Spoilt for choice?

Steve Richards ("Hell, no, Mo won't go (to London)", 19 March) sees nothing wrong in the Labour leadership fixing internal party elections, and seems surprised when reports from Wales indicate that the shafting of Rhodri Morgan has caused great electoral damage. If he is unable to grasp the principled reasons for an unmanipulated membership democracy, perhaps the electoral arguments may carry more weight.

The drive to develop membership democracy under Neil Kinnock and John Smith was both principled and electorally driven. Voters liked a party which took decisions out of smoke-filled rooms where faceless people indulged in arcane rituals. Membership balloting by clear rules on the basis of one member, one vote was widely seen as a positive move. The disposal of the trade union bloc vote was particularly popular. These developments played a major role in making Labour electable again.

Under new Labour, a reversal of policy has been taking place. The smoke-filled room, backstairs stitch-ups and, in Wales, the trundling out of the union bloc vote have all made an unwelcome return to the day-to-day politics of the party. In many ways the stitching up of the MEP selection has been even more outrageous than the nobbling of Morgan. Wales at least indulged in a form of democracy, albeit one ultimately distorted by the control freaks.

Trevor Fisher
Honorary Secretary, Labour Reform

This article first appeared in the 26 March 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Eating people is wrong