General Secretary: debate the issues!

Submitted by SJW on 14 March, 2018 - 1:26 Author: Keith Road
Jennie Formby

The withdrawal of Jon Lansman from the contest to replace Iain McNicol as the next Labour Party General Secretary makes almost certain that Jennie Formby will get the job.

The contest should have been an opportunity to talk about what a left-led Labour Party should be like in its culture and structures. It became an opaque fight where any differences between candidates were unclear and impossible for ordinary Labour members to decode.

For that reason it was absolutely right — if you take his stated reasons for standing on face value — for Jon Lansman to stand.
He was right against the leadership of the Labour Party who wanted Unite official Jennie Formby to get the job and who rushed to endorse her.

As it stands the only other declared candidate is Paul Hilder, a digital entrepreneur, a director of Crowdpac and one of the founders of OpenDemocracy; he is a Momentum member.

But it is more than a matter of having a choice of contender.

Formby has the support of the majority of the National Executive Committee’s “‘left caucus”. 17 MPs as well as the Labour Representation Committee and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) have also stated their support.

But the appointment to this highly important and influential position should be made by a proper democratic process. The rules state that in the event of a vacancy for General Secretary the National Executive Committee can select the new secretary subject to the approval of Party Conference. In practice this will mean a rubber stamping of their decision. This position should be elected at Conference, with regional hustings organised in the run up.

The desire to rush the appointment reflects, as, the New Socialist website puts it, a “siege mentality” among the established sections of the Labour left.

Since 2015, Corbyn has survived a leadership challenge, a General Election, and fought to win left control of the NEC, and the Disputes Committee chair. The left has just started to gain control in local branches and local Labour Parties.
The “siege mentality”, which has in some quarters, created a destructive factional mood, and distaste for debate on the left has to end. Now is the time for the left to change gear and begin to talk about key differences in strategy and politics. This contest could still help us begin that.

While the issues are still to be explained, we do not share the view that the entire Labour left must unite around a particular candidate.

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