On Tuesday, the party's national executive committee approved a system under which the Chief Whip will notify each MP's constituency party of their member's voting record - in particular, "unauthorised absences" and occasions when he or she has voted against the Government. The official explanation is that this will enable party members to identify those MPs with a poor attendance record when it comes to reselection. Perhaps. But you do not have to be Machiavelli to recognise the not-so-light touch of Blairite centralisation at work once again. Does anyone really imagine that this is other than an attempt to identify heretics - those souls who are not fully sold on the Blairite project?
This is of a piece with the expected refusal of the NEC to allow Ken Livingstone's name to go forward into any selection contest for the party's candidate for Mayor of London. Democracy means that sometimes the result is inconvenient. You cannot pick and choose the results.
Meanwhile, the much-pilloried public services minister, David Clark, has come up with a rather more sensible plan for yearly reports. His proposal that each Commons select committee takes annual evidence from its relevant ministers on their progress over the past year and plans for the next, and that they offer marks out of ten, is precisely the sort of thing New Labour should be about. It smacks of a genuine attempt at openness and at demystifying the mechanics of government.
The leadership's desire to run a well-oiled machine is admirable. Labour's old habits were not admirable; they were chaotic. But there is a fine line between sensible discipline and rigid, unthinking control.Reuse content