The McDonnell Amendment presents an opportunity.
An opportunity to remove power from the PLP, allowing members to choose from a wide variety of leadership candidates.
The proposal to change the current threshold from 15% to 5% would cause more MPs to stand for the leadership and provide members with a greater number of choices from a wider political pool.
While the chances of at least one “Left-wing” candidate being nominated increase dramatically, so do the chances of not getting elected.
Should the Amendment pass, we’d find ourselves in a position where the Left is even more divided; uniting behind one of numerous “favourite” candidates; splitting the vote and allowing the Right to monopolise itself in just one or two candidates.
The Right have – in many ways – been better at “solidarity” than the Left ever has. While the Left has torn itself apart with its dozens of political Parties, newspapers, magazines and websites; the Right has focused on a handful of candidates, Parties and media outlets. That’s why they’re successful. They put the Party first. They close ranks. Their objectives succeed. Meanwhile, we – “on the Left” – are too busy squabbling among ourselves, pretending we each have best solutions.
The same problem exists within Labour.
Should the Amendment pass, division would increase not just within the PLP, but the membership, too.
We could be faced with a leadership ballot of Rayner, Lewis, McDonnell, Nandy, Khan, Cooper, Butler and Thornberry.
Five “Left” candidates would split the vote enough for Khan and Cooper to lead the polls, with Nandy dropping-out before the ballot opens.
But there’s another reason why the Amendment’s a bad idea: it’s simply unworkable.
We’ve supported (and will continue to support) Jeremy’s leadership. But it’s no secret Jeremy struggled to get on the ballot and, because of this, struggled to operate due to lack of support and – in some cases – direct attacks from his own Party.
Reducing the threshold to 5% would make Corbyn’s position even more untenable, should he stand again.
It isn’t enough for the membership to support the leader, even with a landslide victory.
Despite the best efforts of Jeremy and his team, the democratisation of the Party and shift of power from the PLP downwards hasn’t materialised.
The truth is, the vast majority of decision-making and media coverage takes place in Parliament; not in local communities.
The average person doesn’t care about a Branch meeting or townhall get-together. They care about what they see on the news; clips of despatch box attacks, MPs briefing against the leader and journalists ripping the Party apart.
The talent and experience within the PLP lies mainly on the backbenches.
To form an effective Opposition we need the experience, contacts and respect of senior MPs. That’s the way it is.
Should this be the case? No. Should we have more Left-wing MPs? Yes. Are we happy about it? Of course not. But that’s the way it is.
Securing this support with a 5% threshold would be impossible; unless the 5% contains names outlined above.
We need to accept that Labour will only succeed if its leadership is supported by most of their MPS; including MPs with significant frontbench experience and cross-Party appeal.
So, rather than support a 5% threshold, we propose the following: a 25% threshold with no abstentions allowed.
Every MP must be required to vote.
This would mean two things: First, every MP has given their opinion and had their say. Second, each candidate will be supported by at least 1 in 4 of their MPs.
The ballot would almost certainly contain a “Left-wing” candidate given the number of sympathetic MPs and overall political climate (both inside and outside the Party).
As a movement, we need to get serious, and start looking at real solutions based on the circumstances we’ve inherited.
A deselection process is much more feasible (and sensible) to achieve than the McDonnell Amendment.
The Amendment would entrench and exacerbate the divisions we already suffer, and could consign Labour to a generation of Opposition.
So, we ask: Do not vote for the McDonnell Amendment.
No matter how much we agree with it in principle, it is simply unworkable in practice; making our Party weaker and more divided than it already is.