Far-left NEC slate candidates soft on antisemitism and soft on Brexit

The far-left slate for Labour’s upcoming NEC elections promotes candidates who have defended Ken Livingstone, claimed that antisemitism is being “systematically exaggerated” and complained about “middle class western Europeans cloaking themselves in Brexit victimhood”.

The far-left slate for Labour’s upcoming NEC elections promotes candidates who have defended Ken Livingstone, claimed that antisemitism is being “systematically exaggerated” and complained about “middle class western Europeans cloaking themselves in Brexit victimhood”.

Seven of the slate of nine candidates are on the executive committee of vintage far-left group the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD). CLPD was instrumental in organising against attempts to secure a full debate on Brexit at last year’s Labour conference, and has repeatedly defended members accused of antisemitism, most recently by passing a motion against Ken Livingstone’s potential expulsion from the Labour Party just days before he resigned.

At least five candidates have expressed personal doubts about expulsions from the party over issues like antisemitism, and another five are likely to oppose a vote of Labour members on the party’s Brexit position.

The far-left’s list for this summer’s upcoming NEC elections was agreed after a split threatened to see two far-left slates put forward. With Red Labour backing down and falling behind the “Centre Left Grassroots Alliance” slate, organised by Momentum and the CLPD, the far-left has one set of candidates to campaign for and has avoided splitting its own vote.

The new list – detailed below – sees Huda Elmi, Navenda Mishra and Ann Henderson take up slots for the first time, to replace Rhea Wolfson who is standing down, Christine Shawcroft who was forced to resign in disgrace after defending a member accused of Holocaust denial and Ann Black who has fallen out of favour with the far-left over disagreements including her position on disciplinary cases.

Pete Willsman

Once a comrade of Jon Lansman at the helm of CLPD, Pete Willsman is rumoured to have fallen out with his old friend over struggles against Lansman’s Momentum for positions at the top of the party.

Willsman told last week’s meeting of Labour’s NEC that antisemitism allegations are linked to “our political enemies” who would not “be appeased by us bowing to their demands”. This was just a week after Willsman’s CLPD embarrassed itself by issuing a statement opposing Ken Livingstone’s expulsion over alleged antisemitism just days before he resigned.

The leadership had Willsman to thank after CLPD organised against calls for a debate on Brexit at last year’s party conference, which could have forced Jeremy Corbyn to adopt a softer stance.

A self-declared enemy of critics of Jeremy Corbyn within the party, he once said “some of our MPs deserve to be attacked” and called for them to sign loyalty pledges.

Jon Lansman

A long-time friend and ally of Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Lansman heads up Momentum as well as being a senior member of CLPD’s executive committee, and has been on Labour’s NEC since January.

While Lansman is influential across the far-left, he could not secure enough support to become Labour’s next general secretary. He was forced to end his general secretary bid after just one week after a split opened between his younger, Momentum-aligned backers and a Unite faction also backed by veteran far-left organisations like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

Lansman has himself been a target of antisemitic abuse, but has a mixed record on the subject after saying both that the problem “must be dealt with” and that it is being used “opportunistically” by critics of the Labour Party.

He is more clear on Brexit, dismissing those who call for a people’s vote on the issue as having “an agenda of undermining Jeremy”.

Yasmine Dar

Social worker Yasmine Dar has been a councillor in Manchester’s Moston ward since 2014, and joined Labour’s ruling body as part of the far-left’s slate of candidates in January this year but faced embarrassment  when her campaign presented her as having supported Jeremy Corbyn “from the start”, only for it to be revealed that she had been a vocal supporter of Andy Burnham in the 2015 leadership election.

Just over a year ago she faced criticism for speaking in front of a banner of Ayatollah Khomeini at a celebration of the Islamic revolution in Iran, where she shared a platform with a professor who has described Britain and the US as “countries controlled by Zionism”. She later claimed she was unaware of the professor’s views and condemned “antisemitism in all its forms”.

Dar has however taken to Twitter on at least two occasions to express her support for a Parliamentary vote on Article 50, but it is far from clear that this would translate into support for a vote of Labour members on the party’s Brexit position.

Huda Elmi

Coventry-based former student Huda Elmi is on Momentum’s National Coordinating Group, was the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Officer of Labour Students and is a Press Correspondence officer at CLPD.

Elmi has in the past slammed the party’s youth wing Young Labour, saying that BAME members “felt invisible within the structures of the organisation”. She has recently called for a successor to Labour Black Sections. Black Sections proved controversial in the 1980s as they repeatedly clashed with Labour’s leadership before the party finally reformed its structures to better represent BAME members.

She has criticised calls for a members’ vote on Labour Brexit policy, saying “those obsessed with a vote at Conference want a stunt, not meaningful change” and that “conference doesn’t exist to shape policy anyway”. In another tweet, she appeared to criticise anti-Brexit campaigners, saying “I’m sick to death of middle class western Europeans cloaking themselves in Brexit victimhood”.

Rachel Garnham

University administrator Rachel Garnham joined Labour’s NEC in January, but has been a National Policy Forum rep for the Eastern region that covers her Dunstable home for longer.

Beyond the Labour Party, she is listed as an Assistant Secretary to Pete Willsman’s CLPD group with responsibility for contemporary motions. She is likely to be responsible for motions submitted by CLPD for debate at this year’s Labour conference, proposing mandatory reselections for sitting MPs.

In a report on her first NEC meeting in January she expressed her concern over “the volume of excluded members”, suggesting that she may like to see the party take a softer line on disciplinary cases.

Ann Henderson

A new addition to the left slate, Ann Henderson was one of Scotland’s first female train drivers before a career in the RMT that saw her become Assistant Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in 2007.

As Assistant Secretary, she will have been involved in a row over the STUC’s Brexit stance at its annual conference in April. She has never set out her Brexit views on the record, but her former union the RMT officially backed leave at the referendum and went so far as to join forces with UKIP donor Arron Banks to fund a Brexit campaign.

Henderson will have worked closely with other key figures on the far-left. She is an active member of the Campaign for Socialism, a Scottish far-left group that agreed to be absorbed into Jon Lansman’s Momentum in 2016, and is the Scotland Regional Organiser for Pete Willsman’s CLPD.

Navendu Mishra

New addition Navendu Mishra is an organiser for UNISON in Stockport, an activist in Unite the union and stood as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Hazel Grove constituency last year. 

As well as his ties to trade unions, Mishra is active in Momentum and helped establish the organisation’s local branch in Stockport.

Claudia Webbe

Islington councillor Claudia Webbe is a long-standing Corbyn ally and a former policy advisor to Ken Livingstone in City Hall. She recently ran to be Labour’s candidate in the Lewisham East by-election, coming a distant third.

Webbe’s relationship with Livingstone led her to write a letter published in The Guardian that defended the former Mayor’s comparison of a Jewish reporter with a Nazi concentration camp guard. She was again associated with a defence of Livingstone when CLPD, which she chairs, voted to oppose Ken Livingstone’s expulsion over alleged antisemitism just days before he resigned.

A statement on Brexit released by Webbe as part of her run for Lewisham East reveals that she is keen to stay close to the official party line, but she has previously dismissed calls for Labour to debate the issue in more detail at party conference.

Darren Williams

PCS union officer and former Cardiff councillor Darren Williams ran both Corbyn leadership campaigns in Wales and was elected to Labour’s NEC to replace Ken Livingstone after his suspension in 2016. He is also a member of CLPD’s executive committee as one of their Welsh regional organisers.

Williams has retweeted a Welsh Labour Grassroots statement that claims “the supposed extent of antisemitism within our party has been systematically exaggerated by those on the political right – with the support, sadly, of some Labour MPs – in an attempt to discredit Jeremy Corbyn”. The Red Roar also revealed that Williams had spoken in defence of Mike Sivier at a meeting of Labour’s NEC disputes panel, who was suspended for saying it “may be entirely justified” to say Tony Blair had been “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”.

Unlike many of his colleagues on the far-left slate, Williams has gone beyond the Labour leadership’s line on Brexit to add his name to a letter calling for the continuation of free movement. 

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