The row over proposed new rules for choosing Jeremy Corbyn’s successor is threatening to turn into a full-blown war between the unions and the far-left.
The NEC failed to agree a new system on Tuesday, and a compromise agreement has been drawn up for discussion this weekend at a meeting ahead of annual conference.
But that agreement hands even more power to the big unions and is likely to be rejected by far-left groups like Momentum.
Under the new arrangements, leadership candidates would have to be nominated by 10% of MPs, 5% of Constituency Labour Parties AND 3 affiliates – including at least 2 trade unions and comprising at least 5% of affiliated members.
This makes it harder, not easier, to get nominated – which is the opposite of what grassroots members want.
Only Corbyn and Andy Burnham would have been nominated in the 2015 leadership election if this system had been in place.
If the new rules are adopted it is hard to see how as future leadership election would have any more than three or four candidates. That would deny Momentum members – and many party members who don’t belong to the group – a wide range of candidates to chose from.
The new system would essentially be controlled by the large unions. If candidates couldn’t get the support of at least one of Unite, Unison, the GMB or USDAW it would be impossible to get nominated and onto the ballot paper.
Unite and Unison represent roughly 25-30% of affiliated members each, the GMB around 20% and USDAW around 10%, so these four unions comprise 80-90% of the total affiliated process.
This 5% threshold essentially shuts out the smaller unions including the CWU, TSSA, ASLEF, Bakers Union and FBU. They would only be able to get a candidate onto the ballot paper if one of the large unions also nominated them. So they would essentially be controlled and led by whoever the large unions choose to nominate.
Imagine a situation in which one candidate was nominated by Unite plus a smaller union; a second candidate by the GMB and Unison; a third candidate by USDAW and Community.
It would then be mathematically impossible for another candidate to be validly nominated and get on the ballot paper.
There is no way that far-left NEC members on the so-called JC9 slate – who actually owe their allegiance to Jon Lansman and Peter Willsman – will back a system that gives the big unions the power to veto the next leader. But that may not matter if the unions press the issue at conference where they hold the advantage in votes.