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Mr. Campbell-Savours: You wish.

Mr. Hughes: I do wish, and I am glad, because the Labour party should not go down that road. The great new Labour party belief in devolution is a fig leaf because in fact a few people in the Cabinet and on the national executive are pulling the strings. We all know about that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone to Wales today because the Welsh election campaign cannot be allowed to run itself and the London election process can be vetoed by the national executive. If the Labour party were a modern democracy, it would support new clause 1. I look forward to its conversion, but I do not believe that it will happen soon.

Mr. Gapes: We had a long discussion on this issue in Committee on 28 January. What was interesting then, and still appears to be the case, is that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats appear to wish to introduce a system of state control of political parties. If they had been in Czechoslovakia, or the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, they would doubtless have denounced actions taken by the state to determine how political parties determined their own internal processes for the selection of candidates. However, for opportunist reasons, they think that they can make some cheap political points by seizing on this issue, as we have just heard. They think that that looks good before the elections in Scotland and Wales, and that they can use the issue for their own purposes in the future.

The opportunism and rank hypocrisy of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are something to behold. It is outrageous to consider the state control of the way in which political parties choose candidates. If electors do not like the candidates put up by a political party, they will vote for other candidates from other parties; if they like that party's candidates, they will elect them. In a democracy, it is surely not for Parliament or the state to tell political parties how to determine their internal selection processes. For that reason, the new clause should be thrown out.

Mr. Wilkinson: I do not want my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) to feel isolated in any way. I am sure that the new clause meets the wishes of members of the Conservative party, and that it conforms to the natural, democratic instincts of people throughout London.

Labour Members regularly make a song and dance about transparency and openness. Now they have a chance to show that their rhetoric is matched by their behaviour in practice. If they are to live up to their speeches about transparency and accountability to the electorate, they should incorporate new clause 1 into the Bill.

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The public are all too cynical about politics in this country. The first election for the London mayor and for the Greater London Authority as a whole represents an opportunity to ensure that the mayor--the figurehead to whom the whole of London will look up--will be elected by wholly democratic means. The processes behind that democratic election should be in the public domain, and those responsible for them must submit a sworn declaration--a testimony--verifying that they are bona fide and in accordance with the democratic principles in which the Conservative party believes.

My final point was alluded to indirectly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). People in London will want the mayor to be the people's choice in London. It is essential that London members of a political party will have the deciding influence over who is chosen as candidate. That requirement is made clear in the new clause, but it is manifestly not part of the Labour party's intentions for this election.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South has made the matter clear, and I am sure that the electorate will not forget it if the Government are remiss enough not to accept new clause 1.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): The important issue raised in the Dunleavy and Margetts report is that abuse of power by a political party may, in due course, reflect on and discredit the office of mayor of London. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) asked whether that issue required legislation, but legislation is used to correct an abuse, and so far the debate has shown that no abuse of party systems has taken place. The Labour party, like the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat parties, has a shortlisting system that will be voted on by its individual members.

I urge any hon. Member to come forward if he or she can find a statement from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the leader of the Labour party, or from the chair of the board of the London Labour party, my hon.Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick), that would prevent any candidate from standing, or influence the vote. There has been no statement by the Prime Minister to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) from putting his name forward or being selected.

Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman says that no statement has been made to exclude the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) or any other candidate. Would it not be more accurate to say that no on-the-record statement of that sort has been made by any representative of the Government? Have not the Government been briefing against the hon. Member for Brent, East for as long as any of us can remember? Why do they not have the guts to put it on the record?

Mr. McDonnell: Unfortunately, I am not party to off-the-record briefings. There is no statement directly attributable to the Prime Minister, the chair of the London board or any member of the national executive committee to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East from standing.

Mr. Livingstone: There is a statement on the record. I discovered it when I opened my copy of "Turn Again

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Livingstone", the new biography by John Carvel,price £6.99. He recounts a formal meeting with a Downing street senior official who works directly with the Prime Minister. Points about me were put and the reply was:


    "Tony likes Ken. They can have an amiable chat. He feels it is a terrible waste that his abilities have not been put to work. He is rather depressed about it."

I find all that very encouraging.

Mr. McDonnell: That proves that the Prime Minister is, if anything, trying to intercede on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East.

Do we need legislation at this stage to correct an abuse? As there has been no abuse of the system, and as the parties seem to be entering into the democratic spirit--exemplified, to some extent, by the new clause--in the selection of their candidates, I do not feel that legislation is required. However, if at some stage there are abuses of party political selection procedures, we may need to return to the matter. I put it on record that if there is interference in selections, we may need to return to this and I may promote a private Member's Bill.

All parties have a right of redress in respect of abuse from above in their selection systems. In the Labour party, it is the national executive committee. As they cast their votes, Labour party members will bear in mind the performance of NEC members on selection issues. As my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town knows, there is also the selection of the members and chair of the London board. There are democratic processes of recall. On that basis, I do not think that the argument for legislation at this stage has been carried.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: The thrust of the Conservative new clause is that there is some impropriety in Labour party procedures. As chair of the board of the Greater London Labour party--I am sure that this was pointed out in Committee but I repeat it here--I stress that the board has overwhelmingly endorsed the procedures that we have arrived at. The London board is elected regularly by the 65,000 members of the regional party. The individuals who have been nominated to the selection panel, both from the board and from the NEC, jointly arrived at a consensus.

Mr. Ottaway: If that is the case, is the hon. Gentleman happy for the matter to be left to 63,000 members of the Labour party in London?

Mr. Fitzpatrick: There seems to be some suggestion that London Labour's 65,000 members--I beg to differ on the figure--will not have the final decision. They will.

Mr. McDonnell: There seems to be an insinuation that my hon. Friend seeks to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East from standing. It is worth pointing out that my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town has made no attempt to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East from standing. In many instances, he has given positive support to encourage democratic debate.

Mr. Fitzpatrick: I am pleased to receive the endorsement of my hon. Friend.

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London Labour members will ultimately take the decision. The difficulty is that there are too many candidates; we cannot put all 20 or so to the London membership. The number on the final ballot paper will probably be no higher than four. That is our normal procedure for the selection of candidates. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East may well be on that shortlist. It is not a matter on which I can contribute. However, the Labour party is comfortable with its procedures. Whatever the conclusions, the one thing of which we are confident is that the Labour candidate will be mayor for London next May.


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