I’m not entirely convinced about this sudden call (mainly) from the left of the Labour party. This sudden call to forget about the rules and just put all the candidates for leader on the ballot. The Guardian has today published a letter calling for just that. The logic being that the field of candidates on the ballot is as broad as possible.
Technically, the letter doesn’t call for people to ignore the rules. It calls for MPs to get together and co-ordinate their nomination to get around the rules instead. To stick to the letter of the rule while ignoring the spirit of the rule. Which rule I hear you say? Well, I’m glad you asked. Most Labour members can tell you about Clause IV of the rulebook, a lot can even recite at least the opening couple of sentences. But how many can recite Clause VII? It reads thus:
Clause VII.Party officers and statutory officers
1. A. Leader and deputy leader i. There shall be a leader and deputy leader of the party who shall, ex-officio, be leader and deputy leader of the PLP. ii. The leader and deputy leader of the party shall be elected or re-elected from among Commons members of the PLP in accordance with procedural rule Chapter 4 B.2 below, at a party conference convened in accordance with clause VI of these rules. In respect to the election of the leader and deputy leader, the standing orders of the PLP shall always automatically be brought into line with these rules.
Chapter 4 B.2, for the nerdy curious among you, is about the nomination process and says
B. Nomination i. In the case of a vacancy for leader or deputy leader, each nomination must be supported by 12.5 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void.
So, the leader has to be chosen from the Parliamentary Labour Party and is, by right of office, automatically the leader of the PLP. This person’s day-to-day job is to lead the Parliamentary Party. My issue is this. If a person can’t secure the support of one-eighth of the Labour MPs in a nomination process, how will they be able to lead the whole PLP? If they can’t persuade 33 people to nominate them, how will they persuade millions to make them Prime Minister? We’ve seen in recent times what happens when MPs don’t support their leader. They waste time and energy fighting off coups and protecting their position instead of doing what’s right for the party and the country. That’s not what Labour needs. Labour needs a strong leader who can make a case for change and carry the party with them, who can take the battle to the Tories, who can fight and win the next general election. Labour needs that 12.5% threshold.
*Ok, so technically it’s 32 and a weeny bit, but that wouldn’t work quite as well as a title