Dozens including former Corbyn spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin have signed a petition calling for Momentum to introduce an “open and democratic” selection process for candidates in Labour elections, and to “democratise as an organisation – for example, by having a majority rather than a minority of the National Coordinating Group elected by rank-and-file members”.
The move reflects fury amongst Momentum members over the decision of Jon Lansman and the group’s leadership not to back Willsman in light of his taped comments denying the extent of antisemitism in Labour.
The move was swiftly endorsed by a handful of Corbyn supporters including Owen Jones, but an angry backlash followed from local Momentum groups and more extreme far-left figures.
A number of local groups, such as those in the Wirral and in Lansman’s own Southwark branch, simply instructed their members to vote for Willsman anyway to “avoid splitting the left vote”. Welsh Labour Grassroots – a Momentum affiliate led by NEC member Darren Williams who faced his own antisemitism controversies – went further, saying Momentum’s national leadership had made “a mistake” and that Willsman “deserves better than to be abandoned”.
More extreme figures attacked Lansman directly. Jackie Walker, a former Momentum Vice-Chair who was suspended from the Labour Party over her comments that Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade”, warned Momentum members to “keep a very close eye” on Jon Lansman as he will “get rid of anybody he sees as an impediment to his personal project”.
As well as publicly supporting Willsman, former Momentum official Christine Shawcroft told allies Lansman had been “wrong” to withdraw support from him and said “let’s worry about whatever democratic reforms we need after we’ve got the JC9 in”. Shawcroft was herself forced to resign as chair of Labour’s disciplinary committee for supporting a suspended council candidate alleged to have denied the Holocaust.
This anger has not abated days on from Momentum’s original decision to drop Willsman, and could now be the basis of a real threat to Jon Lansman’s leadership of the organisation.