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Could Labour’s selection process make it vulnerable to attack?

December 1st, 2005
    Should the unions have 33.3% of the votes for the next Prime Minister?

When Tony Blair was elected Labour’s leader in 1994 it was the first time that every single member of the party had a vote and great play was made of the fact that this was a more democratic process than the Tories.

It was partly as a result of this that William Hague initiated the changes in the Tory system that leaves the final choice with a secret membership ballot. More by bungling than design the Tories decided in September to keep with this and fDavid Cameron’s expected election on Tuesday will, at least, look legitimate.

The Lib Dems have had one member one vote since the party’s creation in 1987.

Labour, by contrast, still has the unions playing a big part in its process and on this it might be vulnerable. The party’s 1993 rules give a third of the votes to the trade unions, a third to MPS and a third to the membership ballot. Given that the next Labour election will be about choosing a Prime Minister the union role could be a political issue.

Although eligible individual members get a ballot trade union leaders will have a big role in influencing the outcome. Last time 52.3% of the union share went to Blair compared with 58.2% from party members and 60% from MPs.

    Avoiding the Trade Union issue in the election might be a reason why many are pressing for Gordon Brown to be the only candidate.

The Labour process also produces quirks like that of MPs who are also a union members having votes in all three parts of the ballot.

Mike Smithson

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