NEC elections: Grit your teeth and vote for Jon Lansman!

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Ballot forms for the three additional places on Labour’s National Executive Committee began to be distributed yesterday. The left on this leadership body was recently strengthened with the election of the pro-Corbyn Richard Leonard as leader of the party in Scotland (the expectation is that he will probably personally fill the Scottish NEC seat created in the aftermath of the party’s 2016 conference – or, if not, at least appoint a delegate supportive of the left leadership.) The election for these extra three seats, to be decided by an all-member vote, is an important opportunity to consolidate this progressive shift on the leadership and give it a slightly more comfortable majority.

For this reason, Labour Party Marxists recommends an unconditional, but highly critical vote for the slate supported by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance, Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy including a vote for Jon Lansman, the controversial ‘owner’ of the Momentum brand. It is not surprising that for some on the left, support for Lansman is hard. The pattern of nominations from the CLPs clearly shows some left comrades taking a vicarious revenge for the crass internal coup that Lansman and his close allies launched in January 2017. That, coupled with the ugly amalgam nature of the CLGA itself – essentially a lash up with right-leaning candidates – further muddies the water. (There are supporters of Manchester councillor Yasmine Dar and national policy forum representative Rachel Garnham who might well have their own reasons for not putting a tick next to Lansman’s name) there were obviously some squeaky-bum moments in in the pro-Lansman camp that have put the man’s election in some doubt.

Interestingly, the joint CLGA/Momentum/CLPD campaigning website for the NEC elections unusually enquires if supporters had voted for “the full team (Yasmine, Rachel and Jon)” or just “part of the team”. They are clearly aware of the fact that quite a few members cannot bring themselves to vote for Lansman (but the CLGA/Momentum/CLPD still wants to record them as supporters and be able to harvest their data).

We hear of lefties even agitating for a vote for Sarah Taylor instead of Jon Lansman; she is a disability campaigner and Momentum member, but without much of a profile in the party. She picked up just six nominations from Constituency Labour Parties against Lansman’s 148. It’s unlikely she would win; but she could split the vote sufficiently to allow a rightist like Eddy Izzard slip in through the middle.

No doubt, the political hostility to Lansman specifically is well-founded, given the shameful manoeuvres in Momentum. However, that must be put aside for this election. Lansman is a leading figure on the left of the party. He shares many of the flawed politics and bureaucratic practice of the wing of our party. LPM will not let-up in our political criticisms of the man anymore than we will stop criticising Corbyn and McDonnell themselves. However, in this election he and the platform he is part of should be critically supported in order that our leadership is more safely in the hands of people who reflect the views and political aspiration of our mass, left wing membership.

If you can’t beat them…

The Labour Party right remain strong in terms of the grip its tentacles continue to have on the apparatus/’civil service’ of the party. However, there is no question that it has taken some devastating hits over the past period. Take, for example, the aforementioned election of Richard Leonard and its implications for the balance of power on the NEC.

Of course, it was the right wing which managed to sneak through the anti-democratic organisational innovation at last year’s party conference that led to the creation of two new NEC seats. These would be in the gift of the leaders of the party in Wales and Scotland; both then in the hands of right wingers, of course. Times do have a way of a-changing, however. Now, Scotland has gone ‘Corbynite’. There are rumblings from Wales as the membership’s outrage grows against the leadership’s contempt for basic democracy in elections for the leader and the new post of deputy leader. (And let’s not forget that the ‘registered supporters’ category that swung so powerfully behind Corbyn in the election contest/s was another wizard wheeze of the right.)

What’s a poor right winger to do?

Well, some seem to have reached the conclusion that ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!’

Reports reach us of hard-line rightist councillors pitching up at Momentum meetings; of local Momentum secretaries who, after much nagging, have finally been given lists of Momentum members in their area only to find – yes, you’ve guessed it – rightwing councillors and dyed-in-the-wool anti-left zealots listed as members.

At the same time, worrying news comes from Sheffield where the Momentum branch has voted – by 29 to 25 votes – to exclude from Momentum membership comrades that the witch hunters in the party have excluded on political grounds.

Are we seeing a creeping ‘domestication’ on Momentum? A process of incorporation and political dissolution? If any readers have noted an out-of-place face turning up out of the blue at your local Momentum meeting or right wing councillors beginning to tout themselves as Momentum supporters, let us know! And do call them out in meetings, because others should know who has snuck in.