While Labour party councillors are deciding which of their number is to take up leadership of Hastings Borough Council, ordinary members of Hastings & Rye constituency party (CLP) will have voted yesterday (Thursday 30th January) in a meeting at East Sussex College on Station Plaza to nominate their favoured candidates for new leader and deputy leader of the national party. 

Under the rules of election, each of the candidates for each post was required to gain the personal backing of at least 10% of current Labour MPs and MEPs, then to win similar endorsements from either at least 5% of all 647 CLPs, i.e. a minimum of 33, or else of at least three affiliated Labour groups, including at least two trade unions.  Only those that surmount those hurdles can then put themselves up for a final vote of all party members on a one-member-one-vote postal ballot which opens on 21st February but doesn’t close until 4th April. If there are more than two candidates at this final stage, the votes cast will be ‘preferential’,  i.e. marking candidates in order of preference, and transferable, i.e. the candidate polling least is eliminated and his/her votes transferred until there is an outright winner.

Candidates for the leadership have, at the time of writing, been reduced to four: Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry. The first three seem already to have obtained sufficient endorsements to participate in the final run-off. Ms Thornberry has been finding it more of a struggle.

Hastings and Rye

According to HIP sources, the Hastings & Rye CLP has a membership of around 1,700 including a significant number who have joined or re-joined in recent weeks, either to fight the December general election or, since the defeat (both local and national), for the primary purpose of participating in the current leadership contests. Only those who were registered prior to 5th December had the right to vote this week in the endorsement poll. However, anyone joining before 20th January will be entitled to cast a vote in the final ballot.

Battle and Bexhill

The neighbouring CLP of Bexhill and Battle has already declared its endorsement of Rebecca Long-Bailey, openly backed by Momentum as adhering most closely to the socialist policies and rhetoric of Jeremy Corbyn. 

It is one of many anomalies of the leadership election system adopted by the national party administration that a CLP with far fewer members and very little practical probability of promoting a Labour candidate to be its constituency MP in anyone’s lifetime should have the same power of candidate endorsement as its neighbour that polled almost double the number of votes for the party in the December election. But ultimately it will be the individual members up and down the country, plus some non-member ‘supporters’, who decide the result.  

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