One thing to know about today’s Labour Party from my experience is that it exists for one purpose and one purpose only – to get more Labour Party members into office. You ask a party member their opinion on boundary changes or vote counting methods and their opinion will nearly always be what would most advantage the Labour Party. If you want to become a Labour Party candidate, then unless you’re very lucky, as I was, you won’t get anywhere unless you say things that imply the Labour Party’s interest will come about those of both the public and your office. When the public elect a candidate on the basis of merit, they are usually looking for someone with integrity who will look after their interests. To test whether your Labour Party candidate has such integrity to stick by the principles, try asking them the following three questions:
Q1. When you were being interviewed to become a Labour candidate, how did you answer the question, “Would you ever vote against the whip?”
Every Labour politician has been asked this. When I stood for the council I answered, “I would vote against the whip if I felt it was in the interests of my constituents. If it was an unpopular decision that was in their interests, I would expect the whip to allow me to speak against on behalf of my constituents even if I voted in favour”. I managed to get onto the list for the council and the Welsh Assembly with this answer, but couldn’t get as far as the UK Parliament or the European Parliament lists. Most Labour candidates say they would never vote against the whip as a matter of expediency, knowing they will then one day do so. Asking them this question in a public place can put them on the spot. It is likely they will have said one thing to the Labour selection panel (i.e. they wouldn’t vote against), but want to say another to the public – probably more like the truthful answer I gave!
Q2. What is your opinion on Clause IV?
Clause IV (pronounced clause four), is the part of the Labour Party rules that says what it stands for. The old Clause IV called for nationalisation, and the new one introduced by Tony Blair calls for ‘competition to be joined with co-operation’ and for public services to be ‘either owned by the public or accountable to them’ – in other words it allows for a mixed model on a pragmatic basis. Most Labour politicians will say ‘I want it brought back’, referring to the old Clause IV. Few will know that Tony Blair changed it, and most will never have read the new one he introduced – I call it the Progressive Clause IV. In fact, most Welsh Labour MPs I know who have read the Progressive version say they don’t support it – I frustratingly ask them “Why are you in the Labour Party when you don’t believe what it stands for, when people like me who do are forced to leave because we are honest and true to our beliefs?!” I still stand by the Progressive Clause IV even though I am no longer a Labour Party member – unlike most people who are current members!
Q3. What do you think of the Leader?
Labour Party members are inherently disloyal. There is always someone ready to take another member’s position when they make a foul up. You will notice than whenever the NEC does not get the candidate they wanted, during the run up to the election there will be a scandal that will force them to resign so the person the NEC wanted in the first place will get in. The same is on a macro-level with the Party’s leader. Whoever got in, there will be a significant number of people in the party who didn’t want them. They will be waiting for the current one to foul up so their preferred one can get in. Also, whoever is picked, on the main when Labour are losing elections or getting a kicking in the press there will be calls for the leader to go. In the Labour Party you are not among friends, as if you make a mistake it is the ideal opportunity for someone to take your place. So asking what a Labour Party politician thinks of their leader, or indeed a colleague, will be a tough one for them if they want to be both honest and complimentary.