How Labour's trigger works: a CLPD briefing on the re-selection of sitting Labour MPs

Labour's 'trigger' system, part of the overall process that decides whether a sitting Member of Parliament stands again at the next general election, has now started in local constituency parties – with some already having concluded their re-selections. Re-selection of MPs, whose introduction CLPD successfully campaigned for in the 1970s to replace the automatic re-adoption of sitting MPs as candidates, provides local parties with a mechanism to hold their Labour MP to account. Whilst the current trigger mechanism is a watered down version of the mandatory re-selection CLPD initially won, it remains the principal means of making MPs democratically accountable to the Party.

In the current round of selections we are choosing who will represent the party at the next general election, which unless the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition breaks down, is due to take place on May 7th 2015. Labour's trigger mechanism allows the whole local party, both individual members and affiliated organisations, to determine whether the constituency holds a full open selection contest for its next candidate in which other potential candidates are nominated or re-selects the sitting MP without such a contest.

After an MP has indicated they are seeking re-selection the local party, under the supervision its Regional Office, establishes a timetable of around eight weeks for the process. Party membership is frozen and individual members of the CLP who have been members of the Labour Party for six months up to the freeze date are eligible to participate in the ballots that take place at Party meetings.

All the local constituency party's units (branches and forums) and its affiliates (trade unions, socialist societies and cooperative organisations) are treated equally and entitled to return a vote. Members of party units are entitled to at least seven days notice of trigger ballot meetings. The meetings are provided with statements from the MP and the Chief Whip and can then discuss the merits of the MP for up to half and hour. This is followed by a secret 'YES/ NO' ballot as to whether to re-select the sitting MP. The party unit's decision is determined by simple majority. There is no casting vote for the chair, and in the event of a tie the ballot is re-taken which if a tie is repeated means the branch or forum does not make an affirmative nomination.

To be re-selected, the sitting MP requires a majority of the affirmative nominations from the CLP's branches, forums and affiliated organisations. Where the MP fails to obtain such a majority a full selection procedure takes place in that constituency.