Internal Party Democracy is Undemocratic.

The Labour left have had a peculiar mental tic since at least the days of Tony Benn (Man of the people and 2nd Viscount Stansgate, 1925-2014). They do not see Members of Parliament as representatives, who use their own judgement when legislating. They see the MP as a delegate of a party, to be selected or deselected according to the whims of the local party and beholden to vote according to their instructions. The problem is that the electorate, people who mostly pay little attention to politics, only get a say once every four years or so, and they aren’t keeping an eye on the local party’s committees. And the hard left LOVE committees. They’re worse than golfers. Other bits of the Labour party mostly can’t be bothered to attend, and so the hard left are able to pack committees, and then attempt to deselect MPs who disagree with them. This is justified by “democratic votes” of party members, which are far easier to gerrymander than an election. This means, in safe seats, the Party committees become more important than the electorate in deciding who’s in Parliament. (Proportional representation is little better – who controls where people are on the Party Lists…?)

A painting of an evil old man.

Neil Kinnock’s triumph was seeing off this threat, then called ‘Militant’. Tony Blair was alive to this, and resisted change to Labour’s rules, as was Brown. But Ed Miliband, soft and useless that he was, was either a Bennite himself, or was naive when he changed the leadership voting rules, removing time rules for new members, and allowing people to join and immediately vote for £2. All these things sound nice and kind and “democratic”, widening the mandate, and letting anyone vote. And no doubt, Miliband was swayed by siren voices from the hard left mouthing just this sort of guff. What harm could ‘more democracy’ do? However, ordinary people didn’t get excited about Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall. The hard left and not a few ‘Tories for Corbyn’, on the other hand, flooded into the Labour party at the first opportunity to vote for whichever obstinate madman of the ‘Campaign group‘ whose turn it was to stand. Corbyn, whose turn it was to “widen the debate” this time, won the election on the backs of this wave of new members, and almost immediately the calls for deselection of “red Tories” (ie anyone who wasn’t on the extreme left) began.

The Tories are not immune, UKIP is haemorrhaging members, some of whom are joining the Tory party with similar aims Labour’s hard left – to pack the party and select their leader, Mogg or Johnson, to deliver the “real brexit” they crave. The difference is the Tory right and UKIP have obsessed about EU, not the internal mechanisms of the Tory party, and frankly, they’re mostly a bit dim and lazy. Also, the Tories rules preclude an equivalent outcome, for now. Labour’s extremists have been thinking about “the Bennite project” for longer than the Tory nutters have been thinking about Europe. The hard left knows exactly what it is doing. The Brexiters don’t.

By packing committees in local labour parties, they aim to control their MPs. The party, not the MP’s consience, then becomes the sole arbiter, and the only route to power is through the party’s structures. Independent-minded MPs are not wanted. The party becomes the key to everything. Once, having thoroughly infected the party, they wait. Eventually the wheels of democracy turn, and the Tories lose power. The left will then have 5 years to do what they want, with pliant MPs doing their bidding. Democracy, the voices of people who didn’t vote for the party in power, or dissenting voices within it, are silenced.

There is a model for this. Comrade Stalin wasn’t Premier of the Soviet Union, Lenin’s old job, until 1941. He was General Secretary of the Communist party. He understood that if you controlled the party machine, you controlled the state. Thus when Lenin died in 1924, he was replaced by Alexi Rykov (me neither), but it was Stalin who held all the power. Obviously this is a simplification of an enormously long and complicated process. And equally obviously, the British constitution retains a multi-party democracy, so there’s a limit to how much damage a party thus packed can do, because if they do enough damage, the other lot will get in. But with both main parties engaged in a battle for their souls with nutty extremists within, there is a risk. Imagine if Blair or Thatcher with their landslides, had seen fit to attempt control of their parties in this way.

This is how democracy ends. With the spurious legitimacy conferred by a Potemkin election of Party members.

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