Delegates to the General Committee (GC) meeting at Brighton Pavilion, a bastion of Corbynism on the south coast, were told when they arrived on Thursday that the three Momentum candidates for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) were the only ones the CLP could chose to nominate.
The contest to elect three additional NEC members chosen by party members has the potential to tilt the balance of power on Labour’s governing body decisively in favour of the Labour leader. Most delegates were expecting to move a variety of candidates at the GC (Eddie Izzard is also standing, amongst others), although few doubted the Momentum candidates would easily win the CLP’s nomination. Even so, the ruthlessness with which officers ensured that outcome was never in doubt is a reminder that the future of the Labour party could belong to the faction that is most prepared to makes use of chicanery and sleight of hand. Long before Thursday’s meeting, delegates were informed that NEC nominations would be on the GC agenda.
So they were surprised when the CLP secretary announced before it took place that Jon Lansman, Rachel Garnham and Yasmin Dar were the only candidates they could chose from. That is because branch secretaries had been encouraged to include NEC nominations on their branch agendas – and key Momentum-friendly branch officers in those branches were primed to propose nominating Lansman et al. Still with us? If you’ve read this far you might not be surprised to learn that in some cases branch members felt it wasn’t made clear what positions were being filled. In others, they say, it was raised as ‘Any Other Business’ at the end of the meetings.
Given the confusion, some Brighton Pavilion branches simply refused to nominate. But two did – and that was enough for the CLP chair to assert on Thursday that the only NEC names members could nominate were those proposed by branches or affiliates. The chair then asked delegates to approve this fait accompli, which they duly did. Even so, some disgruntled delegates felt officers had displayed considerable chutzpah by stitching up a contest without having to endure the inconvenience of a proper vote.
Not unreasonably, some Brighton delegates wanted to debate the merits of every NEC candidate on Thursday and take part in a vote to decide which of them their CLP should nominate. They point out Lansman has spent three decades campaigning for more democracy in the Labour Party. Perhaps they could ask him to raise their concerns about Thursday’s vote if he is elected to the NEC.