The Bickerstaffe Record
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Being Labour, The world beyond West Lancashire

Thurrock and the rule book

03.27.09 | 5 Comments

Let me try and get this right in my head.

Terry Hipsey has defected from the Conservatives to Labour in Thurrock, and he’s immediately a very fine Labour councillor with all the correct Labour values and attributes, goes off to meet Harriet Harman the next day, and immediately deserves a post on Labourlist to say hello to everyone.

How does that work then? 

When I decided I might like to be a Labour councillor, I had to go off and do a written test to see if I could handle casework and campaigning stuff OK, and then be interviewed by a panel of three people who asked me about why I wanted to be a councillor, what skills I might bring, what I thought equal opportunities were and what examples I could give of my personal promotion of them, and other things I’ve forgotten. 

The most I got in the way of special Labour HQ publicity, for all my rule-abiding behaviour and general party loyalty, was to get to sit in the same office for a bit as long as I didn’t get in way when I went down to the North West Regional office for something or other, and happened to be there on the day another defector to Labour, this time Beatrice Fraenkel from the Liverpool Libdems, was being fussed over and readied for a Newsnight interview.

Has Peter been assessed as being someone with the capacity and value base to be a decent local councillor? If not, why not?  Did Beatrice go before a panel to assess her suitability?

Has the South East Regional Director of the Labour Party, acting for the NEC, given special dispensation in this case? If so, on what basis?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy to see Terry (and Beatrice) in the Labour party.  People change their minds, and leading Conserative councillors are as entitled to change their minds as anyone else.  I’m glad Terry seems to have decided that the Conservative party is one that favour gross inequity in the distribution of wealth, and that he cannot tolerate the most recent example of that general policy.  That’s good news.  And I hope Beatrice is doing well in Liverpool.

But that does not, in itself, prove that he is fit to be a Labour councillor. 

I may disagree with the ‘panel’ system I went through, brought in a few years back as a preliminary ‘quality assurance’ step before ward-based shortlisting and selection, but one which can be used to exclude people whose views may not with party HQ, however much they may fit with local members. 

But that is the rule book we have at the moment, and I think it is legitimate to ask questions when the rule book is apparently discarded in the interests of short term publicity in respect of people who may now be in the Labour party, and may in time be great Labour councillors, but who have not yet proved that.

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