Reselections and The Battle for the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn is a Labour leader who is keen to take his socialist message far beyond small meetings of loyal supporters, such that he has been talking to gigantic rallies across the breadth of the country.

Owen Smith, on the other hand, has less ambitious ideas of what constitutes public outreach, as his public speaking tour seems to revel in the intimacy of tiny audiences  bolstered by “closed meeting[s] with his supporters” — like the get-together he quietly held in Leicester last week, as reported on in today’s Leicester Mercury (August 31).

One local Smith supporter who attended last weeks elite function was Councillor Ratilal Govind, who, earlier today, received his own mention in the Mercury (August 31), but for even more embarrassing reasons.

You see it seems that Councillor Ratilal doesn’t like people responding negatively to his posts on social media. But instead of just ignoring, or simply blocking such critics from his twitter account, he arranges for the police to visit them at home. I can only guess that Councillor Govind must have got a little confused between his role as a councillor and his other role as the head of the Belgrave Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.

The allegedly dastardly crime committed by the cyber bully consisted of Councillor Govind being accused of being a hypocrite, sponger, and a misogynist (August 31, Mercury). But to top it off, the year before, his cyber critic had further “distressed” him by referring to him a numpty on four separate occasions!

The accusation of Councillor Govind being a numpty does however seem quite appropriate given his support for Owen Smith, and the words popular use in Scotland as a means of criticising politicians. As a newspaper report explained some years ago:

“Scotland’s favourite word, according to a poll by BT Openreach, is numpty. Derived from ‘numps’, an obsolete word for a stupid person, rather than the more obvious numbnuts or numbskull, the term implies general idiocy, often in my experience accompanied by windbaggery. Which explains why you will most often find it used in connection with members of the Scottish Parliament.”

Certainly, the Corbyn-supporters that dominate the membership of the Labour Party could do well to replace Smith-loving Labour councillors, like Councillor Govind, with more appropriate elected representatives. Indeed, I for one can see no reason why democratic accountability should not apply equally to local councillors, as it should for MPs; which is why supporting calls for the regular selection of all elected politicians is so crucial.

Even outspoken (Labour) critics of the Left acknowledge that calls for selection and reselection are merely calls for accountability. Thus in their 1982 book The Battle for the Labour Party, David Kogan and Maurice Kogan explain:

“As far as the election of MPs and of the party leader is concerned, the Outside Left [which included supporters of the Militant Tendency] has simple and cogent cases to make and succeeded in making them. Those on the Outside Left might argue, moreover, that the system they favour could produce strong leadership. Indeed, in some respects it might be stronger than that produced by traditional methods of election, for the true socialist leader does not depend upon the inertia of an electoral system that causes MPs to be reselected without scrutiny. It is proper, they would argue, that the people’s appointees should give an account of their actions. If their individual judgement is to be so highly prized, the results of its application should be visible and comprehensible to the constituency Labour parties. And if the exercise of judgement by MPs has meant that socialist principles have been diluted by the pressures of a hostile economy and power elite in British society, there must be the corrective of reselection available to the faithful in the constituencies.” (p.139)



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