This plan for Labour members to choose shadow team and policies will upset PLP sulkers

A comprehensive victory for Corbyn is likely in next’s week’s leadership vote [Image: Jane Barlow/PA].

A comprehensive victory for Corbyn is likely in next’s week’s leadership vote [Image: Jane Barlow/PA].

Incredibly, it seems some ex-Shadow Cabinet members are already opposing Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to increase democracy in the Labour Party.

They say giving them a chance to elect a third of ShadCab members means two-thirds will be “his people”.

I say the membership would not have tolerated Tom Watson’s alternative, allowing MPs to choose all of the Shadow Cabinet – and in fact limiting the wider membership’s choice to just one-third (the other third being elected by the leader) doesn’t go far enough, in terms of extending democracy.

That being said, I am also wary of the idea of asking grassroots members to help shape policy. Any support I have will depend on the form that policy-shaping takes.

I would not want Labour policy to be a shopping-list of conflicting ideas, included for the sake of particular elements within the party, that would not form a coherent programme for government and would put the electorate off. My instinct tells me that is what happened in 1983; it definitely happened last year.

It might work if the leadership (including an elected Shadow Cabinet) offered up possible policy options, with explanations of their implications, allowing the members to debate them and then vote.

To those who would prefer sulking to serving, I would say: We tried it your way and it didn’t work. If you want to sit this out, so be it.

Alternatively, you could be part of the most exciting development in British politics, possibly since 1945.

Jeremy Corbyn is to propose a democratic revolution in the Labour party that would give its mass membership a role in both electing his top team and shaping party policy.

With a comprehensive victory in the leadership contest next weekend looking increasingly likely, the Labour leader is now planning the next phase of a radical remaking of the party into a democratic social movement.

It is understood that Corbyn will suggest that members should be allowed to elect some shadow cabinet ministers, and have a direct say in policymaking through “digital consultations”.

In what will be presented as a conciliatory move to unify the party, one proposal is that a third of shadow cabinet posts are elected by the parliamentary party, another third by the leader and a final third by members. A source said: “These things are open to discussion”.

It is understood that some MPs also believe there is a case for the membership to be the sole electorate of the front-bench to ensure shadow cabinet ministers have an equal standing.

The idea of involving the membership in shadow cabinet elections is a rebuff to the deputy leader, Tom Watson, who is due to present a motion to Labour’s governing body, the NEC, on Tuesday in favour of bringing back the system under which MPs alone have a vote.

However, it is understood Watson recognises that the changes being suggested by the leader could represent “an exciting new era in British politics” under which for the first time frontbenchers would be delegates and not representatives of the membership.

Source: Corbyn to give members power to choose shadow team and policies | Politics | The Guardian


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13 thoughts on “This plan for Labour members to choose shadow team and policies will upset PLP sulkers

  1. Kenneth Billis

    After all the upheavals of the last twelve months, the one thing I don’t want to see is Mr Corbyn not having complete freedom to form his own shadow cabinet. Tom Watson being elected as deputy leader just shows the difficulties this might cause Mr Corbyn. My view is that it must be left for him to make his own selection. Opening it up to the membership can wait until the PLP has had a good shakeout at CLP level.

  2. Kenneth Billis

    I think it would be a serious mistake to not allow Mr Corbyn to select his entire shadow cabinet. The imposition of Tom Watson as deputy leader is an example of the problems it could cause him if he is not allowed to do so. Opening it up to the membership would surely be better left until the PLP has had a thorough shakeout at CLP level?

    1. Kenneth Billis

      Mike, sorry for the duplication. Please delete one of them, my browser indicated that my first attempt at posting had failed.

  3. Neilth

    I’m old enough to remember conferences of the past where policy was proposed, debated and decided by delegates. We saw motions at constituency or branch well in advance and had the opportunity to put forward our own motions or composite with others etc and decide how our delegates should vote. The weakness was that the union block votes were hugely powerful and dominated the outcomes. A return to more democracy is welcome and allowing membership more say is a step forward. The downside is that policy making becomes a form referendum in the party and, while party members may tend to be better informed than the general population, we all know how referenda can be manipulated by inimical forces through the mass media. Where our main source of information is bent on misinforming us we can’t make an informed choice. The recent unpleasantness being a case in point.

  4. Doggy

    This nonsense really could finish the Labour party as a potential party of government forever. Such ideas may appeal to Labour party members who feel that such a move would turn Labour into a party that more accurately represented their values, but the trouble is that a relatively small number of often badly informed and emotionally charged individuals, compared to all those of voting age, determining Labour shadow cabinets and policies will end up with a Labour party loved by a majority (but certainly not all) Labour party members while at the same time distrusted and perpetually rejected as a party of government by general voters to ever wield power.

    The vast majority of the electorate, unaffiliated to any particular political party, would object being governed by fiat of the Labour party’s membership

    That ISN’T representative democracy.

    I want to be governed by intelligent and humane people who sped their days being informed about issues and making decisions on my behalf based on their greater expertise and knowledge about issues than I have time to acquire in my busy daily life. THAT is representative democracy: picking people to represent your interests based, on their own personal decisions on your behalf based on conscience, not puppets who do anything and everything that the party membership decides.

    Corbyn espouses a sure fire way to perpetual opposition.

    And I desperately want to see a Labour government.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Not really – in any political party, the tail would be the MPs. They’re elected to do the will of the party, not for the party to do what they want.
      It IS democracy, but I would want to ensure everyone understands what the issues are, fully.

  5. Sven Wraight

    And of course, none of this stops the CLPs deselecting the anti-Corbynites, no matter how many times they SAY sorry.

  6. Zippi

    I’ve never understood this idea of representatives who do not represent. It is a way to silence the majority by speaking only for yourself, under the guise of speaking for others. It is about time that this were challenged, at the very least.

  7. Dez

    Feels like there has been a mass infiltration of Tories bent on making sure they fully control a tame opposition.

Comments are closed.