I’m rather fond of democracy. I especially like being able to have a meaningful say in who my elected representatives are.
That’s why I was intrigued to see that the long-listing of candidates to succeed Alun Michael as MP for Penarth and Cardiff South took place in London. Did I say ‘succeed Alun Michael as MP’? Slip of the tongue. I meant as prospective candidate, of course.
It seems that the candidates to be the candidate had to impress the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee in order to go through to the selection event where “local party members” will have the final say. It’s nice to know that the Labour Party trusts its local party members so much. But why bother with the London event at all? Unless, that is, the real reason is to eliminate any ‘controversial’ but locally popular candidates, like the Backbencher of the Year in 1996.
And dragging candidates 200 miles from the seat for no apparent good reason seems not to be the most sensible idea to me. How about letting some of the party big-wigs come to Trowbridge, Butetown or, for that matter, Cogan, so they can see for themselves some of our problems?
The thing that really galls me in all this is that these internal Labour decisions are actually determining the next MP. And that’s down to our unfair, outdated voting system for Westminster elections. I wouldn’t give two hoots if a member of the Monster Raving Loony Party was elected as our local MP provided I felt I had a say in the matter. As it is I’m going to need a strong dose of this in order to haul myself along to the polling booth.
And talking of the Alternative Vote, Peter Hain won’t be pleased to see who London eliminated. But then Peter Hain is someone for whom democracy means many things. In favour of the Alternative Vote, he is so democratic that when the referendum was lost he called for a new electoral system in Wales, popularly known as “stuffing the ballot boxes” – a move that was supported by the Labour Party in Wales. For most people, a shift from strongly democratic to strongly autocratic would be a long and tortuous path. Hain managed it in weeks.
But I’ll wish all the best to the candidates in the Labour hustings. They know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. The local party members know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. And the long-suffering ordinary hard-pressed punters in the street know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. So the local party members matter tremendously. Will they pick us a good MP or a journeyman?