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Party leadership selection? July 12, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s a point in the Observer editorial from this weekend that I tend to disagree with. Complaining, correctly in my view, about Andrea Leadsom, it goes a step too far in the following:

Leadsom’s socially illiberal views, including on gay marriage and maternity rights, are clearly out of step with the country she seeks to lead. That alone should be enough to disqualify her as prime minister. Yet she is not required to seek a mandate from the British people: she only needs to convince a majority of Conservative members to vote for her. As the current predicament of the Labour party shows, party memberships are far from representative of the voters who back them. It is fundamentally undemocratic to have national political leaders, who represent millions, selected by party memberships numbering the hundreds of thousands. It represents an uncomfortable attempt at a halfway house between parliamentary representative democracy and the American primary system. It delivers the worst of both worlds.

I cannot genuinely see how it is fundamentally undemocratic to have party leaderships elected by party members. It certainly is no more undemocratic than party leaderships elected by party representatives.

And even were one to go an essentially presidential route, with ‘national’ leaders elected by all voters, those leaders would still be filtered by the parties themselves. How could it be otherwise? And why should voters with no affinity or attachment to a party select the leader of a party?

Of course it is not perfectly democratic, but then all political structures are contingent.

Indeed a moments thought suggests that there’s no way of squaring this circle in bourgeois politics, and perhaps not outside it either short of consensus, which rarely seems to me to be actual consensus.

There is a slightly different issue as to legitimisation of the Prime Minister once elected by the party membership. Gordon Brown faced this and appears to have resiled from an early election that quite likely he would have won handily, perhaps Enda Kenny will too. May has ruled it out. We’ll see. I would go so far as to suggest that at some point relatively soon after a change in leadership that results in a change in PM or Taoiseach that should be validated by a broader vote – most obviously an election.

But that is different from leaving the process of selection to general voters. And one cannot help feeling reading this that none of this was a problem until someone decided it was a problem – both in relation to the Tories and Labour.


1. Joe - July 12, 2016

I keep scanning the BBC website for news of the Labour leadership contest. The only relevant headline I see is “Eagle tries to carry off Australian boy”. She’s some wagon, that one.

Liked by 1 person

Dermot O Connor - July 12, 2016

Apparently the NuLabs think that not having their opponents on the ballot at all is even more democratic. Latest from the Blair Herald (aka the Guardian). Sounds like the middle class Labourites would be happier in a new party (maybe a social democratic party, heh heh). Failing that, they’d be happier if the working class would just go away. Playing with fire.


Bob Marshall-Andrews, the barrister and former Labour MP, told Radio 4’s PM programme that he thought it was almost inevitable that Labour would split.

I think, whichever way it goes, there is a near inevitability that the Labour party will split, perhaps not immediately, but certainly within the year.

If it’s a divided left then we will never gain power again, particularly in view of Scotland. We need a unified coalition of the centre left and, outside the Westminster bubble, there’s an enormous appetite for that, for a new party, common ground – not a bad name when you come to think of it – between the majority of the parliamentary Labour party, the Lib Dems, the Greens, coming together to discuss and address the problems of the 21st century.
Marshall-Andrews also said that the leadership contest rules were “completely ambiguous” but that he had always taken the view that it was down to challengers only to have to come up with nominations.


FergusD - July 13, 2016

Dermot, such a centre hodge podge would have no policies that could help anyone. We have to ditch neo-liberalism and offer people an alternative. That’s what they want.


2. Ed - July 12, 2016

Far more democratic to have the leaders selected by the media, of course.


3. roddy - July 12, 2016

I know a leader who has been in place for 33 years and the media have tried to change him virtually every month!


4. dublinstreams - July 12, 2016

don’t buy argument that May needs to go to country Cameron ran the election on the basis he wouldn’t serve full term, and it was clear if he lost referendum he would have to go.

did Labour not go someway to an open primary with registered (or affiliated) supporter memberships being able to vote, that £3 is now £25 and 6 months full-time membership to vote in leadership contest http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/12/labour-leadership-coup-jeremy-corbyn-gets-on-ballot-paper—but/ still confused by it all


5. Phil - July 12, 2016

That is a really bizarre argument – who should choose the leader of a party if not the party? Opening up the process – as in “the American primary system” – might be an idea, though; perhaps supporters could register and pay £3 to vote…


6. FergusD - July 13, 2016

What is the purpose of a political party? Especially one of the left? for Caroline Flint MP it is first and foremost to win power (so she said) and then presumably decide what to do with it. In other words to implement “establishment” pro-capitalist policies, that is what she really means. My view is that the purpose of a polictical party is to produce a programme/policies by debate in the membership and then try and win the electrorate to those policies. The party membership (OK, and paid up supporters I suppose) therefore clearly should choose the leader.

Absolutely no point in a neo-liberal BLP, or any kind of centre coalition forming a government, it will not help the mass of teh population during teh growing crisis of capitalism. Many feel that already, hence the collapse of the centre in many places.


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