Freeze Dates

I have argued that the imposition of a Freeze Date on Labour’s Leadership has brought with it a couple of unpleasant corollaries such as the need to exclude all non voters from meetings that consider the election, including those who’ve joined as both members and registered supporters; the freeze date has also created a small group of people who have passed their membership probation within the rules but who do not have the vote in the Leadership elections and are to be excluded from any collective discussion.

Is the imposition of a six month freeze date on the leadership election a permitted power of the NEC?

The Rules mandate the use of Freeze Dates or an extended probation for the right to vote in Chapter 5 Selections, “rights and responsibilities of candidates for elected public office”. The NEC also have the power to waive this rule or reduce its time period. The regime/rules for managing the election of party leader, which is not a public office are covered in Chapter 4, “Elections of national officers of the Party and national committees”. Chapter 4’s only mention of a freeze date is that it must be agreed by the independent scrutineers. The argument that if Conference had wanted a freeze date, it would have established one is powerful however, the Collins Review does state that the NEC should be able to set a Freeze Date, but the Review is not the Rules. Appendix 2, “NEC procedural guidelines on membership recruitment and retention”, limits the political rights of new members for the first eight weeks or until approved by the NEC. This is important since the rules are not silent on the restrictions of membership rights. They must be interpreted in good faith.

Not quite as slam dunk as I’d hoped, and I am sure that those seeking to legally overturn the freeze date in court have read these three rules. I argued that that the freeze date should be based on administrative necessity; 6 months is designed to stop newcomers participating. The Party is being sued by a group of excluded members who have a crowd funding page, and the legal case is of course strengthened by the fact that the Party promised people who joined the vote in the Leadership election.

ooOOOoo

In the first comment I look, in I hope a balanced way at the pros and cons of the arguments for a freeze date. Possibly a bit early.

Freeze Dates

One thought on “Freeze Dates

  1. Dave says:

    Otherwise Is it possible to have a non factional debate on freeze dates?

    Freeze dates have been part of the Labour Party’s rules for as long as I can remember. They were introduced when the largest balloting undertaken was at branch level. (CLP selections were undertaken by delegate based General Committees, the Leader was elected by the PLP.) We can observe from the last two years that a six month freeze date from the beginning of a selection leads to a de-facto 8 month gestation period. While a freeze date may be sensible for lower tier council selections where memberships and thus electorates can be low, although this is not so true today and we all have the unedifying experience of the Falkirk selection to see what can happen when the selection competition is set a long time in advance.

    What made me question freeze dates was my experience as Secretary in a branch with over 100 members, and in observing a constituency MP selection and people joining Labour to participate in the European elections in the London Region. The former had a selectorate of 650 and the membership numbers had not varied for several years, but membership volatility was high, the latter had a selectorate of 40,000.

    Is it possible to pack these numbers? There’s no doubt that the numbers joining after the 2015 election and after the Referendum defeat are massive compared with the membership as it stood, but should we put ‘poison pill’ barriers in the way of such numbers or accept the wisdom of crowds and the movement of political forces in our society.

    Last time I considered this in the CLP and on the Linkedin Labour Party Group, I was persuaded by the case of Branch selections that freeze dates were necessary to protect the Labour Party against capture by minority special interests, and they weren’t really talking about other political parties, I just wonder if the experience of the last 18 months should make us think again.

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