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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Constituency Labour Parties are taking a view

Angela Eagle: Anger stirs in her Wallasey Constituency.

A perceptive article by Ewen MacAskill from Angela Eagle's Constituency in Wallasey.
MacAskill describes how the mood among Merseyside Constituency Labour Party members is hardening. They are urging activists to make their views known to their MPs at weekly surgery meetings, and when they appear before their constituency party meetings in the weeks ahead. It is a situation which will face many Labour MP's actively associated with the coup and the 172 who voted in favour of the "No Confidence" motion last week. This may be a new, unique and probably disturbing experience for many of these MP's. In the late 1970's and early 1980's Constituency Parties were invariably quite willing and able to voice opinions and comments on all party related matters from changes in rules and selection procedures, to how the Parliamentary Labour Party may consider responses to foreign or domestic policy matters. It was a consultative rather than a mandatory discussion, as constituency members were well aware of the MP's responsibilities to the voters of the constituency. These consultative discussions replaced was was until then a very cavalier attitude of some MP's, particularly those in safe Labour seats, who were in effect in a "job for life" as there was no way that they could be replaced other than in a General election. In seats where the Labour vote was weighed rather than counted this did not cause the incumbent any real inconvenience. The rule changes introduced with amendments and revisions to the Labour Party Constitution resulting from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy changed all that.
It seems however, that during the period between 1987 and now, there has been a gradual but complete reversal of the Constituency Party role and influence. Until September of last year, the Parliamentary Labour Party with the significant changes brought in during the Blairite years, had become once again the dominant feature of the Labour party. The all knowing, self opinionated dictators of the PLP would tolerate no opposition to their autocratic rule, and any dissent was taken to be divisive and seeking to split the party. In this they were encouraged and supported by the media, all very comfortable with the Tory policies of government or the Tory lite policies of the Labour party. Labour party supporters and even members, turned their backs in droves and people again said that you are all the same once you get elected.

Over the course of the last 18 months, we have seen something completely different in the Labour party. Democracy has returned to the constituencies and members have sent a clear message to the Parliamentary Party that Labour is our their Tory lite policies of austerity, cuts and destruction of our NHS. We shall elect a leader of our choosing, rather than have a "coronation" of a leader imposed upon us by the PLP.
The Constituency Parties are now taking back control of their constituencies and will hold the incumbent MP to account for their actions. This is something that Eagle, Benn, Kinnock, Mann, Danczuk, Bradshaw and the rest, and even Watson, should bear in mind over the course of the coming weeks. Ewen MacAskill reports from Merseyside and the mood there. There is every reason to suppose that the same mood prevails in other constituencies around the country. The PLP must understand the changed situation.