I suppose I should have had my suspicious that all would not be right with the selection process for Labour’s new MEP candidates when the initial information about the process was so thin. So it’s with considerable sadness and annoyance that it now turns out that one of the very best candidates Labour could have had for the EP elections in London – Anne Fairweather – has not even been interviewed for the long list for the selection, so will not make it onto Labour’s list at all in 2014. This is an astounding decision before Labour Party members have even had a say.
Anne was selected in third position for the 2009 EP elections, the first non-elected position behind the two sitting Labour MEPs Claude Moraes and Mary Honeyball. Anne’s campaign that time, then as an unknown new candidate, owed everything to her personal commitment and determination, and her effort to speak to Labour Party members about EU matters. She topped the ballot of members to decide the order on the list, with more than 3000 personal votes. Since 2009 Anne’s efforts in Labour politics, as far as I can tell from afar anyway, have only increased – at least if stories of campaigning from Twitter and Facebook are anything to go by.
So what happened?
Essentially the long list of candidates – the same number of candidates as there are MEP seats to be allocated in a region (8 in London’s case) – is decided by a committee in London Labour Party. It’s next to impossible to deselect a sitting MEP, so Moraes and Honeyball are back on the list anyway, together with 6 further candidates. Anne – placed 3rd overall last time and most popular among members, and more experienced and committed now than then – was not even deemed worth interviewing to be one of those 6 candidates. Why?
As former MEP David Hallam has said on Facebook “From around the country I am hearing Labour Party members becoming concerned that this process is now so discredited that there will be little appetitie to support candidates chosen in such a way.” Too right. And I’d really like to hear the reasons why Anne was not even interviewed to be on the long list of candidates. OK, if you dislike her politics then beat her in a fair fight, or at least let the members decide. But I find not including her on the long list quite astounding.
[NOTE: Anne is a friend of mine – I first met her more than a decade ago in Brussels, and we meet from time to time. Hence I may not be altogether objective. If anyone has good reasons to not include her on the long list then please do comment below]
As a Liberal Democrat, I am surprised at the apparent lack of democracy in the Labour selection process. A Labour activist friend always said that Labour party is not as internally democratic as it should be without going into detail, so now I can see what he meant!
The Liberal Democrats give no special preference to sitting MEPs, although of course sitting MEPs are better known than other candidates, so as long as they do a good job they can expect to top their respective list. To apply you have to be an approved candidate and each region sets up a selection panel to shortlist. The shortlist (more candidates than places on the list) then goes to all members in the region who vote on the order (by STV of course).
Knowing Anne a little from University and Brussels (we used to swim at the same pool), I don’t doubt she would have been a good candidate. The only logical explanation for Anne having not made the shortlist is that all other shortlisted candidates were better. I don’t know them, so I couldn’t judge, but I suspect you don’t share such a view….
Runner-up last time (Fay Tinnion) not selected in North East, leaving clear run for candidate of guess which union. My wife and myself have resigned from Party after 90 + years membershio between us.
The whole process seems to be pretty appalling from what I’ve read. But I’m not sure why you’re so surprised Jon. Anyone with EU experience seems to have been overlooked (Anne, Jo, Silke)… And very disappointed to see so many ex MEPs and MPs on there, especially those who had +10 years in the EP. Was that not enough? Move on, let some fresh talent have a go, it’s healthy in politics, especially in the Labour MEP ranks where incumbency almost guarantees longevity.
Sorry, but this is a new low… Anne was number 3 last time, and deserved at least to be shortlisted FFS!
Was considering voting Labour for the first time in my life (have mainly voted LibDem or Green). So, Green it is this time…
“why should the members of the party get to choose from only eight candidates? ”
Especially considering they will set up reserves anyway. So it would have not been hard to move forwards to the ranking stage more candidates (if they don’t really want to let every applicants go to the next stage).
North West Labour have selected 8 candidates for 7 places (the eight is the sitting MEP already at the top of the list). But they have already chosen 4-5 reserves in cases some of the 8 drop out (as they can be shortlisted in other regions too). So why not allowing 12 names to go to the members’ ballot? The names are already there, let the members decide who are the reserves and who will be on the official list.
Not that would solve Fairweather’s situation as she wasn’t even called for interviews. It means they have excluded her at stage one, basically. Last time she was considered worthy to be shortlisted. Now her CV is not appealing enough to be long listed. They can’t claim she performed badly at the interview.
I agree that Anne would have been a brilliant candidate. When this list system was first cooked up by Jack Straw sitting MEPs who had seen how the system can (not always) work in other European countries gave two warnings: (1) It woulkd be bad for internal party democracy as the final decisions about placing on the list – or even it seems now being interviewed for the list – would be taken by a ever smaller number of people; (2) That the large regions would give headroom to the barmier parties especially on the far right. Without the EP elections giving Farage oxyegen there would not now be inflated UKIP and BNP representation. There are systems of proportionally that don’t inflate minor parties.
Sadly no one in the then Labour government would listen to us.
I’m not sure that I understand the significance of those 6/8 candidates? Just because there are – theoretically – 8 seats, why should the members of the party get to choose from only eight candidates? Why not let them choose from however many good candidates there are, and put the top-8 on the ballot?
The deal when the system was cooked up was that the party would control the composition of the list, and members control the order. Of course this puts all the power in the party’s hands… I’d be happy to choose among dozens of candidates – it would be healthy!