The officers of MSB note and welcome the decision of the Birmingham Board of the Labour Party to narrowly reject a motion from the Birmingham Labour Group of councillors at their meeting of Friday the 16th June 2017 for the Board and the West Midlands Regional Office to impose ‘slates’ of candidates on wards for the 2018 local elections.
We understand that the vote was 11 – 10 against and while a victory is a victory, the fact that such a proposal was even on the table for discussion, let alone that the vote was so close, gives an indication of how undemocratic the Birmingham Labour Party has become.
It is beyond belief that the majority of Labour councillors in this city (with a few commendable exceptions) voted at their meeting on the 12th June in favour of taking this proposal to the Board. It is completely inappropriate, and frankly an abuse of their incumbency, to even suggest that the current crop of councillors essentially protect themselves from democratic selection procedures and deny Birmingham Labour Party members their democratic rights (i.e. the members who put the councillors there and the people who will be campaigning for them next year).
In the context of recent political history, it was also a thankfully failed attempt at an act of self-harm.
The general election showed what can happen when the members are mobilised. The West Midlands mayoral election showed what happens when they are not. We also lost several seats in the West Midlands on June 8th and the sclerotic nature of the party in this region is doubtless largely responsible.
To impose candidates and disenfranchise all of the local members would have risked a repeat of the latter two examples and we totally condemn the Labour Group majority for this undemocratic, self-serving and utterly destructive move. They should be ashamed of themselves.
We also call on the West Midlands Regional Office to respect the Board’s decision and ensure that selection meetings begin promptly. We need candidates in place as soon as possible so we can start campaigning for them, and any hint at a delay would suggest that they are trying to subvert the vote of the Birmingham Board.
Sadly, at this point we should also point out that the July 2015 ‘freeze date’ remains in place so a huge swathe of the party membership will not be able to vote in any case. The lack of movement on this issue, and the failure by the local party hierarchy to realise the crucial role that the new members played and will continue to play in ensuring that Labour representatives at all levels of government are elected in the coming years, suggests to us that the West Midlands and Birmingham Labour Parties are in need of root and branch reform.