Jim Fitzpatrick MP, who chairs Oona King’s campaign to be London Mayor, has written a strange letter to Ray Collins, General Secretary of the Labour Party.
Why is it strange?
He claims the process for selecting the London Mayor “fails the fairness and openness tests” and then proposes tinkering with the electoral college process in ways that will make it less open and less fair – presumably believing that doing so will favour his preferred candidate.
He objects to the procedure laid down by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party whereby there is to be an electoral college with 50% of the votes being decided by the individual votes of Party members in London and with the other 50% being determined by the votes of the members of trade unions and other organisations affiliated to the London Labour Party.
He seems to think that this process is new and untried – even though it is the same process used the last time there was a contested selection process for Labour’s Mayoral candidate in the run up to the 2004 elections.
So what is he proposing instead?
He has two options. The first is simply to disenfranchise the members of trade unions and other affiliated organisations – even though all those members pay a political levy contribution to the Labour Party. That is hardly very open and fair, is it?
So he offers an alternative – a “tri-partite” electoral college.
Now we had one of those before – in the selection of Labour’s candidate for the first Mayoral elections in 2000. And that process was widely derided as being a stitch-up. I remember it well. The third section of the electoral college comprised London Labour MPs and the 25 selected candidates for the London Assembly (even though some of them stood no chance of being on the Assembly unless Labour achieved 96% of the vote in the eventual elections). I remember the embarrassment, as a London Assembly candidate, of having one of those gold-plated votes – worth the equivalent of the votes of a thousand Party members and several thousand affiliated members of the Party. It was certainly neither open nor fair.
In so far as I understand Jim Fitzpatrick’s argument, it is that in the election of Party Leader there is a tri-partite college – with a section for MPs. There is a good reason for that: the House of Commons is the battleground in which the Party Leader has to operate, whether as Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition, and Labour MPs should have a direct say in who should lead them as well as the wider Party.
So, if there were a tri-partite electoral college for the Mayoral selection, who would be in the third section? The only logical answer would be the eight Labour members of the London Assembly. Now they are all excellent people, but this wouldn’t just be giving them a gold-plated vote, it would be giving them a platinum-plated vote – more than 4% of the electoral college each. And I don’t think many people would regard that as open and fair.
No doubt, Jim Fitzpatrick would like to give London MPs a platinum vote as well. But why do they have a more legitimate remit than, say, Labour Council Leaders or indeed all Labour councillors in London. It all begins to look like a return to the bad old days of manipulation and skullduggery.
And Jim ought to remember all that – he used to be Chair of the London Labour Party.
And actually Jim, the London Labour Party has now grown out of all that.