From today, Compass are holding their ballot as to whom they wish the organisation to support in the election for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party. The ballot closes at 6pm on 6 March.
When they announced their intention to engage in this nonsense, I argued against it in their comment box. So far there have been 111 contributions. 4 of which are mine. I summarize my case below.
1. What About A Leadership Vote ?
If there are reasons for having such a vote, then why is it restricted to the secondary position of Deputy Leader whilst excluding the much more significant question of whom members would like to see as Leader and thus Prime Minister ?
2. Why Vote In The Dark ?
The candidates on the Ballot Paper are Hilary Benn, Jon Cruddas, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson. But nominations for the proper contest have not yet even been called. We can not know who will finally seek nomination. And we have no idea which of this unknown list will obtain sufficient support from Labour MPs to enable them to stand.
3. Why Confuse The Voters ?
To accommodate critics like me, a sixth option appears on the ballot paper after the names of the above five candidates. We can opt for "Not Supporting a Candidate". But under the Alternative Vote System they employ, is it sensible to mix up votes for chalk and cheese - or for chalk and no chalk? A "Not Supporting a Candidate" Vote is a negative against all the other positives. Those voting for a candidate are much more likely to vote 1,2,3,4, and 5, than are the opponents of a vote. Many of the latter will only use a first "no" choice. That is not the democratic requirement of balanced voting rights.
4. Why Tell Members Who To Vote For ?
Along with the material sent to voters is a statement of over 200 words recommending that members should vote for Jon Cruddas. What sort of free vote is that ? It is a form of guided democracy, which comes under the authority of people who are also the Returning Officers. For example - "All votes will be verified by the General Secretary".
5. What About Other Equal Rights For Candidates ?
Candidates who are currently members of the Cabinet are not yet free to argue their corner due to the restraints of collective responsibility. They could, of course, resign their Ministerial positions to do this. But is it reasonable to expect Hilary Benn, Peter Hain and Alan Johnson all to do this, just for the benefit of a flawed poll amongst Compass members?
6. What Is Compass All About ?
It is a huge mistake for Compass to involve itself with individuals rather then ideas, and personalities rather then policies. It has been developing fruitful sets of proposals and has attracted wide links and a valuable membership within the Labour Party - which does not mean that I agree with everything.
The early Fabian Society was successful in permeating ideas within the movement which came to have a considerable impact upon influencing the early development of the Labour Party. If Compass ties itself in with the career interests of Jon Cruddas and others, these will shape its future more than theirs. This is not a question of being for or against Jon et al. It is a matter of whom we wish to shape what.