Members of the Labour Party are now casting their votes to select the nominees to go forward as the party’s candidates in the new Greater Manchester and Merseyside Region Mayoral contests. And word has arrived on Zelo Street that all is not well with many members in the Manchester area, who suspect the local establishment of being less than totally transparent about delays in getting ballot papers out - and maybe worse.
The story has already reached the press, with the Manchester Evening News report being typical: “Andy Burnham has sent a formal complaint to the Labour party after it emerged mayoral ballot papers had still not been sent out to members across Greater Manchester … The papers were originally meant to go out two week ago - but only started arriving today … Some Labour party members are still waiting”.
It got worse: “There have also been reports of confusion around e-ballots, which some members have either not received or have misunderstood and so deleted them”. Burnham has been joined in submitting a complaint by Steve Rotheram, who is running for the Merseyside Region nomination. The reason for the confusion with e-ballots becomes clear as soon as you see the email, a copy of which has been forwarded to Zelo Street.
The email, from which personal details have been redacted, tells “Over the coming weeks Labour members and supporters will choose our candidate for next Prime Minister of Britain. Details for that contest will be sent in due course … Enclosed in this email are details of this year’s ballot to elect your representatives on the National Executive Committee (NEC)”. Nothing about nominees for Mayoral elections there.
Indeed, the email is titled “Labour NEC Ballot: How to cast your vote”, and only in the final paragraph before voting instructions are given does it concede “This year, members will be electing six Constituency Labour Party representatives to the NEC. Labour Councillors also have a vote for two Local Government places. Some members will also be able to vote for Labour’s candidate for directly elected Mayor in their area”.
As the Mayoral contests were not mentioned in the title of the email, and indeed, were introduced in an almost discreet fashion well down the body of the text, it’s not difficult to see why so many Labour members either binned the email, or assumed it was not relevant to the Mayoral nomination. The MEN story hints at the likely beneficiary.
“Neither Tony Lloyd nor Ivan Lewis has backed Andy Burnham’s complaint. Mr Lloyd said extending the date when ballot papers have a deadline of August 5 printed on them would lead to more confusion … Mr Lewis’s campaign declined to comment”. It’s entirely off the record (of course) but word from Tony Lloyd’s camp is that the lower the turnout, the greater the likelihood of their man winning the contest.
It may be mere coincidence that Tony Lloyd stands to benefit from what appears to be more cock-up than conspiracy, of course. I’ll just leave that one there.