Kate Arnot, Falkirk CLP member writing in a personal capacity, describes recent developments.
During most of 2013 Falkirk CLP wasn’t functioning. After Eric Joyce resigned as a Labour MP there was the usual selection interest in what should be regarded as a safe Labour seat. This was despite all the bad local and national publicity over the years in relation to Eric Joyce and the subsequent apathy of local activists. This formed part of an ongoing trend since the much respected previous MP, Dennis Canavan, was not selected to be on the Party’s panel for the first Scottish Parliament election. Dennis’ decision to stand as an Independent candidate actually saw him elected with an outright majority, the largest for an MSP that year.
Unite, implementing its open policy of promoting MPs who would advance a progressive trade union agenda, recruited new members into the CLP. This created fresh energy but also brought about complaints which subsequently led to a report and the removal of the CLP from the selection process.
From March to November the CLP did not meet, although the Executive was meeting from July in an attempt to move forward and stop the constant bad publicity. At the first meeting of the CLP in early November there was considerable anger among the membership, particularly concerning the lack of communication from the UK and Scottish Labour Party; anger was also directed towards the Executive. There was a full and frank discussion! The Executive reported on the meetings they had had with Labour Party officials and also that the selection of a new candidate was being prioritised. Members were clear – they wanted the report published (no one locally had seen this) and they also wanted officers from the Party to give an account of what had happened and why.
Finally, it was agreed that an AGM should be held as soon as possible. This AGM took place 21 days later, the minimum amount of time needed to inform members. By then it was also known the selection would take place on December 8. Fears were voiced that there would be a disappointing response from women (an all woman shortlist was going ahead) due to the ongoing bad publicity.
In any event, the AGM went well. New members of the Executive were elected but there was also continuity. The incoming Chair is a long standing member of the Executive and a long standing trade union officer. A sign of health in the CLP was the competition for posts and members seeking to take on posts (instead of having to find members for roles).
With the selection, five women were interested in standing, with one withdrawing and one not moving through to the hustings. So there were three excellent candidates to choose from, which removed a major worry as all three candidates would have been suitable representatives. Between those present and postal votes, over half the CLP voted. Karen Whitefield, previously a MSP, was chosen and has already begun canvassing in the area. The CLP looks forward to uniting behind Karen and moving forward into 2014 and 2015 with renewed energy after such a long period floundering with Eric as MP.
In addition to this positive selection, both the Secretary of the UK Labour Party and the Secretary of Scottish Party met with the Executive of the CLP in mid-December. There was a very positive meeting with recognition, and an apology, from the Party hierarchy that there had been a lack of communication with the CLP and its members. However, despite repeated requests for the report to be published, this was not agreed and, as time moves on, it is less and less likely that it will be. There was a commitment to meet with the wider CLP and this is welcome.
So hopefully Falkirk CLP can now move forward. We haven’t got everything we want but we do have an Executive which sees a light at the end of the tunnel, a very capable candidate in place and a realistic wish to establish and increase the CLP’s membership, our greatest asset. What we have learned from this fiasco is what we already knew but continually experience:
- That the arrogance of the rich and powerful knows no boundaries.
- That the press, almost entirely, is no friend to the labour and trade union movement.
- That MPs who do not respect their local members, but follow a centralised agenda, harm the Party locally.
- That bringing about socialism is a long and difficult journey.