Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Labour still has to adhere to some old rules – like proper employment process

It is not just the trade union link that some on the left are willing to forego – we are going to have to stand up for proper employment practice inside the Labour party too, writes Adrian McMenamin

Remember when the Labour party stood for fair employment practises and against employers discriminating in appointments and only giving jobs to their friends and people who looked like them?

You probably do, because that era only ended a fortnight ago, with the announcement that there was a vacancy for the post of general secretary of the Labour party.

Since then we have seen an extraordinary public battle for the role, with a member of the National Executive Committee officers’ group – the people who will draw up a shortlist – publicly declaring they support a particular candidate, while another faction has claimed to have lined up 17 members of the NEC behind their preferred candidate: all before the application period has even closed.

There can surely be no question that this constitutes discriminatory behaviour and that it means this will be anything but an equal opportunities appointment. There must be a substantial risk it leaves the Labour party open to legal action for acting unlawfully and regardless, it leaves the party open to – and guilty of – the charge of rank hypocrisy.

The candidates for the job itself are of course exempt from this criticism – they have every right to promote themselves and even to lobby members of the NEC. So too for the rest of us – so long as we are not members of the NEC or not involved in the appointment process in any way then we can and should be free to say what we like. But those who are actually on the executive have duties to our party: duties that some seem to hold in complete contempt.

But we should not be surprised. For the last century, Leninists and their hangers-on, which I would argue certainly includes Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, have prided themselves on viciousness of their faction fighting. That was not going to change because they had actually gained some power – in fact, as we have seen, the viciousness has only been magnified by the ability to effect changes in the real world.

There is a wider lesson here – like all those Republicans who waited throughout 2016 for ‘the pivot’, those who think that proximity to national office is going to change Corbyn are wrong. There may be improvements in presentation – how could there not be when he now commands a budget of millions of pounds to do just that – but the leopard is not going to change his spots.

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Adrian McMenamin is a Progress columnist and is the former chief press and broadcasting officer for the Labour party. He tweets at @adrianmcmenamin

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