these concerns.
Russell Miller Commissioning
Editor of the The Radical Read Project.