From today (November 30th), Labour Party members will receive ballots for the latest round of elections to the National Executive Committee (NEC). These elections will see three more Constituency Labour Party (CLP) representatives voted on to the Executive, as part of a deal endorsed by the party conference in September. New Socialist is calling on all socialists in the Labour Party to vote for all three candidates from the left slate - Jon Lansman, Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham.
The three new CLP representatives aren’t the only new additions to the NEC, however. Along with newly-elected Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, another trade union seat has been added to the Executive. This seat will be taken up by a representative for the right-of-centre Usdaw union. Labour First recently estimated that the political balance on the NEC was even, with 18 seats apiece to the pro-Corbyn and anti-Corbyn factions. It should be noted, of course, that not all representatives on the NEC vote along factional lines without fail.
Nevertheless, assuming the aforementioned calculation is correct, a victory for the three left candidates in the new CLP seats would alter the balance on the NEC to 21-19 in favour of the pro-Corbyn faction; an overall net gain of two (Richard Leonard replaces the leftwing interim Scottish leader Alex Rowley, since suspended from the party, on the Executive). Clearly, then, this would give the left only a slender advantage. Should the left fail to take all three of the new CLP seats, however, it would hand the Labour right an important foothold - not to mention a propaganda victory of which they would not hesitate to take full advantage. It is incumbent upon supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, therefore, to vote for all three of the official, Momentum-backed left candidates.
It seems that there will be other pro-Corbyn candidates on the ballot paper. These candidates stand no realistic chance of victory; voting for them can only strengthen the right’s chances of winning at least one of the new NEC seats by splitting the left vote. The supposedly ‘independent’ slate, running in opposition to the left, are in reality the candidates of Labour First and Progress. The cack-handed attempts to obfuscate this reality have been somewhat farcical. Regardless, the individuals running on the ‘independent’ slate may have notable personal virtues, and they may pledge to work hard for members. However, these NEC elections present a key opportunity to democratise the party, and so it is crucial that voters look beyond the personalities of the candidates in question and instead consider whether they will advance that cause.
As we wrote in our analysis of the deal brokered by the NEC and the party leadership, and subsequently endorsed by conference in September: “The changes put forward should provide the left with a working majority on the NEC. But it will be a fragile working majority, which will force the left on the committee to take a strategic, deal-making approach.” It is worth reminding ourselves of this reality. If the left is to take advantage and make effective use of any majority it manages to obtain on the NEC, it will need to be disciplined, organised, united and consistent.
This is where the candidacy of Jon Lansman is particularly important. Lansman is a controversial figure in some quarters of the Labour left, specifically for his role in the internal conflict which briefly wracked Momentum earlier this year. We do not propose to revisit this in any further detail here. Regardless, we note that under Lansman’s stewardship Momentum has established itself as a highly effective internal and external campaigning organisation, not least during June’s general election campaign where, in some marginal constituencies, it was forced to fill in for the official Labour Party machine. Its social media campaigning, likewise, also played an important role in Labour’s impressive general election performance earlier this year.
Lansman himself has been a stalwart and senior organiser within the Labour left for nearly four decades. A protégé of the late Tony Benn and veteran activist in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Lansman’s understanding of the Labour Party’s structures - and their shortcomings, and how they need to be changed to empower the party membership - is second to none. The left on Labour’s NEC, should it manage to obtain a majority on the body, will need strong leadership and hard-headed strategic nous if it is to use that majority effectively. It is our view that Jon Lansman is better equipped than just about anyone on the Labour left to provide them. It is essential, therefore, that he is elected along with Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham.
Democratising and opening up the Labour Party, given the somewhat ossified nature of its bureaucracy, was always going to be an unavoidably long-term process. We should not lose sight of its necessity, however. For ‘Corbynism from Below’ to take root in the Labour Party, it needs a Corbynism from above, and a vote for Dar, Garnham and Lansman is not only a vote for left candidates who will be loyal to the leadership, but also a vote for democratisation. For those of us dedicated to reshaping the party into a vehicle for socialist transformation, a victory for the left slate in this round of NEC elections would represent a modest but important step towards that ultimate goal. New Socialist strongly urges Labour Party socialists to vote accordingly.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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