I have heard a lot from my Tory friends over the last few days about how the Labour leadership election was corrupt, unfair and even undemocratic. It is all complete tosh – people need to get their head around a couple of things.
1) Being leader of the Labour party is more than just the title suggests – it also makes you the figurehead of the Labour movement. A movement that stems from a collective of working people, academics, party members, as well as elected politicians. The electoral college is not perfect, but it is the best we have in ensuring all these groups are heard and represented.
2) Newspaper columnists deliberately deceive when they talk about ‘a Union vote’. The truth is that nearly a quarter of a million individual votes were counted in the Union and affiliate section. These were not votes by Union barons, but by working people like you and me.
3) The same newspapers suggest that unions such as Unite and GMB, who promoted their preferred candidate within the election literature sent out to members. That they did – their democratically elected executives had a preference and they shared that with their members – is this really worse, or indeed somehow more persuasive than the very much unelected editors of The Mirror, The Times, The FT and others all heavily promoting their preferred candidates?
As I have already stated the electoral college is not perfect. It is a complicated system, designed as a compromise to different interests – and not one that endears itself to the electorate. I would prefer to see an American style primary of all registered supporters to select future leaders – a system that encourages potential leaders to engage not just with activists but also the wider public.
But it seems to me that the electoral college is a start to this – Labour goes further than any other party in widening access to the election, and should be applauded not vilified.