Jon Lansman

NEC elections: Good, but…


The mood music in the mainstream press was always that the Momentum- supported candidates in the elections for Labour’s National Executive Committee were a virtual shoe-in. This is good for the left as a whole – which is why LPM recommended a critical, but unconditional vote for the Momentum team of Jon Lansman (pictured), Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham.

It’s a clean sweep for the trio, with Dar collecting 68,388 votes; Garnham 62,982 and Lansman 65,163. The closest rightest was comedian Eddie Izard, with 39,908 – boosted no doubt by his celebrity status and apolitical ‘naive nice guy’ unity mongering (in reality, of course, he is firmly on the right of the party).

This Momentum victory underscores (again) the new reality of today’s Labour Party and will install a stable left majority on the party’s leadership. The new mass membership is miles to the left of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the ‘old guard’: in any clean electoral contest, we will wipe the floor with the right. Which is why they fight so dirty, of course.

The political hygiene of the right need not detain us long; as some of our more angular LPM comrades have summarised it, it’s clear they have the morality of “shithouse rats”. Our problem is that the left is rather less than squeaky clean itself.

As we have reported, there have been serious issues with the lack of transparency in how this Momentum NEC team was chosen: On October 2, all Momentum members were invited to submit their application for the three seats. And by October 9, the lucky three had already been selected: Members were informed that a total of 48 applications were received, which were examined by “a panel of [national coordinating group] officers”, who then “interviewed seven candidates”, before settling on four that are now being sent “for recommendation to the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA)”. All within four days.

According to the Huffington Post, “it is understood that Lansman was the popular choice among many.” Popular among whom? Maybe the people working in Momentum’s office, being on Jon Lansman’s payroll and all that …’  A meme was quickly doing the rounds, showing as first “criterium” on the application form the question: ‘Are you called Jon?’

Add to that the ugly amalgam nature of the CLGA itself – essentially a bureaucratic lash up with right-leaning candidates – and what we saw is a continuation of the method on display in the way the organisation is run by its ‘owner’, Lansman. Almost exactly a year ago, during the now infamous ‘Lansman coup’, he simply shut down all democratic structures of Momentum and imposed his own constitution on the organisation without any debate or transparency. The latest example of his undemocratic approach is the high-handed way in which the man has just announced the dissolution of Momentum Youth and Students.

Naturally, there was no transparency on this last bureaucratic move. No announcement on the Momentum website; the letter from Lansman himself announcing the organisation’s abrupt demise simply tells us that the “Momentum’s Constitution does not specifically provide for the continuation of the entity previously known as ‘Momentum Youth and Students (MYS)’” and that he notes, “with regret”, that some of these young scamps have “at times… brought Momentum into disrepute” with some silly baiting of opponents and intemperate language.

The veteran US comedian George Burns once lamented the death of Vaudeville as, now, there was “nowhere for the kids to be lousy anymore.” Problems in a youth organisation should be treated in the same patient and generous style. It is indicative of the bureaucratic mindset of Lansman and the coterie around him – as well as a quite unseemly appetite for respectability and fear of political debate – that their weapon of first choice are bans and proscriptions.

This underlines that we must offer critical support to the leftwing NEC majority from a position of political independence. We still have a long way to go to transform the party. For example, we cannot rely on Jon Lansman to fight against the ongoing witchhunt against the left in the party. After all, his own Momentum constitution bars from membership anybody who has been expelled by Iain McNicol’s compliance unit – for example, for the crime of “supporting a political organisation other than an official Labour Group or unit of the Party”. All the more important that organisations like Labour Against the Witchhunt continue to put pressure not just on the right and the bureaucracy of the Labour Party – but also Jeremy Corbyn and his allies on the NEC.