August 27, 2015 by Paul Goldsmith
There’s a rather strange phenomenon going on in the Labour Party’s vetting process for their leadership election. They are attempting to exclude from the election people who share the original aims and values of the Labour Party because they ‘don’t share the aims and values of the Labour Party’.
I’m all for excluding people who are self-confessed Tories like Toby Young who are voting for Jeremy Corbyn in order to, in their view, make Labour unelectable. Those people don’t share the aims and values of the Party, and are happy to admit they don’t.
But they are excluding left wingers too, with the reasoning that they, too, don’t share the aims and values of the Party. Yet many of these people definitively do share the aims and values of the Labour Party. Just not the way it is currently run.
According to reports, people who are not being allowed to vote include union leaders like Mark Serwotka, who was expelled from the Party in 1986 as part of what was known as the ‘Militant Tendency’ who were trying to drag the party to the extreme left at the time. Ok, if they have been expelled maybe there is a case not to let them vote, although Serwotka himself, 30 years’ later, is the General Secretary of a highly respected trade union and perhaps that should mean something in, you know, the ‘Labour’ Party?
They are also excluding people who stood for other parties in the last election, particularly those who stood for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). You may argue that makes sense. How could they share the values of the Labour Party if they stood against it in the last election? But many of them are only not members of Labour because it had stopped sharing the aims and values of what the Labour Party was set up to hold back in 1903. This is true of some Green Party candidates too. The prospect of a leader who will take the party back to their traditional socialist values is attracting excitement and new members, and they surely should be allowed to vote.
It goes further. The vetting team are trawling social media for what applicants have said. Apparently that will help them decide who shares Labour’s aims and values. So, that means if you have criticised the Labour Party on social media you may not be able to vote? Seriously?
I think the party has to be very careful. If Corbyn loses, and it comes out that the people excluded from voting on the grounds that they were too left-wing made the difference to the outcome, it will not be accepted as a legitimate result.
Ed Miliband’s changes to the leadership election system, allowing people to vote having paid £3 to join as associate members, is being blamed for creating chaos in this election. Yet it has also reinvigorated Labour Party politics in a way that wouldn’t have happened under the old rules, even with the other three contenders being as anodyne and uninteresting as they are.
Whatever the outcome, it needs to have been a fair election. Excluding people because they happen to share the political views of one of the candidates is not fair.