Jennie Formby will be confirmed as Labour’s next General Secretary on Tuesday when the NEC rubber-stamps her appointment.
That should be a moment of triumph for Jeremy Corbyn, who now has total control of the party machine. But the General Secretary contest has also exposed deep divisions in the hard-left alliance that has kept him in post for two and a half years – and that should give the Labour leader cause for concern.
The overwhelming majority of NEC members will endorse Formby over her only short-listed rival, former National Union of Teachers leader Christine Blower.
Formby will win the support of many moderate members of the party’s governing body, who have decided that Jeremy Corbyn should be allowed the General Secretary of his choice.
Formby’s assent to the summit of the Labour party was assured the moment Momentum founder Jon Lansman abandoned his own bid for the job.
In retrospect, the most remarkable aspect of Lansman’s campaign was that it lasted as long as it did. Most informed observers took the view that each day of his bid to become General Secretary would be his last – and were proved wrong for 10 days running.
That 10-day period has nevertheless opened up deep fissures in the alliance that has sustained the Labour leader in office from the moment he was first elected in September 2015.
Just as Leon Trotsky once declared it was “impossible to be right against the party”, Lansman has discovered that no true Corbynite can defy the wishes of the boss without it being regarded as anything other than an act of treachery.
Lansman isn’t a Leninist – but like Lenin he takes the views that trade unions are poor substitutes for a powerful party. He has only ever regarded trade union control of Labour as a means to an end – as his own record demonstrates.
In 1981, when he was the key co-ordinating figure in the left’s attempt to seize power inside Labour, he backed a massive extension of the power of the union block vote.
But he was open about his motives for doing so – never seeking to disguise the fact he regarded it as the most direct route to advance the agenda of the extra-parliamentary left.
In 1982, when the unions turned on the left with a vengeance the limitations of Lansman’s strategy were exposed and he began his long period in the political wilderness.
Churchill is hardly likely to be one of Lansman’s political heroes but the two men do have at least one thing in common. When Churchill left office in 1929 the future war-time Prime Miniser looked finished politically and spent a decade being mocked, ignored or simply dismissed as a relic from a bygone age. History shows that Churchill became a man to be reckoned with.
But Lansman, who returned from the political wilderness in the summer of 2015, may have over-reached himself.
Trade unionists on the left were shocked by remarks made by his ally, Momentum executive member Christine Shawcroft, who openly questioned the very idea of union affiliation to the Labour party.
They were appalled because they regard that link as sacrosanct and surprised because they believe it’s self-evident trade unions must always have a say in how the party they founded is run.
But anyone who is familiar with Lansman’s activities in the Labour party thirty years ago – and the views he has espoused since – would have been neither shocked or surprised.
His cameo appearance in the General Secretary contest is likely to seem more significant tomorrow than it does today because it has highlighted the significant ideological and strategic differences that exist between Momentum and the union movement.
Those differences could be exacerbated in the coming months as Formby begins her tenure as General Secretary and Corbyn’s vocal supporters realise that Britain’s most powerful union and Momentum – now country’s fastest-growing political party – do not speak with one voice.