Harriet Harman is not to blame for the right mess that we are in on the leadership election. She inherited a system that is unworkable and deserves our sympathy. However I was interested in her comment that the rules would be applied in a way that is ‘rigorous, fair, robust, and even-handed’. I am interested since this represents what is best described as ‘terminology creep’ in putting the best public face on the shambles.
I confess to being a crossword anorak and have the large volume of Chambers permanently at hand in my office. The early Labour Party line was that the system is robust. This is defined as ‘strong and sturdy’ and ‘constitutionally healthy’. It is hardly that. It will take the party at least eighteen months to recover from the process. ‘Rigorous’ has only recently emerged as a term to describe what is happening. Chambers tells me that this means ‘rigidly strict, scrupulous or exact’. Here in North Norfolk we have had someone refused a vote who has written to us to complain. He says that he has voted Labour and we have no reason to doubt him and certainly have no information to the contrary. Most important we have no idea why he has been turned down and, apparently, neither does he.
It is difficult to claim that a system is ‘fair’ and ‘even-handed’ when it is virtually inoperable. There must be a lot of rushed and arbitrary decisions taking place by over-worked and stressed staff at the centre. A major change like this, whatever the arguments on the underlying principles, needed thought and planning. It needed to be tested through focus groups in advance and delivered through training afterwards. Neither has happened and we have ended up with a nasty rush and an unedifying public spectacle.
Labour’s failure and my small part in it: a memoir for my grandchildren Martyn Sloman
Download here Labour’s failure and my small part in it
This short book is based on experiences of 50 year’s activism, despair about the current state of the Labour Party, and the steps that are needed to regain credibility. It is available free of charge as a download on this blog site (above) and on a personal website http://www.martynsloman.co.uk. A Kindle edition, priced 99p., the minimum permissible by the publisher, is also available (details on the personal website).