Newham Labour mayor ‘trigger ballot’ – ten branches back open selection contest

Newham Labour mayor ‘trigger ballot’ – ten branches back open selection contest

Labour Party members in one of Newham’s two parliamentary constituencies have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a members-only open selection ballot to choose their candidate for May’s mayoral election in the borough.

On London understands that individual votes taken in all ten ward branches of the West Ham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) resulted in a clean sweep against incumbent mayor Sir Robin Wales going forward automatically to be the candidate again with, reportedly, only 11 individuals in all taking the opposite view.

The decisive clean sweep favouring Sir Robin’s facing a challenge from other Labour mayoral hopefuls follows his surprise decision to urge his supporters to follow that course rather than re-selecting him straight away through the affirmative nomination or “trigger” ballot.

Sir Robin argued that it would be right to put the decision directly into the hands of local party members alone rather than his re-selection being secured by means of the wider selectoral college enfranchised by the “trigger” process, which includes delegates from trade unions and other affiliated organisations, though his opponents believe he has calculated that this has become his best chance of winning an unprecedented fifth term as Newham Mayor.

The current trigger ballot is a re-run of the process originally held in the autumn of 2016, which Sir Robin was confirmed as the winner of by 20 votes to 17 by Labour’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC).

The re-run was announced following a legal challenge launched against the NEC after it failed to take up a request by 47 party members in Newham to conduct an inquiry into the original process, which they claimed contained “many failures of process/propriety and procedural irregularities”.

On London has reported that the validity of at least three of the votes from affiliated organisations that favoured Sir Robin’s automatic re-selection in the original trigger ballot might have been questionable.

The re-run is being administered by Labour’s London regional office rather than the party’s local campaign forum in Newham, whose running of the original trigger ballot was among the issues raised in the legal challenge. The London Region has continued to maintain that “all rules and procedures were applied correctly” and stated last month that “officers of the LCF acted in good faith”.

When announcing the re-run, the London region also said it would directly organise the trigger ballot votes of the ten branches of the other CLP in Newham, East Ham. These will all be held at Newham Town Hall on Saturday (10 February).

The region’s acting director, Neil Fleming, has told Newham members in an email that this was necessary because “we believe their branches have not met for some time”. The legal challenge had raised questions about East Ham CLP’s part in the original process and whether external organisations ostensibly affiliated to it were actually entitled to vote.

The outcome of the ten trigger ballot votes in the West Ham branches and Sir Robin’s appeal to all party members and affiliates that support him to vote the same way, makes an ensuing open selection contest very likely. The result is expected to be announced by the London region on Monday morning and a timetable for a one member, one vote open selection contest decided on later in the day. Newham councillor Rokshana Fiaz has already declared her intention to stand.

Newham branches have yet to select their candidates for council seats at May’s election and dates for the relevant meetings are also expected to be set on Monday. Sir Robin Wales won the last mayoral election for Labour in 2014 with 61% of first preference votes and Labour candidates won all 60 Newham Council seats.

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