Ray Apps Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ray Apps

Reselection Controversy

(July 1978)

From Militant, No. 414, 14 July 1978, p. 7.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Victor Schonfield, like some of the other leaders of CLPD, is surely seeking scapegoats for his own confusion and bungling.

The possibility that we may finish up with less democratic control over MPs than we have at present has been brought about by their obstinacy and refusal to admit mistakes, the greatest of which is to under-estimate the opponents of extending the democratic control of Constituency Labour Parties over MPs.

Victor Schonfield says I have an obsession with Paragraph (B). It is true I have consistently fought for the retention of this clause and will continue to do so. However, it has never been at the expense of my support for mandatory automatic reselection. The two complement one another.

Instead of making unsubstantiated allegations, Victor Schonfield should ask the CLPD supporters on the Working Party how hard I battled for mandatory reselection, which is the main theme of the Minority Report. Incidentally, the issue of automatic reselection was decided by the Majority before we went on to discuss and vote on what was to replace Paragraph (B).

I warned CLPD some months before last year’s Annual Conference that I believed they were giving a hostage to fortune by calling for the removal of the right of a CLP to pass a vote of no confidence in their sitting MP at any time of their choosing. This democratic right, providing the proper procedure is carried out and used properly, can be a powerful weapon in the hands of the Party rank and file.

This should be retained as an essential “reserve power”. It became all the more necessary to fight for the retention of paragraph (B) when it became clear that proposals of the working group majority in effect amounted to no more than the right to move a vote of no confidence in an MP once in the life of a parliament.

Victor Schonfield accuses me of conniving with the establishment. The truth of the matter is that the ‘establishment’, the party officials concerned and the right wing of the NEC, having no intention of introducing mandatory reselection, gleefully accommodated CLPD’s obsession with deleting Paragraph (B). Sixty-eight resolutions called for its deletion they assured me. The Party ‘establishment’, for all my supposed ‘conniving’, came down firmly on the side of Victor Schonfield in this matter. “Ray Apps prevents a clear vote on the principle,” CLPD repeat ad nauseam. If that is the case, why did Conference vote against the reference back when Victor Schonfield himself moved it (with my support) so that the so-called clear principle could be put? Where was the massive majority there?

If CLPD had listened to our advice, given long before they framed their model resolution, those 68 resolutions would have been taken. CLPD, not us, effectively disenfranchised 68 CLPs. They should explain that to their supporters.

Who really speaks for CLPD? Victor Schonfield accuses me of lending credibility to squalid manoeuvres by producing a Minority Report.

Here, Victor Schonfield glosses over another important point. Once the resolution was referred back to the NEC with an assurance from the Chairman that new rules would be formulated, it was obvious that the NEC would have to appoint a sub-committee or working group to put forward proposals.

When, as CLP delegate who moved the resolution debated, I was invited to sit on the working party, should I have refused this opportunity of defending the views of the rank and file in the body that was actually given the task of drafting new rules? Should Jo Richardson and Bernard Kissen also have refused to participate? Why does Comrade Schonfield not say explicitly what his view is on this?

While on the working group I did not for a moment cease to argue for our position, either in the meetings or in the Party generally. Let me repeat: the Minority Report was written in conjunction with Bernard Kissen and Jo Richardson MP, EC member and vice-chairperson of CLPD. Does Victor Schonfield now disown them? We fought together tooth and nail for mandatory reselection and, as the infamous compromise evolved, came to see the vital importance of retaining Paragraph (B).

The Minority Report is a measured and practical alternative to the two-stage procedure of the majority. We called for a mandatory reselection conference not earlier than eighteen months after an MP was elected to Parliament for the very good reason that an MP, after selection by a meeting in the CLP, should be given the chance to show his or her true colours or earn their spurs, whichever the case may be, and secondly to stop careerists holding a selection conference in the euphoria of an election victory. Paragraph (B), if retained, would still be there as a safeguard.

Victor Schonfield accuses me of misrepresentation by quoting his letter (see Militant, No. 411) in which he assured me that:

“The meeting [of conference delegates supporting the CLPD’s resolution] endorsed your shrewd tactics in exploiting the situation to get the best possible assurances out of the NEC and confirmed wholehearted support of the composite.”

How can you misrepresent someone by quoting him in full is beyond me. Now he says he didn’t mean what he said in the letter. How do you answer someone who argues like this?

I was handed that letter on the morning of the debate, and went to the rostrum believing what it said: that I had the wholehearted support of the Campaign for the composite I was moving. I didn’t ask for their wholehearted support but was glad to have it.

Yes I am, to use Victor Schonfield’s words, experienced enough to know that sometimes you have to support a resolution you don’t agree with. But you should always make clear your support is critical.

If you want to win the trust and confidence of the movement, total honesty is essential. Even at this late stage I appeal to CLPD supporters to put aside personalities, and in the interests of the struggle on for reselection to support the Minority Report.

Ray Apps Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 21 August 2016