Given these elections were abolished by a PLP vote in 2011, why do a large number of MPs want them back? As with all things, there are the good reasons, and there are the real reasons. From the PLP rebel standpoint, a great many of whom are unreconciled and irreconcilable to Jeremy, on the face of it elections to the shadow cabinet are one way of healing the rift between themselves and the leader's office. Quite how this makes it easier for them to come back isn't explained, it's not like they've found the confidence they lost in June. After all, the leader is still the same man he was before summer, except now strengthened and, dare I say it, a wee bit more polished and battle hardened. Nor have they explained why the party benefits from this process. We've had our Chukas, Tristrams, and Heidis talking about the need to face outward in unity and that these elections make this possible, but they haven't said how yet another period of internally focused campaigning and the pushing out of present shadow cabinet members creates the sorts of good party vibes we need to take on the Tories.
It's also unavoidable to view this call without a factional hat on. Whether these elections are a good in and of themselves is something the party can't decide on. Some local council Labour groups have them for shadow and incumbent administrations, some don't. It varies from locality to locality. Likewise, the old system saw us hold elections for the shadow cabinet, but these are deemed no longer necessary when the party is in power. Why? I suppose you could argue that having the party's permission to for a cabinet doesn't look good when you're trying to stamp your authority as a prime minister. But it that's true then, surely it's true for the potential PM role that comes with being the Leader of the Opposition.
The second point is far from engendering trust, shadow cabinet elections in this context could be a means of disciplining the leader. For one, as already stated, many of the incumbents are unlikely to get in. John McDonnell has had himself crossed off many MPs Christmas card lists, so he stands as much chance of getting into the shadow cabinet as I do. All of those Corbynist MPs friendly to the leader could also lose out. Jez could still appoint some, but only with attending as opposed to voting rights. That this would spark off another round of ill-feeling and hostility from an antipathetic membership isn't a calculation that appears to have been made. Second, it gives successful members a legitimacy that doesn't depend on the leader's grace and favour. Rebel MPs have grown quite attached to their (non-existent) personal mandates of late, so you can imagine some using that to misbehave, flouting collective responsibility, and otherwise stirring up trouble because they have an independent base of power. On top of that, with a rebel shadcab majority Jez would be hard pressed to get his policy positions through: we talk about a wide unanimity on domestic policy, for instance, but there are still MPs even now wedded to market fundamentalism, which is a politics fundamentally at odds to our party and movement. And lastly, there's NEC shenanigans to consider. The occupation of the seats reserved for shadow cabinet by MPs opposed to democratising the party rubs out the majority the party majority presently has. This would permanently put the reform agenda into stasis until the logjam in the rest of the party works itself out.
In short, the call for shadow cabinet elections now means, in practice, a perpetuation of the open warfare and an undermining of the leader's power. It's about asserting the primacy of the minority over the majority, just as that has been emphatically defeated in the needless, unnecessary leadership contest just gone. If Jeremy wants to carry on unimpeded, then this suggestion should be rejected.