It was with great disappointment that we learnt that the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party had voted at its meeting on Friday 17th March 2017 to retain the freeze date of July 2015 for the selection of local government candidates in the 2018 council elections.
As selection meetings have yet to take place it means that members will have needed to join nearly two years ago to participate. Large numbers of committed and hard-working local members, the very people the party will depend on to campaign in the mayoral and local elections coming up in the next 18 months, have been disenfranchised.
As we have pointed out repeatedly, this is wrong and misguided, and in the context of a national rule of 6 months, utterly ludicrous. No justification has ever been provided for the original decision and it is now self-evident that it was made to exclude the new members, most of whom of course support our leader Jeremy Corbyn and the vision he has for the party and the country.
It is also noteworthy that the decision to retain the freeze date was made by secret ballot, removing any possibility of CLP reps being held accountable by their members. This is cynical, cowardly and utterly against the principle of openness that should govern our party’s decision-making. We are not the Conservative Party and these things should not be decided in secret by a small cabal of ‘grandees’.
Even a compromise position of a 12 month reset from the 17th March was rejected.
9 wards and 3 CLPs have passed resolutions opposing the freeze date and protests were made across the city. It is clear that the vast majority of Birmingham Labour members oppose this decision when they hear of it.
And yet this has all been flatly ignored, which calls into question the very legitimacy of the Board as our party’s local governing body.
With this decision, winning the upcoming local by-elections, the West Midlands mayoral election in May and the “all-up” council elections in 2018 is self-evidently much harder. A disenfranchised membership is not one likely to be out in huge numbers campaigning for candidates they are not even trusted to help select.