Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Labour Party: Proposed Abolition of One Member One Vote (OMOV) Meets Strong Opposition.

with 7 comments

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Here is the ‘soft left’ Ann Black and Open Labour.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will re-open a bitter internal dispute just days ahead of his party’s conference.


In a risky move, he will try to convince trade unions to back a plan to scrap the leadership rules which enabled predecessor Jeremy Corbyn to get elected.

Currently grassroots members elect the leader – a system introduced by Ed Miliband.

But Sir Keir wants to return to an “electoral college”, where ordinary Labour Party members would only account for a third of the votes in a future leadership contest.

Some people have pointed out that sections of the left opposed One Member One Vote (OMOV). There was a long-standing preference not just for giving trade unions a big block vote, but also for the idea that it should be constituency party meetings and not a postal ballot who decide. The view was based on the lingering idea of “active democracy” as opposed to passive home voting. That argument had largely vanished by the new millenium but the call to keep union power, that is the power of national executives and General Secretaries in place remained. Backers of OMOV pointed out, amongst other things, that unions had no obligation to consult their members of their votes – under the previous system I cannot recall being asked (T & G/UNITE) and if anybody was please tell (some suggest that NUPE did…).

That some of  the loudest yelps against the move backwards come from the drivers of an anti-Labour message (Starmer tried to make challenge threshold 100+ MPs, backed down under pressure from unions Skwawkbox) should not distract us. The fact is that the abolition of OMOV is wrong. It will be felt as a slap in the face. The very idea that important folk, MPs and Union chiefs, will have more votes that anybody else would be laughed out of court were it not a real proposal.

Jon Lansman has the decency to admit he was against OMOV.

The 2014 Collins Review, which introduced OMOV was also titled, Building a One Nation Labour Party.

This was its successful recommendation.

The Electoral College for leadership elections should be abolished and replaced in party rules by a new system based on the principle of OMOV.

Multiple voting in leadership elections should be ended.

The eligible electorate should be composed of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters.

Members of affiliated organisations who are not already party members may take part in the ballot if they register with the party as affiliated supporters. This will require them to declare their support for Labour values, provide the party with personal contact details and be on the electoral roll.

Individuals who are not already party members or members of an affiliated organisation may take part in leadership elections by registering with the party as a supporter. This will require them to declare their support for Labour values, provide the party with personal contact details, be on the electoral roll and pay the party a fee.

The NEC should agree the detailed procedures for leadership elections including issues regarding registration, fees and freeze dates.

Responsibility for nominating and shortlisting leadership candidates shall remain with the House of Commons members of the PLP.

Nominations for the post of leader or deputy leader of the party must, in all circumstances, be supported by 15 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP to be valid.

Jon Lansman’s blog Left Futures, carried this piece from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLDP),

What is the future of the Labour-union link? Peter Willsman. March 2014.

After Collins, what of the future? Of the collective link between the Labour Party and the trade unions as organisations representing the organised working class? The composition of the implementation committee is quite encouraging, and its actions may avert our worst fears in the immediate future. For example, Labour Uncut have suggested that the implementation committee  might change the basis of the London mayoral primary, and any early leadership election so that union members can be fully involved. They, of course. wish to prevent that. So the battle continues to preserve effective union involvement in party decision-making.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the collective link may be on a slippery slope. For the first time since they set up the Labour Party, the trade unions face being slowly edged out. It is true that the unions have the power at the moment to prevent this happening, but it has often been the case in the past that when push comes to shove, some trade union leaders prefer to fight the next battle rather than the one they’re faced with.

This issue has been a long-standing one.

People supporting the ‘soft left’, around Chartist, and other magazines and networks, long backed OMOV but generally speaking it was seen a weapon of the right-wing ‘modernisers’ in Labour.

This is an explanation for the change of heart on what used to be called the ‘hard left’.

The change in Labour’s membership is different to the 1980s, but could be just as dangerous

Trevor Fisher. 2016.

The Corbyn phenomenon is starting to attract academic attention, and is clearly not understood at any level by the parliamentarians and other observers. It is time to take the phenomenon seriously, as it will not go away. However unlike the 1980s left surge, which was largely activist driven so the approach of the party establishment was to shift to OMOV to outflank the activists with a mass membership, the current surge seems to be a mass membership of Corbynites – though Momentum may not be critically significant –  while the activists are resistant. The recent YouGov poll puts the support for Corbyn highest in new members and  lowest in the older membership.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007

Written by Andrew Coates

September 22, 2021 at 11:09 am

7 Responses

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  1. I don’t want to exaggerate your importance or for that matter the ever decreasing importance of the moribund Labour Party. But you have done everything in your power to facilitate this. Presenting SKS as a socialist internationalist secret pabloite and all opposition as coming from Squawkbox and the Full Brexit. At this point complaining about the left being permanently locked out of the Labour leadership is just a “love me I’m a liberal” routine.


    September 22, 2021 at 11:35 am

    • Why do you care if Labour is moribund?

      I think that Starmer campaigned as a – moderate – socialist internationalist and there was no other candidate with serious credentials to be Labour leader.

      When he is wrong he is wrong.

      Opposition does come from Skwawky and the ‘alt-left’ media who are luxuriating in their opposition with no real alternative.

      In *this context* I cannot recall mentioning the Full Brexit.

      The attacks made here on the Full Brexit have been about their red-brown and confusionist politics. I do not recall attacking them because they were against Starmer.

      We all feel your pain.

      Andrew Coates

      September 22, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      • Honestly I don’t really care. I think Sharon Graham has the right idea staying out of Labour Party shenanigans. Just the Labour Party seems to be able to absorb certain parts of the left and turn them into machine loyalists. Sad to watch. Your whole “socialist internationalist” schtick was just a paper thin cover for siding with the Labour right. Starmer was for the EU because it suits his bureaucratic thinking, it’s got nothing to do with internationalism. Come on man, you know this. Skawkbox, the Full Brexit, Campaign Against the Witch Hunt are awful but they’re also irrelevant. Come on now, you know this too. Stretching out the remain versus leave thing as if it’s the new dividing line was also dishonest. Come on, you knew that as well. Just an excuse to line up behind the Labour right, be the good party man.


        September 22, 2021 at 2:57 pm

        • Yet Sharon attended the TUC this year, which was a complete waste of time.

          Jim Denham

          September 23, 2021 at 8:13 am

  2. As I’ve said elsewhere, the whirligig of time strikes again. I can recall as a Teesside CLP delegate voting on the left motion at the 1981 special conference which for the first time widened the franchise for leadership elections via an electoral college identical to what is now being proposed, it seems. Then, the demand for OMOV was one made by the right, in particular those who within weeks announced they were quitting to form the now forgotten SDP. But then, I suppose what goes round, comes round……

    But then, in my defence then, as now, I beleive our TU’s are so potentially important to the good health of the LP as a conduit to the world of work, and to a fairer society that they need and deserve a greater say. I was always also personally keen on one of Nye Bevan’s ideas from the 1950’s that the TU block vote (and on elections now, I guess) should be broken down to branches or regions to forever prevent ‘bossdom’. A possible rethink here ?

    David Walsh

    September 22, 2021 at 11:38 am

    • Given the low attendance at Branch meetings in most unions, this does not look like a solution.

      Andrew Coates

      September 22, 2021 at 4:01 pm

  3. […] The following statement appears as an editorial in the latest Solidarity and was written before Starmer’s plan to re-introduce the ‘electoral college’ for the election of Labour leader was revealed: that issue is dealt with very effectively by Coatesy, here. […]

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