POLITICS

Labour Leadership Candidates Could Get On Ballot With NO Support From MPs Under New Proposal

Party general secretary could also become an elected position as part of radical new plans.

14/09/2017 12:31 | Updated 14 September 2017
PA Wire/PA Images

Labour Party leadership candidates could get on the ballot paper without having the backing of a single MP in future.

There are also plans to make the party’s general secretary an elected position as part of a radical set of proposals to be put forward to party conference next week.

The controversial leadership suggestion, leaked to HuffPost UK, would see party rules changed to allow hopefuls to make the ticket either by having the support of 15% of MPs and MEPs, affilated trade unions or Labour members.

It has been put forward by 21 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) as a motion at this year’s conference for possible debating next year.

Labour conference

The idea is unlikely to be supported by the party leadership - but is an indication of the growing support for putting more decision-making powers in members’ hands and shoring up the control held by those on the left.

Under current rules, candidates for the top job and for deputy leader must have the backing of at least 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party - a threshold Jeremy Corbyn only just reached in 2015 after MPs who did not vote for him lent their nominations “to broaden the debate”.

One Labour member told HuffPost UK: “Conference should be a time to take the battle to this weak, exposed Tory government.  But with depressing predictability the dinosaurs on the hard left are still focused on settling internal squabbles that are completely irrelevant to anyone outside the conference hall.”

Another added: “This could become known as the Williamson amendment, where no support from any MP is needed to stand.”

Writing in the Guardian last month, shadow fire minister and die-hard Corbyn supporter Chris Williamson said MPs should have no say over leadership because they were “a tiny percentage” of the party.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Derby MP Chris Williamson with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Other proposals put forward in this year’s conference Delegates’ Report include lowering the threshold to just five or 10%, and adding a requirement for support from CLPs.

There are also plans, which if taken forward will be voted on in 2018, for the party’s General Secretary to be directly elected by members for a term of up to three years.

Moderates fear this could spell the end for current party chief Iain McNicol, who has come under fire from Momentum members.

He previously clashed with John McDonnell after the shadow chancellor suggested ‘party staff’ had tried to rig the 2016 leadership race by purging Corbyn supporting members on spurious grounds.

PA Archive/PA Images
Labour's general secretary Iain McNicol.

Richard Angell, director of Labour centrist group Progress, said making the position an elected one was “not good for the professionalism of the party”.

He added: “We pick people as General Secretary who get to run the party based on their skills and experiences.  

“The thankless task of running a general election and keeping the party compliant with the law is not a popularity contest or a factional play-thing.

“We have that system in place for the leadership, the deputy leadership, for CLP secretaries, but the buck has to stop with someone.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s office announced on Thursday that an additional paper on “party reform” will be submitted to Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, which takes a position on all rule change proposals.

However, many are withdrawn during the year between conferences and the NEC can propose its own changes at any time.

HuffPost UK

Conference will also examine the possibility of creating two deputy leadership positions and ensuring that one is always held by a woman.

Rumours are circulating that many on the left of the party want to replace current deputy leader Tom Watson with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry - who has already been tipped as Labour’s first woman leader by Unite chief Len McCluskey.

This year’s Brighton event is expected to be Labour’s biggest ever and will give the left an opportunity to tighten its grip on the party machine.

Momentum-backed candidates Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes resoundingly beat their ‘moderate’ rivals MP Gloria de Piero and peer Lord Cashman to posts on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) this week.

The body has responsibility for setting the conference agenda and its finely-balanced composition now favours Corbyn-backers until 2019 at least.

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