Tag Archives: Len Mccluskey

Labour Party conference: Omov, Brexit fudge and betrayal on mandatory reselection

Will Hodgson of  gives an overview of the Liverpool conference

Without a doubt, this year was dominated by the struggle for greater party democracy – which is only to be welcomed. As a first-time conference-goer, this is a question that was raised time and time again both inside and outside the Arena and Convention Centre.

Obviously, the arrogant and self-entitled Parliamentary Labour Party needs to be brought under control as a matter of urgency. After all, the majority of Labour MPs have been plotting against Jeremy Corbyn since day one – if not before – attempting to sabotage him at every turn. Clearly, they are far to the right of the Labour membership and, once elected, usually enjoy a ‘job for life’. Indeed, some of them seem to think that they have a divine right to their elevated position. Should Corbyn become prime minister – which is far from certain, even if Labour wins the next general election – he would be held hostage by the PLP. In all likelihood the right would try one manoeuvre after another to get rid of him.

This struggle for democracy has crystallised around the fight for mandatory reselection (or open selection), a means by which the membership can exert some leverage over the careerists – Corbyn himself has stated on many occasions that he wants to empower the membership by giving it a real say in the decision-making process. Rule by the membership or rule by the PLP? Under the old trigger ballot system it was almost impossible to get rid of a sitting MP, as it gave disproportionate power to the labour bureaucracy.

Before conference, thousands of party members signed a petition from International Labour demanding the abolition of the undemocratic trigger ballot and the establishment of a truly democratic selection process before every election. The campaign appeared to receive a fillip when Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, confirmed that he would fight to implement his union’s 2017 conference decision to support mandatory reselection. Then surprisingly even Momentum’s dictator Jon Lansman suddenly decided to go for mandatory reselection after having previously abandoned this old leftwing principle as soon as Jeremy Corbyn was elected.

Under pressure, Labour’s national executive committee felt it had to put somethingforward on the issue in order to contain the situation. Hence it proposed replacing the trigger ballot with two separate ones: the first for local affiliated bodies like unions; and the second for the local Labour Party branches. The threshold in both cases would be reduced from the current 50% to 33% and it would be enough for one of the two sections to vote ‘no’ to start a full selection process – ie, a contest between competing candidates. This represented a small step forward, but was still far from what is needed to hold our MPs properly to account.

Fudge

However, things were not what they seemed. The NEC’s inadequate proposals had been put into the rule changes coming from the Party Democracy Review (‘Corbyn Review’). As a result a vote in favour of the NEC package would mean that all other rule changeson any of the issues dealt with would automatically fall.

Responding to the ruse on the Sunday morning, delegates supportive of open selection tried to reject the report from the conference arrangements committee (CAC) – the only way you can change the proposed timetable. They demanded that rule changes should be discussed first, before the recommendations of the Corbyn Review. After a show of hands on the CAC report, the result was incredible, with around 95% of CLP delegates voting against the report. But, when the unions were asked to vote, the picture was the exact reverse: no more than half a dozen delegates put their hand up against the report (mainly delegates from the FBU), but about 50 voted in favour. But the whole union block counts for 50% of the total conference vote, so it was unclear which side had the majority and a card vote had to be called. The result was incredibly close: 53.63% voted for the report; 46.37% against. What was going on?

Well, it turned out, quite incredibly, that Unite had instructed its delegates to vote in favour of the CAC report despite its supposed commitment to open selection. McCluskey said afterwards that he did so “on the request of Jeremy Corbyn” – the Labour leader acting once again as the conciliator. Sounding hurt when pressed by angry delegates as to why the union had abandoned its position, McCluskey protested afterwards like Lady Macbeth that he had done nothing of the sort – oh no, perish the thought. Had the motion by International Labour reached conference floor, he claimed, Unite would have instructed its delegates to vote in favour– despite doing everything to prevent it.

Having lost the CAC battle in the morning, supporters of mandatory reselection tried to mobilise delegates to vote against section 8 in the NEC proposals, which dealt with parliamentary candidates, as well as section 6, which contained the NEC fudge on leadership elections. The latter had now been made worse. Just like before, any leadership candidate would still need the support of at least 10% of MPs/MEPs, but in addition would also require nominations from 5% of individual party members, or 5% of union and other affiliates.

Anyway, speaker after speaker got up to oppose section 8. But it was now Jon Lansman’s turn to have a sudden change of heart. Halfway through the debate, Lansman suddenly put out a message saying Momentum was now supporting section 8, because it “addresses one of the key flaws of the existing system by separating the party branches from affiliates” – which apparently “gives members the power to begin an open selection”. Yes, Lansman added ruefully, it “isn’t perfect”, but “it is a step forward and there is no guarantee any of the remaining rule changes on reselection will pass”. He implored Momentum-supporting delegates to back card vote 8, as “we may not get another chance to increase accountability of MPs”.

From then onwards, the speeches on conference floor shifted markedly, militancy beginning to dwindle. Most speakers were still supportive of open selection, of course, but more and more you heard comments like ‘A small step forward is better than the status quo’, and so on. How things could have been different. If conference had voted to reject section 8, despite McCluskey’s ‘tactic’ earlier in the day, then IL’s motion would have been tabled later – and, with Unite instructing its delegates to vote in favour of mandatory reselection, as McCluskey claimed it would, that motion almost certainly would have won. Alas, the climbdowns of both McCluskey and Lansman ensured that section 8 was carried with 65.94% support – and section 6 won with 63.94%. Thanks to the undemocratic three-year rule, this now means that both issues cannot be revisited until 2021.

These votes also emphasise the massive democratic deficit that exists within the party, especially when you take into account the sheer size of the trade union block vote (50% of the total). Given that the other six NEC rule changes coming out of the gutted Corbyn review were voted through with a majority of well over 90%, this can only mean that a vast majority of CLP delegates rejected the NEC’s proposals on these two issues.

Brexit

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the particularly egregious way that the compositing of motions has been used to exclude alternative and contending ideas – Brexit being a classic case. The Tories being in complete disarray on this vitally important matter, the Corbyn leadership and sections of the Labour right were able to find some common tactical ground – ie, that our priority must be to call for an immediate general election, so that a Labour government can negotiate a ‘sensible’ deal with the EU “in the interests of the country”.

However, the demand for a general election settles nothing, of course – which is why other sections of the right have opposed it as a fudge. Most notably they include the forces coalesced around the campaign for a People’s Vote, who naturally see it as yet another chance to initiate a slow coup against Corbyn’s leadership. Similar moves are underway in the unions, with leaders like Tim Roache of the GMB lining up to call for a second referendum. On the other hand, there is a minority who take a pro-Brexit view.

In other words, this is a very complex question, with many different positions adopted within the party. Thus over 150 contemporary motions were submitted on Brexit – the most ever received on a single issue at a Labour conference. This led to a marathon compositing meeting attended by around 250 delegates representing those who had put forward the various motions, which ended in the early hours of Monday morning. The upshot of all that was that Tuesday’s Brexit debate was on a composite motion that included both the leadership’s call to prioritise a general election and the possibility of a second referendum: “If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

Yet this is nothing new, obviously another fudge. The Labour leadership has been saying precisely this for a long time now, and the TUC two weeks ago basically voted for the Corbyn position as encapsulated in the above motion, stating only that another referendum should not be “ruled out”. The media got excited by the perceived spat between Sir Keir Starmer and John McDonnell – the latter echoing Len McCluskey, when he said that any new referendum should not include the ‘remain’ option and should focus solely on the terms of Brexit. Starmer, however, remarked that “nobody is ruling out ‘remain’ as an option”. Make of that what you will.

But oddly, whilst a large section of visitors to the conference gave huge rounds of applause to Starmer, as he spoke in support of the Brexit motion, the delegates largely sat on their hands – telling you something. In a strange twist of events, People’s Vote campaigners now seemed fairly happy with the motion (at least for the time being), even though it represented a fudge. Nothing has been resolved or properly debated – the compositing process serving to expose once again the democratic deficit within the party. In the end, conference passed the motion with around 99%support almost worthy of North Korea, despite the fact that there are obviously major differences of opinion on this question. For instance, the Tuesday edition of Red Pages– the daily commentary put out by Labour Party Marxists during the conference – seemed to go down well with many delegates, the headline demanding: ‘Brexit: reject the fudge composite motion’.

One more important thing that needs to be mentioned are those rule changes that sought to extend the use of ‘one member, one vote’ (Omov) – whether in the election of NEC members or even of the party’s general secretary. Similarly, the Party Democracy Review contained recommendations for “digital democracy” and “secure online voting systems”, with a new sub-clause passed, which promised: “the NEC shall invite CLPs to take part in pilots of staggered meetings; electronic attendance, online voting and other methods of maximising participation”.

However, for Marxists there are some serious problems with Omov. Just as we are opposed to the pseudo-democracy of national referendums – hence our opposition to a second Brexit referendum – as a general rule we are also against plebiscites in the party. There is a good reason why the move to Omov for the election of party leader began with the likes of Neil Kinnock and culminated in Ed Miliband’s Collins review – it was a rightwing ploy to dilute the working class nature of our party and atomise members by bringing the ‘common sense’ politics of the BBC or even The Sun into the Labour Party.

The same goes for so-called digital democracy, which too has the effect of atomising members – making it easier for them to be manipulated. Bear in mind the farce that was Jon Lansman’s Momentum coup – cynically presented as ‘democracy from below’. Omov, in Lansman’s hands, was a profoundly undemocratic move against the interests of the membership – one that stymied Momentum’s potential to be an effective, dynamic left trend in the party.

Online voting also marginalises the role of the unions. Yes, the representatives of rightwing unions have played an entirely negative role on the NEC. But in general the affiliation of unions is an enormous strength. While their bureaucratic leaders should not be allowed to prevent the democratic selection of parliamentary candidates, unions have clearly played an important role in preserving the character of the Labour Party as a workers’ party, even under Tony Blair.

But our main point remains this: one of our most powerful organising tools is representative democracy. We need to elect representatives who are accountable to and recallable by the party, and empower them to take informed decisions on our behalf.

Cordial

This being my first conference and, given the intensity of the campaign to cynically smear leftwing anti-Zionists as anti-Semitic – an example of the Big Lie in action – I was slightly apprehensive. Would Zionist supporters, Labour and non-Labour, try to provoke an unpleasant or even violent confrontation with comrades from LPM – on the basis that we are ‘Jew-haters’, and garbage like that. Last year in Brighton they gathered aggressively around our stall, snatching copies of Labour Party Marxists and generally tried to rile us.

In the end, I need not have worried. Curiously in some ways, the likes of the Jewish Labour Movement seemed almost entirely absent – no leaflets, papers, posters. No angry shouting. Maybe it was a deliberate decision to lie low. Indeed, the right in general was remarkably quiet. The most you got very occasionally was a delegate muttering ‘disgrace’, as they hurried past into the conference hall.

The vast majority of delegates, however, did not take seriously the accusation that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, or that the radical left and Jeremy Corbyn posed an ‘existential threat’ to Jewish people in Britain. They know it is nonsense and were totally unfazed by the headline in the latest LPM, which read: ‘Why Israel is a racist state’ – with many expressing sympathy or agreement. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s so-called ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism has most definitely not captured hearts and minds.

In fact, the atmosphere was cordial and respectful – delegates and others were more than willing to engage with our arguments and share a joke. As alluded to earlier, it was easy to hand out Red Pages – which received a very warm reception.

Open selection: a dark day of betrayal and climbdowns

MONDAY full
Red Pages
, Monday September 23

Articles in today’s issue:

Open selection: a dark day of betrayal and climbdowns
Jon Lansman and Len McCluskey let their members down – and have 
delayed the possibility of mandatory reselection for at least three years

Small mercies
What has happened to the NEC’s commitment to membership democracy?

“They can fuck off”
Alexei Sayle, Chris Williamson MP and others addressed Labour Against the Witchhunt’s fringe meeting last night

Read the PDF version  here


Open selection: a dark day of betrayal and climbdowns

Jon Lansman and Len McCluskey let their members down – and have 
delayed the possibility of mandatory reselection for at least three years

Yesterday’s discussion on the Party Democracy Review was clearly dominated by one issue only: delegate after delegate spoke about the highly contentious issue of the way the Labour Party selects its parliamentary candidates. This is particularly pertinent, as this question had not actually been part of the review.

But International Labour had run a highly successful campaign in support of its rule change on ‘open selection’ (aka mandatory reselection). Thousands of party members had signed IL’s petition demanding the abolition of the undemocratic trigger ballot and the establishment of a truly democratic selection process before every election.

The campaign received an important boost when Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, confirmed that he would fight to implementhis union’s 2017 conference decision to support mandatory reselection (rather than shelve it, as happens with many good conference positions). And after a lot of zig-zagging, even Momentum’s Jon Lansman eventually decided to support open selection and even appeared to be rather enthusiastic about it (having previously abandoned this old leftwing principle on the day Jeremy Corbyn was elected).

Clearly, the NEC felt the need to put somethingforward on the issue – in order to stop mandatory reselection. So they presented their fudge, which will see the trigger ballot slightly reformed (see box for details). It had been packed rather disingenuously into the rule changes coming from the Corbyn Review. But it was a trick: a vote in favour of the NEC package would mean that all other rule changeson any of the issues dealt with would automatically fall (they were scheduled o be discussed on Tuesday) – including International Labour’s, of course.

Matt Wrack, leader of the Fire Brigades Union, hit the nail on the head when he told conference that he was “disappointed” with the way this clearly controversial issue had been handled: “In our union, we would be discussing different views on a matter openly and democratically, hearing all sides on such an important subject,” he told conference.

Therefore, delegates supportive of open selection tried to reject the morning’s report from the conference arrangements committee (CAC) – which is the only way you can change the proposed timetable. They demanded that rule changes should be discussed first, before the recommendations of the Party Democracy Review. The chair asked for a show of hands on the CAC report and the result was incredible: around 95% of CLP delegates voted againstthe report – a rare show of unity. Then the unions were asked to vote and here the picture was the absolute opposite: no more than half a dozen delegates put their hand up against the report (mainly delegates from the FBU), but about 50 voted in favour. And because the whole union block counts for 50% of total conference voting, a card vote had to be called.

The result was incredibly close: 53.63% voted for the report; 46.37% against.

It turned out that Unite had instructed its delegates to vote in favourof the CAC report – despite their official commitment to open selection. At Unite’s meeting earlier in the morning, McCluskey had told his delegates to do so “on the request of Jeremy Corbyn, who asked for the support of the unions on this issue”. When pressed by angry delegates why the union had given up on its position, he told them it had not: Should the motion by International Labour reach conference floor, he said, Unite would instruct its delegates to vote infavourof it. In the meanwhile, he was clearly doing everything in his power to stop that.

Corbyn calls the NEC proposal an “affirmative ballot”. Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of Unite, described it as “selective reselection”. But Pete Firmin, stalwart of the Labour Representation Committee, eloquently told conference that “A trigger ballot is a trigger ballot is a trigger ballot, no matter what you call it.” Quite right.

Having lost the CAC battle in the morning, supporters of open selection tried to mobilise delegates to vote against section 8 in the NEC proposals, which dealt with parliamentary candidates (as well as section 6, which contained the NEC fudge on leadership elections). Speaker after speaker got up to oppose section 8. As we go to press, we don’t know the outcome of the vote.

However, another change of heart by a certain Jon Lansman has dramatically reduced the chances of success on this matter. Midway through the debate, Lansman put out the following message to Momentum delegates:

“Momentum is supporting card vote 8 because it addresses one of the key flaws of the existing system. By separating the party branches from affiliates, it gives members the power to begin an open selection. It isn’t perfect, but it is a step forward and there is no guarantee any of the remaining rule changes on reselection will pass. Please support card vote 8. We may not get another chance to increase accountability of MPs.”

And from then on the speeches on conference floor shifted markedly. Most speakers were still supportive of open selection, but more and more often you heard phrases like ‘but a small step forward is better than the status quo’. And that despite the fact that news of McCluskey’s ‘tactic’ was spreading like wildfire: if conference voted to reject section 8, that would mean that IL’s motion would be tabled on Tuesday – and that Unite would instruct its delegates to vote in favour of it, making it almost a certain win.

This charade clearly shows not just how inept Lansman has become as a politician. Unfortunately, it also shows that Jeremy Corbyn – despite three long years in the crosshairs of the right in the PLP and the establishment – is still not prepared to do what is necessary to transform Labour into a real party of the working class. He is still being a conciliator – trying to appease the right and keep them as calm as possible, so that he can become prime minister.

And here’s the crux of the matter: even if Labour wins the next general election, the rightwing PLP has proved that they will not simply subordinate themselves to Corbyn. They will make his life hell at every opportunity. They are very likely to launch another no-confidence vote against him – he will, in effect, be unable to govern. The only way to avoid that, of course, would have been the implementation of mandatory reselection to get rid of the plotters and saboteurs.

The NEC’s rule change: very slight improvement

Currently, it is almost impossible to get rid of a sitting MP. If s/he wants to stand again, the ‘trigger ballot’ process begins. All the constituency’s branches and its affiliates (trade unions, socialist societies, cooperative organisations) have one vote eachand can choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to retaining the sitting MP as the only candidate. Each branch and affiliate is counted equally, irrespective of the number of members. Unless 50% of those vote ‘no’, the sitting MP automatically becomes the parliamentary candidate.

The NEC proposal seeks to replace the current trigger ballot with two separate ones: the first for local affiliated bodies like unions; and the second for the local Labour Party branches. The threshold in both would be reduced from the current 50% to 33% and it would be enough for one of the two sectionsto vote ‘no’ to start a full selection process – ie, a contest between the different candidates.

Incidentally, it has only now transpired that the NEC’s proposal would notmean that branches would have to achieve the 25% quorum stipulated in the rule book in order to be counted towards the 33% needed for the trigger ballot (which many had feared). In fact, the NEC proposes to keep the quorum of 25% only for AGMs, but reduce the quorum for “ordinary meetings” to 5% – or 75 members (whichever is lower).

The NEC’s proposal is therefore indeed a small step forward. It will remove the potential of union branches to keep a rightwinger in place despite the expressed wish of the local membership. But it is still far from what is needed to hold our MPs properly to account and to get rid of the saboteurs in the PLP, who have been plotting against Corbyn from day one.


Small mercies

What has happened to the NEC’s commitment to membership democracy?

Yesterday the NEC finally released its proposals for constitutional rule changes coming out of the Party Democracy Review – seven hours before conference was expected to approve them! This process makes a laughing stock of our democracy – how on earth are delegates supposed to give serious consideration to such proposals (even excluding the fact that the membership as a whole is totally excluded from the process)?

Yesterday the NEC’s statement  on the Party Democracy Review was carried on a show of hands, by the way, despite much opposition being expressed to the way the NEC had agreed to dilute its original positive proposals.

And within the proposed changes themselves, there is very little that can be said to enhance democracy in any way. For example, under ‘Membership rights’ it now states that members have “the right to dignity and respect”, and that party officers must “use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness”. But, of course, members are not guaranteed the right to free speech – particularly on Israel/Palestine – thanks to the NEC’s acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance so-called definition of ‘anti-Semitism’. How does that ensure their “right to dignity and respect”?

We mentioned yesterday the proposed rule change under which the National Constitutional Committee – which deals with disciplinary questions passed on to it by the NEC – is to be expanded from 11 to 25 members. Perhaps this was originally intended as a means of changing the political balance on the NCC in favour of the Corbyn leadership, but the method by which NCC members will be elected is totally and utterly unclear. The proposed rule change begins by stating that the 14 additional members will be elected “at, or as soon as practicable after”, the 2018 conference. But it contains no recommendations on this, so will the chair ask delegates today, once the rule change is carried, if they now wish to nominate and vote for those extra members?! It is more likely that an alternative method will later be imposed by the NEC (perhaps a “one-member-one vote postal ballot”, which is listed as an option). What a shambles.

It is true that under the new rules the NCC will be obliged to “ensure that the charges are determined without undue delay and in a manner that is fair to both the individual and the party”; and that “a disciplinary matter against an individual is to be determined within three months of the NCC receiving the charges”. But we are still left with a body capable of taking arbitrary decisions aimed against the current leadership by witch-hunting the left.

As we also reported yesterday, the category of “contemporary motions” at annual conference is, thankfully, to be abolished. Previously the word “contemporary” has been used to automatically reject motions which were considered to overlap with reports from the NEC or National Policy Forum. Instead, CLPs will be able to submit motions to conference on any issue they choose and they do not have to continue to scramble around for ‘recent’ studies or articles to justify their submission.

But the NEC will still be able to stop discussion of proposals that ‘infringe’ on its territory. For example, the fact that the NEC’s decision to “review membership rates and discounts” is categorised as a rule change (which will “expire” at the 2019 conference!) means that the motion from Tewkesbury, calling for 50% of members’ dues to be returned to CLPs, automatically falls.

The NEC also wants to set up “equalities branches” – to be made up exclusively by women, BAME or disabled comrades! This is absurd. Why should there be separate local branches (presumably covering the whole of a constituency) for such comrades? Surely they should be organised alongside all other members – while, of course, having the right to come together in caucuses, if they so wish.

The NEC also wants to run “pilots” to allow “electronic attendance” and “online voting” locally to look into ways of “maximising participation”. As we stated yesterday, this is a retrograde step. Decisions should be taken by members who are fully informed and aware of the issues at stake – and in that sense it is positive that in another proposed change CLP executives will be obliged to “report all decisions in writing to the CLP general meeting for approval”.

We were wrong yesterday, by the way, when we stated that the rule changes would include a move to transform all CLP general committees into all-members meetings. In fact, this question is to be left to the CLPs themselves to decide.

But we were correct when we wrote that there would now be a “realistic quorum” for CLPs – it has been lowered from 25% to 5% under the NEC’s proposals, at least for ‘ordinary meetings’. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies!


“They can fuck off”

Alexei Sayle, Chris Williamson MP and others addressed Labour Against the Witchhunt’s fringe meeting last night

“There can be no greater injustice than anti-racists being accused of racism by racists.” Scouse comedian Alexie Sayle travelled up from London especially to deliver this common-sense condemnation of the fake anti-Semitism smear campaign against Corbyn and the Labour left to Labour Against the Witchhunt’s packed Labour conference fringe meeting last night. The potential for “massive transformation” opened up by “the miracle of Jeremy Corbyn” had overcome Alexei´s longstanding abstention from voting, but he had not (yet?) joined the party, to maintain his ‘independence’ as a comedian. The witch-hunters can’t expel a non-member, he said, “so they can fuck off!”

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Jo Bird, newly elected as a councillor in Birkenhead, pointed out that in her election campaign “no-one raised anti-Semitism on the door”. She was appalled at the way neighbouring MP Frank Field had used accusations of anti-Semitism and bullying. To all those falsely suspended and expelled she said: “You are owed a huge apology. On behalf of the party, I am very sorry.” That moving apology was made particularly poignant when 73-year-old Bob Walker, the youngest of the ‘Garston 3’, described how the three pensioners were expelled for merely attending a meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Ex-Liverpool councillor Tony Mulhearn called on Corbyn and McDonnell to stand up to the witch-hunters: “No more apologies, no more retreats. When you apologise, you are accepting you did something wrong.” Recalling the “ridiculously long list of charges” he faced in his own expulsion in 1986, “a witch-hunt is irrational”, he said, “because the decision has already been made”. At that time John McDonnell had stood firm in his defence, but now he is saying: “We need to be conciliatory; we are a broad church.” As Tony Greenstein commented, “Even the broadest church does not expel atheists. The ‘atheists’ in our party are not, and never have been, socialists.”

Chris Williamson MP, confronting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the party, confessed that he often describes Israel as an apartheid state, and compared Israel´s treatment of the Palestinians to the fate of the Cherokees in America. Denouncing the “terrible injustice” being done to Jackie Walker, he condemned the way Marc Wadsworth had been “demonised as a bigot” for “asking a question at a press conference”.

All in all, this first ever Labour fringe meeting organised by LAW was a tremendous success.

 

Problems with playing the ‘long game’

It is not often we listen to Labour deputy leader Tom Watson with interest. But in an interview this week he reminded us that the civil war in the Labour Party is very much alive and kicking.

He simply cannot understand that his former flatmate, Unite leader Len McCluskey, seems to have turned his back on him. “Sadly, we fell out over that week when Jeremy went into the second leadership election, and I’ve not spoken to him since that week.”

“When Jeremy went into the second leadership election”… well, that is certainly an interesting way of describing a full-on coup, which had none other than Tom Watson among its instigators, of course. And just because of that silly little coup his old mate McCluskey is apparently now “coming for me”:

He’s powerful enough, if he wants to take me out as deputy leader, he probably could, but that’s up to him. They’re upping their delegates and all of that. I’m just going to get on and try to bring everyone back together and do what I can, as best I can.

Sure you are, Tom. You’re all about unity. And just like the rest of the right wing in the party, you tend to appeal for it when your own career prospects might be under threat.

Watson seems to say that McCluskey is getting his own Unite troops ready to challenge him for his role as deputy leader. Just like for leader of the party, there are no regular elections for deputy leader. The incumbent either has to die, resign – or be challenged.

Of course – and Watson knows this very well – affiliated unions play no role at all when it comes to such a challenge. Potential candidates need the support of “20% of combined Commons members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and members of the European Parliamentary Labour Party” before they can make it onto the ballot paper.

So the fact that Unite is “upping their delegates and all of that” has no relevance to there being an active challenger to Tom Watson – or not (needless to say, in our view there definitely should be a challenge – the man is a rightwing backstabber par excellence). Rather Watson is speaking here as a kind of representative of the whole ‘moderate’ right in the party and particularly in the PLP. There have indeed been moves by a number of unions and affiliated organisations to increase the number of branches affiliated to local CLPs – and not just by the left. The Jewish Labour Movement, for example, has approached pretty much all CLPs. The difficulty these national affiliates have is proving that they indeed “have members who are registered as electors within the constituency”, which is the main requirement for local affiliation.1)Labour Party rulebook 2018, chapter 7, clause III, point 2. See http://labourpartymarxists.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Labour-Party-Rule-Book-Labour-Party-2018-Rule-Book.pdf.

Once they are affiliated to a CLP, those local affiliates could play an important role in the highly undemocratic trigger ballot – currently the only way that you can get rid of an MP. If the sitting MP wants to stand again, all the constituency’s Labour Party branches and its local affiliates have a single vote each. Each branch and each affiliate is counted equally, irrespective of the number of its members. If a simple majority of branches/affiliates votes ‘yes’, the sitting MP automatically becomes the official candidate. A full selection procedure only takes place if a majority of branches/affiliates votes ‘no’ at this stage. Then, every Labour Party member casts a vote (the affiliated organisations are not involved at this stage of the process).

Reselection

In other words, Tom Watson is warning Len McCluskey not to challenge rightwing MPs like himself on a local level. His intervention is no doubt also designed to see off the lame proposal for a slight reform of the trigger ballot procedure. Despite the fact that Jon Lansman has campaigned for the mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates for decades (it was, after all, the main demand of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, in which he played a leading role), he has now dropped it and merely calls for raising the threshold from 50% to 66% – ie, two-thirds of the local branches and affiliates have to vote ‘yes’ to a sitting MP, otherwise a full selection process begins.

But this still disproportionately favours the sitting MP: rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic reselection process before every election, a sitting MP would still have to be challenged. Lansman’s tinkering would merely restore the trigger ballot to what it was when it was introduced by Neil Kinnock in 1990 in order to curb the power of the unions, before Tony Blair reduced it to today’s 50%. Lansman here appears to be following the lead of Jeremy Corbyn, who has declared that nowadays he is not in favour of mandatory reselection.

In this context, we are very pleased to see a much more radical rule change going forward to this year’s conference from International Labour – the party unit to which party members living abroad belong. IL is putting a deal of energy and effort into publicising the motion, no doubt in order to stop it from being ruled out of order, or batted aside by the conference arrangements committee in favour of Jon Lansman’s lame proposal.

The rule change by IL simply removes the whole trigger ballot process. While the trade unions currently have no role in the local selection process of parliamentary candidates, this would also remove their role in potentially blocking reselection. Having said that, it is clearly a huge and important step in the right direction towards transforming Labour into a real party of labour. MPs must become truly accountable to the membership.

Unite actually voted in favour of mandatory reselection at the union’s policy conference in 2017. The motion read:

MPs have not got ‘jobs for life’. They represent their constituency, but ultimately they are selected by and accountable to their Constituency Labour Party. To ensure democratic accountability and the rights of party members to select candidates that reflect their views, conference supports the need for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in each parliament as essential.

Should Len McCluskey get behind IL’s motion, there is a real chance it might actually go through.

LRC and Gordon

Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn is still trying to appease the right in the party. Presumably, he thinks of himself as playing the long game, in which he will eventually emerge as prime minister, running a leftwing Labour government and bringing to fruition his neo-Keynesian, nationalist programme. Strategically, he is therefore trying to concentrate on ‘bread and butter issues’ like the NHS and austerity, while ‘sitting out’ more complex questions like democratisation, as well as Brexit, etc.

When it comes to even more tricky questions like the fabricated ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal in the party, he has chosen the path of least resistance: he says he will deal with the ‘problem’. So having replaced general secretary Iain McNicol with the more leftwing Jennie Formby, she was told to put on a show of combating anti-Semitism and not to object when Labour members are suspended or expelled on trumped-up charges.

His appointment of Gordon Nardell as ‘in-house QC’ to deal with disciplinary matters looks similarly good on paper. Nardell is a founding member of the Labour Representation Committee, where he was tasked, among other things, with rewriting the organisation’s disciplinary procedures. Nardell has come under quite a lot of scrutiny from the rightwing media and has quickly deleted his social media accounts – not quickly enough, mind. He has been ‘outed’ as having been a Facebook friend of Tony Greenstein (who cannot recall ever meeting or communicating with him) and having made a couple of comments in support of Jackie Walker.

The Labour Party has also confirmed that in his new job Nardell will be working with the definition of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – but not the 11 examples that come with it, as an outraged Jewish Chronicle reports. The examples are, of course, the crux of the matter, as they conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism.

There has been a lot of confusion over this definition and which part was adopted at last year’s Labour conference. The Jewish Labour Movement claimed that the party accepted the definition plus the examples, and the Board of Deputies has tried to get Jeremy Corbyn to confirm that. Marc Wadsworth’s disciplinary hearing even had to be adjourned so that Labour Party lawyers could go away and find out what the party had adopted.

In a sense, of course, this is pretty academic – it all depends on who is enforcing the rules and to what purpose. Marc Wadsworth, we should remember, was not expelled for anti-Semitism, but for the catch-all crime of “bringing the party into disrepute”. But it is an important and very welcome sign that Nardell has come out in opposition to the IHRA examples.

We welcome Nardell’s appointment and hope that he – and Corbyn – will stand firm against the ongoing smear campaign against him and his ‘friends’, even if they are mere online acquaintances. By endorsing what could be viewed as a highly political appointment, Corbyn does, of course, implicitly acknowledge that there is a civil war going on. It is just that he is trying to win it by stealth, rather than having the argument out in the open. That is a very dangerous game.

For example, Corbyn probably thinks he is being clever by meeting with the Board of Deputies without making any public concessions. But the mere fact he has met them – and at the same time continues to refuse to meet the comrades from Jewish Voice for Labour – means that he has given way politically.

He says nothing about Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth and the hundreds of others. He says nothing when Stan Keable is sacked from his job by a Labour-run council for stating that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi regime – a historical, if inconvenient, fact. He says nothing even when his old comrades and allies, Christine Shawcroft and Ken Livingstone, are in the firing line – quite the opposite. He urges them to resign. He has, therefore, become complicit in the right’s campaign against his own supporters.

But, no matter how many more pawns he sacrifices in this long game, he is very unlikely to win it. Even if Corbyn should become the next prime minister (and it is a big if, for a number of reasons) he would still be surrounded by a PLP whose members are mostly sworn enemies. In fact, the methods used against ‘prime minister Corbyn’ – if he were permitted to get that far – would make the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign look pretty tame. Why on earth would the PLP suddenly shut up and support Corbyn? Under these circumstances, it is a self-defeating and utterly hopeless strategy to seek ‘unity’ with the right – the last three years have demonstrated that they are not about to give up.

References

Jon Lansman v Jennie Formby: What’s going on?

Unexpected fault lines have opened up on the soft Labour left over who will be the next general secretary, reports Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

With less than a week to go before nominations close on March 13, there are two candidates standing for the position of Labour’s general secretary. Their politics appears so similar that the contest between them seems, at best, ludicrous and, at worst, irresponsible. Should a ‘moderate’ candidate choose to exploit the current division, and should both pro-Corbyn candidates continue to insist on standing, that moderate might indeed ‘slip in’ through the middle when it comes to the crucial vote on Labour’s national executive committee on March 20. We presume that will not happen and that either Momentum owner Jon Lansman or Unite’s Jennie Formby will withdraw. But then, we never presumed that there would be two pro-Corbyn candidates standing in the first place!

The issue might already be decided by the next meeting of the NEC officers group on March 14. It is tasked with putting together a short list for the full NEC and has a pro-Corbyn majority. Of the current eight members, at least five are pro-Corbyn and two are members of Unite (though Jennie Formby, the current NEC vice-chair, will probably have to excuse herself).

One thing is for sure. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is continuing to have a disruptive effect, not just on the establishment, but on the Labour left too. In a sense, this is very much to be welcomed. The left seemed to have been dying a slow, painful death – it needed a ‘cultural revolution’. For a start, wouldn’t it be nice if we had actual transparency and democracy in our movement? Why on earth are there no proper reports, for example, from all NEC members? They should be obliged to report back to those they represent as to what was discussed and how they voted. Pete Willsman and Ann Black have been the only ones to routinely write such reports (for general circulation) – with their own omissions and partisan views, of course.

But in recent days NEC members Christine Shawcroft and Darren Williams have come out with short Facebook posts and brief hints, which indicate not just deep divisions between the representatives of the left-led unions and the nine elected by Constituency Labour Party members, but also the tensions between the nine, though they were elected on same the ‘centre-left slate’. We will come to that below.

Here is what we know.

For days, Jennie Formby seemed a virtual shoo-in. She has the support not just of her union, Unite. But pretty much every single group on the Labour left has come out for her, including quite a few Momentum branches. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has tweeted his support. Jeremy Corbyn is keeping schtum in public: he wants to appear above the fray and, of course, he values the support of both Momentum and Unite’s Len McCluskey.

So why then are there two left candidates? There are various theories and possible scenarios, some of which are, of course, interlinked. Clearly, we are in the middle of a very messy process.

Theory 1: Lansman has gone mad

This is perhaps the most common theory one comes across when discussing the issue on the left. According to this – and I must admit to having some sympathy for it – Jon Lansman’s ego has simply got the better of him. So successful has he been running Momentum as his own private fiefdom that he now thinks he has earned the right to aim for bigger things. After all, wasn’t it his tens of thousands of foot soldiers who nearly managed to get Jeremy Corbyn into No10?

Being directly responsible for over 200 staff; the party’s campaign and media strategies; all its organisational, constitutional and policy committees; the organisation of party conference; the preparation of party literature, etc – it sounds right up Jon Lansman’s street, doesn’t it? And who cares if that puts Corbyn in a very awkward position when it comes to Unite leader Len McCluskey? The time has come for Lansmanism to blossom!

We can certainly believe that Lansman’s ego is bigger than your average politician’s. But just like theories that try to pin the outbreak of World War II on Adolf Hitler’s psychological problems, that is clearly too easy an explanation.

Theory 2: Lansman is moving to the centre

We do not believe for a moment that he is standing in some semi-sacrificial way to “open up the contest and ensure we have a wide range of candidates”. We presume that Lansman thinks that he has an actual chance of winning a majority of votes on the NEC.

Of the 38 executive members, 21 could be described as pro-Corbyn, and 17 as rightwing. According to The Skwawkbox:

all the left NEC members have committed to support Jennie Formby, with the exception of a couple who have said they’ll only vote for a leftwing woman – and one who is behind Jon Lansman. Those committed to Formby include both party and union representatives – including party representatives elected as part of slates backed by Momentum, the organisation founded by Jon Lansman.

We know, of course, that outputs by ‘alternative media’ like The Skwawkbox should be taken with a pinch of salt. They are increasingly being used by political factions and sometimes even by journalists to leak unverified rumours to the wider public, so that it can then be picked up by the mainstream press. But we reckon that the website has done its counting correctly this time: 17 votes for Formby. The single leftwing NEC member who openly supports Lansman is Christine Shawcroft. But Lansman seems to think that he can win round those two left NEC members who have not yet openly backed Formby – a possibility, clearly.

But he must also count on the entire right wing on the NEC to back him in order to achieve a majority. He has clearly been working very hard to position himself in the political ‘centre’ of the Labour Party. I am sure Lansman is not entirely unhappy with the media narrative, according to which Jennie Formby is the representative of the hard left and the union bureaucracy, openly supporting – would you believe it? – the democratic rights of the Palestinian people. Clearly, she is too radical and ‘anti-Semitic’ to head the Labour machine!

In reality there is, of course, very little actual political difference between Jennie Formby and Jon Lansman. We are seeing a split on the soft left, rather than a split between the hard and soft left (which is probably still to come). Both candidates are uncritical supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and his policies, presumably prepared to back various political climbdowns should he become prime minister.

Which makes the only visible difference all the more crucial: the question of Israel and Palestine. With the Israeli army inching closer to getting involved in Syria (to distract perhaps from the legal problems of a certain Binyamin Netanyahu1)www.independent.co.uk/news/world/ middle-east/israel-prime-minister-benjamin- netanyahu-corruption-allegations-lawyers-explain- trouble-a7524416.html) the Labour Party’s position is becoming increasingly important. Can it really become an anti-war party – perhaps even in government? Will the pacifist Corbyn stick to his guns (excuse the pun) as prime minister and forthrightly condemn Israel aggression?

That would put the pro-imperialist right in the Parliamentary Labour Party under immense pressure from the Zionist lobby. This is, after all, why the whole ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal was created in the first place. Discredit Corbyn’s anti-war and pro-Palestine stance. Force him to ‘man up’ and come out in support of US interests. And that includes unconditional support for Israel to do whatever it has to do to ‘defend itself’. (We note Prince William is the first member of his family to make an official visit to Israel, as well as Lebanon and “the occupied Palestinian territories”.)

In this context, Jon Lansman’s participation in the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt in the Labour Party is very, very important. He has said of Ken Livingstone, “It’s time he left politics altogether”; thinks that “there should be no place for George Galloway in the Labour Party” (and called on his employers to sack him); and when Jackie Walker was suspended from Labour on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism, he quickly removed her as vice-chair of Momentum. He wants to be seen as a safe pair of hands, when it comes to Israel.

The question is, can Lansman get away with positioning himself in the political centre?

Alansmanfter all, he is Mr Momentum, which has since its inception been portrayed as a dangerous hotbed for an assortment of hyperactive hippies and Trotskyist troublemakers. He has been on the ‘far left’ of the Labour Party for decades, we are told. However, over the last 14 months, Lansman certainly has been very busy moulding Momentum into a thoroughly respectable election machine.

His coup of January 2017, which abolished all democratic structures in the organisation and imposed his constitution on the membership, has certainly gone a long way to assure the establishment of his ‘credentials’. He also subordinated Momentum to the compliance unit by barring membership  to all those who have been expelled from the Labour Party for “supporting another organisation” (rule 2.1.4.B).

No doubt Momentum’s deployment of an army of foot soldiers during the general election campaign made a real difference to Labour’s votes. Momentum nationally has been very careful to support all Labour Party candidates, not just pro-Corbyn ones (even if locally its members often choose to campaign mainly for leftwing candidates).

Politically, the organisation is even more harmless. For example, despite the fact that Jon Lansman has campaigned for mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates for decades, he has now dropped the demand and campaigns merely for a reform of the trigger ballot. At present an MP needs to win a simple majority of nominations from local party branches and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in order to become the candidate once more. Lansman wants to raise this threshold to 66%, but this would still disproportionally favour the sitting MP: rather than allowing for a full and democratic automatic reselection process before every election, a sitting MP would still have to be challenged.

So successful is Momentum’s transformation that now even Theresa May openly wants to emulate it. This week she has written to “young activists” to help build Momentum-style grassroots campaigners. According to The Sun, the letter states:

We are recruiting a new army of foot soldiers to take the fight to Labour. It is clear from the results of the general election that we are more likely to win seats in which our organisation is strong. And it is an unfortunate fact that Labour’s organisation was better in many seats than ours.

It is absolutely possible that the right in the Labour Party might swing behind Lansman. The Guardian writes:

Lansman’s entry into the race is thought to have the tacit backing of some other unions, which are irritated by what they regard as Unite’s increasing dominance of Labour decision-making. Key to the decision will be two other major unions, the GMB and Unison, who have so far declined to give Formby their backing.

It is not impossible that other rightwingers on the NEC – for example, those from the PLP or those representing councillors – might support him, too. Especially if that was the only way to stop Formby.

Politically, of course, Lansman’s method of chasing the political centre is very much old school and in line with the method advocated by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and its founder-leader, Vladimir Derer, since 1973 (he died in 2014). The organisation was founded on the premise that any reform in the Labour Party has to be achieved not by pressure from the membership (which, for example, Militant pursued), but by winning over – or at least neutralising – the ‘centre’, in the party and the unions. The fascinating BBC docudrama The campaign shows how the CLPD won a conference majority to vote for a version of mandatory reselection in the early 1980s: through a number of backroom deals with union leaders.

It still pursues this method though the so-called Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, which ‘recommends’ various candidates for Labour Party elections. It is based on rather mysterious, private and entirely undemocratic get-togethers of various Labour left organisations, to which only a few lucky ones are invited (this year, for example, Jewish Voice for Labour was among the invitees), while others never make the gathering. The Labour Representation Committee regularly complains when it is left out in the cold.

According to Wikipedia, the CLGA was founded in 1995 by the CLPD and Labour Reform, “a centrist democratic group”, which had supported Ann Black as member of the NEC. When “private talks with trade union representatives” failed, Liz Davies of Labour Left Briefing and Mark Seddon, editor of Tribune, were also brought in. But, convinced of the left’s unelectability, the CLGA continued to support centrist candidates and rejected any moves to present a leftwing platform or support openly left candidates.

This explains how Ann Black could remain on the ‘left ticket’ for so long, despite clearly being very much on the centre of the party. She supported the move to stop tens of thousands of pro-Corbyn members from voting in the second leadership election and, as chair of the NEC disciplinary panel, gave her backing to much of the witch-hunt against the left – for instance, by voting for the suspension of Brighton and Hove CLP. Many have questioned, quite rightly, why the CLGA continues to back her.

Theory 3: It is all about Ann Black

As we have reported, Jon Lansman and CLPD secretary Pete Willsman, who have worked together in the CLPD for decades, have fallen out over Black. Just how badly became very obvious at the CLPD’s March 3 annual general meeting. Clearly having thoroughly internalised the centre-left strategy, Pete Willsman continues to insist that Black should be included on the CLGA slate. When his own CLPD executive committee voted (by a majority of one) against her inclusion a few months back, he decided to ignore the decision and campaign for her.

On the morning of the AGM, a rumour was doing the rounds that Lansman would turn up in order to graciously announce his withdrawal from the general secretary race. If true, he clearly changed his mind. He did not even show up. But his supporters were a visible presence. After a long list of worthy but boring speakers (which pushed all normal motions submitted off the agenda), Lansman’s NEC ally, Christine Shawcroft, presented an emergency motion, which sought to remove Pete Willsman as CLPD secretary and force immediate new elections to the position (which she was apparently intending to contest).

The motion criticised as “unacceptable” the delay in putting together a slate for the NEC elections in the summer:

A draft slate was not opposed by CLPD, yet during February attempts were made to overturn it with biased and incomplete emails around the executive, and threats to take it to the AGM. All in the name of keeping someone on the slate [ie, Ann Black] who has consistently voted against us in the last two years, often in ways very damaging to the leader. Now the two-month delay means that those on the final slate are already on the back foot, struggling to make up time. This has happened because of a lack of basic democratic accountability in CLPD’s organisation.

The motion was ruled out of order (on the basis that it was “not an emergency”), but it took a vote that needed two recounts before that decision was accepted. And, of course, it served another purpose: to justify the fact that Jon Lansman single-handedly leaked a list of the nine NEC candidates supported by Momentum to the national press. Ann Black was not on it, of course.

In our view, Ann Black should certainly not be on any leftwing list. But then she should have never been on it in the first place! She had been supported by Lansman and Willsman for many years – and, no, she did not turn into a centrist overnight. She had always been one.

By kicking her off the left slate, Lansman seems to have been acting in line with the party leadership. After all, the NEC officers group (which has a clear a pro-Corbyn majority) risked media ridicule when they shut down a meeting to elect a new chair of the national policy forum, because Ann Black was sure to win it.

Pete Willsman, however, did not seem to get the message. We wonder how long the deeply divided CLPD can keep going.

Theory 4: Lansman ‘wants to break the union link’

This is where the contradictions start to mount up. It is one thing to stand against a leftwing union representative. If you present yourself as the serious, credible alternative candidate of the political centre, you might have a chance of getting the rightwing unions on the NEC behind you.

But Lansman has gone one further with his proposal to have the general secretary elected by the party membership as a whole. We very much oppose it. It sounds democratic, but really it is not. It would actually create two rival centres of power. We have seen under McNicol’s tenure how destructive the general secretary can be. Having direct elections to the post would not prevent this situation occurring again – it would though guarantee endemic conflict between Labour Party HQ, the NEC and the leaders’ office. No, the general secretary should remain directly accountable to the NEC. Once the numbers on the NEC had changed in favour of the pro-Corbyn left, McNicol’s time was up. And that is how it should be.

Lansman’s proposal is also very risky from his point of view, as it surely is bound to alienate all unions affiliated to the Labour Party. They see it as their historic right to fill a proportion of leadership positions, so why would they vote for him to become the next general secretary if he is proposing to change that? Especially as his NEC ally and fellow Momentum director, Christine Shawcroft, used an angry Facebook post to declare: “It is time to support disaffiliation of the unions from the Labour Party.”

This came as a complete surprise to us. To our knowledge, she had never put forward such a line before. And it also came as a shock to Jeremy Corbyn, whose spokesperson described that statement as “a heat-of-the-moment remark”:

There is almost no-one in the entire Labour Party who supports any kind of breaking of the link with the trade unions. Even to say it’s a minority view would be exaggerating it: it’s a completely marginal view that has no support whatever. I don’t think it even represents her view.

Shawcroft has indeed deleted the comment. Some claim that she was not totally out of tune with Jon Lansman here, even if Momentum was quick to distance itself from her statement. In his candidacy statement Lansman talks about wanting to “listen to our trade union affiliates” and “work hard to strengthen Labour’s trade union link”. But he has also gone to the media to express “dissatisfaction that the role [of general secretary] should be chosen behind closed doors by Labour’s NEC, which in practice would mean a deal struck between major trade unions for their preferred candidate”. However, to interpret this as a desire on Lansman’s part to see the unions disaffiliate is a bad case of clutching at straws.

True, the union link seems to have been a point of discussion among his allies and there is certainly room for democratic reform when it comes to the unions’ role in the Labour Party. For a start, instead of union general secretaries casting their union’s bloc vote at the Labour conference, we call for the vote to be divided on a proportional basis according to the political balance in the delegation.

But calling for the link to be broken is entirely wrong-headed. If Labour is to become the party of the whole class, then clearly it must become the umbrella organisation for all trade unions, socialist groups and pro-working class partisans. All unions should affiliate and all union members should pay the political levy.

Theory 5: Jon Lansman is the good guy

This is almost as hard to swallow as scenario 4. But bear with us.

Shawcroft’s outburst on Facebook actually came about after the March 17 meeting of the NEC’s disciplinary panel, of which she is now chair. The disciplinary panel is made up of the entire NEC – or, more precisely, of those NEC members who can be bothered to show up. It is the committee that decides if disciplinary charges have any merit – and should therefore be sent to the National Constitutional Committee for further investigation.

The NCC consists of 11 members, chosen by party conference for a two-year term. Four are elected by CLP delegates, six by the unions and one by affiliated socialist societies. Last year, the CLGA candidates, Emina Ibrahim and Anna Dyer, won overwhelmingly in the CLP section. The other two CLP positions are up for election at this year’s conference, but for now the NCC clearly remains in the hands of the right. And it is questionable how ‘left’ the CLGA candidates are. Emina Ibrahim, for example, was supposed to be the alibi leftie on the three-person NCC panel at Tony Greenstein’s expulsion hearing – and despite the obvious democratic shortcomings, lack of natural justice and due process in the accusations against him, she voted in favour of him being expelled. For being rude.

As far as we can tell, Christine Shawcroft has used her new position as chair of the disciplinary panel to argue for the dismissal of all cases brought before it – and against their referral to the NCC. Exactly right. Once your case is in front of the NCC with its current composition – if you are a leftwinger – you can kiss your membership card goodbye. Next to their access to the national press, this is probably the most potent weapon the right in the party machine still has. We support the demand that all 18 cases currently in front of the NCC should be referred back to the NEC’s disciplinary panel.

But at the March 17 meeting it seems that despite her best efforts to dismiss all the cases in front of the committee (there were a few dozen, we understand) the majority voted for three cases to be referred to the NCC, despite the evidence being “far from compelling”, as NEC member Darren Williams complains (see below).

Interestingly, Shawcroft wrote on Facebook that a certain Jon Lansman supported her; whereas Jennie Formby did the opposite:

Christine Shawcroft screenshot

I must admit to a certain scepticism when I first read this. Shawcroft did, after all, support Jon Lansman in the middle of his undemocratic coup by becoming Momentum’s director and did not speak up when he continued to ride roughshod over the members by imposing his own constitution. She also previously voted to refer Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth to the NCC. She irresponsibly split from Labour Briefing journal to set up her own Original Labour Briefing – without explaining the politics behind it.

But then she was backed up by fellow NEC member Darren Williams on Facebook. We cannot stress enough how unusual this is for both of them:

Darren William screenshot

In the discussion thread underneath, Christine Shawcroft then wrote:

unions sticking it... Christine

After being questioned if this was a systematic voting pattern of the representatives of the major unions and if Jennie Formby has indeed been part of that pattern, comrade Williams clarified: “I think there has been undue caution sometimes about speaking up for members facing questionable charges, probably due to a fear of being seen to be contributing to Labour’s supposed ‘anti-Semitism problem’.”

Ever since she threw her hat in the ring, Jennie Formby has been at the forefront of the right wing’s radar. She has been accused of “acting with anti-Semitic intent” by Labour Against Anti-Semitism – an attack which Unite has quite rightly termed a “malicious smear”. A smear which has, of course, been picked up and repeated by the entire press. She clearly feels the need to bend the stick in the other direction to have a chance of being elected. On March 3, she tweeted: Jennie Formby

But if it is true that she systematically votes to refer disciplinary cases to the NCC, that is a different matter altogether. We are told that Formby, in this instance, did not vote at all, but basically left the room repeatedly, so that she would not have to cast a vote. Apparently, all trade union representatives at that meeting (except the Transport Salaried Staff Association) voted to refer the three cases to the NCC. And, apparently, Jon Lansman voted against that.

Many members expected that, with the NEC finally having a pro-Corbyn majority, the witch-hunt would come to a swift end. But it was never going to be that easy. The civil war continues. And the fault lines are continuing to shift.

Right now Labour Party members deserve to know if Unite representatives (including Jennie Formby) do systematically vote with the right when it comes to the witch-hunt against pro-Corbyn members. If that is indeed true, it would certainly shine an entirely new light on Jennie Formby and how deserving she is of the left’s support.

Of course, in the absence of openness on such important issues, we should be careful about who is spreading news and to what purpose. After all, Len McCluskey has been very outspoken in his opposition to the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt, so this reported behaviour by one of Unite reps is, to put it mildly, surprising.