Keith Vaz is a prime example of what is still wrong with the Labour Party, a party which whose representatives are still dominated (both in parliament and at a local council level) by Blairites. This is despite the principled socialist leadership of Jeremy Corbyn which has the support of the majority of Labour’s members.
Vaz himself has never been too keen on submitting to democracy, a fact that is particularly familiar to Labour Party members in Leicester; a fact borne out by the scarcity of Labour meetings held in Vaz’s constituency.
Yet another wretched case of Vaz’s undemocratic legacy recently saw his Leicester East Constituency Labour Party co-opt a local women into becoming a Labour councillor despite her prior support of the BNP and participation in anti-Muslim’s protest in her ward.
No clear explanation was ever given to local Labour Party members why this person became the chosen one, or even whether her politics had changed; certainly, she has yet to attend any number of anti-racism events that have been held in Leicester. And now to top it all the councillor is currently embroiled in a public dispute which she has taken to the police, in which she is disputing the veracity of a racist facebook post that she is said to have made some years before becoming a Labour councillor.
So given Vaz’s many unwelcome contributions to the Labour movement, many people will take comfort from the recent news that is well encapsulated in the headline “Democracy review may put Keith Vaz’s position on Labour NEC at risk” (Guardian, January 9, 2018).
As the article notes: “A review of Labour’s democracy ordered by Jeremy Corbyn is expected to endorse equality monitoring of party members and allow all non-white members to vote for their representative on Labour’s ruling body.”
This is important because Vaz “has held the NEC position as the representative of ethnic minority members since 2007”; but “current rules allow only members of BAME Labour, a socialist society, to vote for the ethnic minority representative on the NEC.”
Vaz thus managed to get elected to Labour’s prestigious National Executive Committee (in last year’s election) with the support of “fewer than 800 members”.
This tiny mandate represents a significant democratic problem precisely because only a tiny percentage of Labour’s “estimated 72,000 black and minority ethnic members” are actually members of BAME Labour (although all are eligible). Furthermore, many of these potential voters might not even know of the existence of the BAME Labour group, let alone its importance in securing Vaz’s place on Labour’s prestigious National Executive Committee (NEC).
So if Corbyn does succeed in reinstalling some meaningful form of democracy to Labour’s Blairite internal structures, we can no doubt look forward to a time when Labour’s black and minority ethnic members select a NEC member more in tune with the vast majorities socialist ideas. Presumably most of Labour’s new members would think twice about voting for someone who has spent the last quarter of a century backing imperial wars of aggression all over the world.