For those of us who believe that a country is best served by a vibrant democracy, especially those of us who believe internal party democracy is key, the unfolding nightmare that is Labour's leadership contest is a cause of some sadness. The events of the past week have not been pretty, although there are some lessons we might all benefit from.
Messing about in the affairs of a party you don't support is still stupid
Oh yes, it's been highly amusing as various non-Labour supporters have waved their ballot papers in front of cameras or on social media. That doesn't make it clever, because it merely exposes how vulnerable to entryism every political party is. Regardless of your party affiliation, does your local group actually vet new members for adherence to your Party's values? So, when you have a leadership contest, or are making some other important decision, can you be confident that it is unadulterated? But, of course, you've now declared open season on such things. Labour are probably the first to be impacted - they may not be the last. And, if you've had your laugh this time, don't be upset if it comes back to bite you...
Green Party support is conditional on Labour being centrist
It is alleged that 1900 of those excluded from the Labour electorate are recent Green candidates or supporters. That's bad news for the Greens, as it means that their increased support is very shallow. Mind you, now that Caroline Lucas is calling for a formal partnership, is there much point to the Greens? And so much for internal party democracy, when your only MP can go so far off message without apparent consequence.
Slagging off your internal opponents seldom ends well
Today's charges of sexism against Andy Burnham appear somewhat artificial from this distance. How on Earth could he answer a question about the value of a female leader for the Party now, when he's running to be Leader? If he had said, "Yes, that would be great.", the obvious follow-up would be, "So, why are you running?".
And accusations relating to the creation of internal ginger groups by the likes of Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt do make you wonder how you could unite the Party afterwards, regardless of who wins.
Internal democracy is important, so don't mess around with it unless you've thought through the consequences...
It does seem that the likely consequences of using a leadership contest to encourage new members to sign up was not wholly thought through. One of the issues surrounding online recruitment is that vetting such new members is more difficult than with those you actively sign up - the personal relationship may very well not exist. Likewise with the notion of OMOV for internal party elections. Yes, democracy is a good thing, although informed democracy is better. An uninformed electorate is more likely to vote for well-known, well-established candidates than radical outsiders without a profile. That may lead to administrative ossification and a reduced ability to react to a changing political situation.
So, just a few thoughts from the other side of the Atlantic. I was a democracy activist before I joined the Party, and have earned a modest reputation as someone who takes an interest in the workings of internal party democracy. And, right now, I'm a mote nervous...