The procedure for selecting the Labour mayoral candidate which has just been decided on by the party’s National Executive Committee is a missed opportunity in two respects.
First, it has been confirmed that there will be a £3 charge for people to vote, if they are not in the two categories that are exempt – Labour party members and trade unionists who have signed up to be involved..
At least it is not £10, but it is a great shame. The primary is a chance to get more Londoners involved in deciding how their city is run and Labour is leading the way by bringing this to London.
Yet, instead of being brave and gambling that the cost of the election would be raised from contributions from those newly enfranchised, the party is imposing a charge that will be a deterrent to wider involvement.
I just don’t think charging people to vote sends the right message. London is expensive enough without having to pay to vote. The primary is a great chance for Labour to bring new London members. Each new member signed up could pay forat least ten £3 votes, so you would only have to recruit a tenth of these non-Labour members to cover the costs.
Secondly, the timetable is far too rushed – which could have been avoided if the selection process had taken place this year, before campaigning for the general election took over.
Applications will have to be in by May 25 and then nominations will close by June 15 – and then the short list will be drawn up by a committee of NEC and London Labour members following interviews just three days later.
Although most voting will be online, there will be postal voting for those not able to access a computer.
While there will be some hustings, with the first scheduled for June 20, this is all far too rushed and therefore another wasted opportunity.
The local Constituency parties are going to be exhausted by the campaigning for the general election. Yet, they have been given only three weeks in which to hold a meeting to nominate candidates – which means many will have to hold separate meetings outside their usual schedule.
They certainly will not have time to involve all their members – which may well contribute to a low turnout.
The primary should have been the opportunity to open up the party to discussion and debate over the issues that face Londoners. Instead, it will be rushed and as a result risks failing to engage Londoners beyond those who are already politically engaged.
At a time when many people are disengaged from politics, the primary was an opportunity to bring them into the fold.
While I will take every opportunity to ensure that people are engaged, the timetable and the £3 price tag for voting will be obstacles to overcome
Christian Wolmar is seeking the Labour nomination for the 2016 London mayoral election.