Labour problems – about to resurface again
Thankfully the summer silly season was reasonably quiet; Brexit was not quite so shrilly dominant in the headlines, the BBC rediscovered international news, and the Labour Party – fresh from its ‘winning’ General Election campaign – did not embark on the latest instalment of what was fast becoming an annual leadership contest. And then, pretty much out of the blue, Labour’s Scottish leader, Kezia Dugdale, resigned; a good demonstration that Labour’s ongoing problems have not gone away and will come back into sharp focus this month, in several ways.
First up is the baffling multi-faced position Labour has on Brexit, which will be endlessly exposed to daily ridicule in the media – “a party that campaigned for Remain led by an EU sceptic who may or may not have voted Leave, which supports both leaving and remaining in the Single Market, which demands the resignation of frontbenchers who voted against Article 50 or in favour of permanent membership of the Single Market, and now wants to oppose in principle the legislation that will finally allow us to leave the EU”, in the words of one ex-Labour MP. Work that one out!
Second will be the continuing battle for control of Labour’s national executive, the NEC. This is pre-eminently important because the NEC controls the rules for electing Labour leaders and the selection/deselection rules for Labour MPs. He who controls that, controls the Moderate or Corbynite destiny of the party. And to date, the Moderates have managed to hold sway or at least frustrate too much Corbynite madness. Kezia Dugdale’s resignation puts all that in play.
(An interesting and important sideshow is the now confirmed merger of the Unite and UCATT unions which will mean (a) one more dominant union representing construction workers – eeek! – and (b) further power and influence for Unite’s Len McCluskey over the Labour Party and NEC).
Third up will be the debate of the so-called ‘McDonnell amendment’ at party conference later this month where the Hard Left want to reduce the nomination threshold for future leadership candidates from 15% down to 5% of Labour MPs and MEPs, with 10% now being floated as a compromise. Interestingly, this could be seen as a threat to ‘JC the Messiah’ as well as Moderate Labour as it would likely mean that even more left wing candidates could challenge Jezza if he isn’t suitably left wing enough for them. (We know what you’re thinking but everything’s relative!)
Fourth on the agenda is the start of Jezza’s much vaunted selection process for Labour’s top 100 target seats. It will be interesting to see how Moderate or Momentum heavy this process becomes. This will give some indication as to which wing of the Party is holding the upper hand internally at the moment.
Then in January the process for re-selecting sitting Labour MPs is meant to begin. This is usually a formality where each constituency Labour party agrees to stick with the sitting Labour MP unless very controversially a local ballot is triggered. This could be the next Momentum flashpoint; post the Dugdale resignation, NEC control in the balance, deselections anyone?
Of course rumbling around in the background is the ongoing noise calling for Moderate defections to a new party, the summer’s reincarnation being ‘The Democrats’, which seems to just have been a summer silly season story.
Then finally we have the ongoing saga of Labour’s General Sectary, Iain McNicol. The Hard Left wants him out, the Moderates see him as an essential bulwark in holding back the Momentum takeover. There is usually a skirmish around conference season. The role of the unions is interesting here with McNicol being an ex-GMB man and therefore seen as supportive of union influence.
So, despite the summer recess, the problems have not gone away.