Turning on Labour councils, not Tory ones: the next step in the Momentum plan

by Rob Marchant

If the shenanigans which have led to widespread resignations and deselections in Labour-run Haringey council were not enough, for the hard left, this seems to be just the beginning.

Of course, the Tories must be delighted to see the spectacle of Labour eating itself, rather than them.

Enter Sir Robin Wales, leader of Newham council and whose tenure must, under any reasonable analysis, be seen as a pretty much runaway success. Four consecutive terms in office means you must have done something right with your local electorate. Indeed, Newham under Wales is exactly the kind of council that Labour should be promoting as a beacon to others across the country.

However, the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not one which seems to have ever occurred to the doyennes of Momentum.

After weeks of pressure to force Wales’ reselection in an open contest, they finally got their way and there will now be a selection process which may or may not result in his continuing as Labour’s candidate in May. Unsurprisingly, Corbynites were quick to point out that BAME and women were under-represented in directly-elected mayors (subtext: we don’t care how good you are, Robin, you’re a white bloke). This is a particularly idiotic comment when one considers that there are only a handful of such mayors in the country anyway.

The “canary in the coalmine” at national level of all this plotting was, of course, the Canary a couple of weeks back: the hard-left’s favourite conspiracy site decided that it was bored attacking the Tories and decided that laying into a successful Labour council was much more fun. “Labour council lurching from crisis to crisis” and “rotten borough” screamed the headline of the Wales/Newham hatchet job. (Special mention should go, by the way, to the wonderfully theatrical audio propaganda which accompanies the piece: with actors, the Canary has cleverly mocked up a “Radio 4” style news clip to sound “official”, with the difference that, of course, Radio 4 does generally objective and responsible journalism, rather than simply making things up.)

It is perfectly possible that, if she were to win, Rokhsana Fiaz might make a very good candidate and even mayor. We do not really have much information about her politically as yet, but she runs the respected Change Institute which works with ethnic minorities. She might even adopt a centrist, rather than Corbynite, policy stance.

The point is not this: the point is that the effective deselection of Robin Wales seems to have been carried out as a punishment beating for those of the old guard who dare to challenge the Corbyn hegemony.

The defensive tagline for this punishment beating? “more democracy”, of course: I mean, no-one can ever have too much of that, can they?

Thing is, though, it would be fine if this “more democracy” thing were a two-way street. When a Corbynite candidate – let’s take Unite’s Len McCluskey, for example – is elected by a fraction of the electorate on pitiful turnout, the “more democracy” cries inexplicably turn to deafening silence.

Neither were cries of “more democracy” heard when the party was forced to re-run its leadership election in 2016. It is almost as if, perish the thought, that “more democracy” is required when, and only when, the candidate in question is not acceptable to the party’s leadership and/or Momentum.

So, go forward, Sir Robin Wales. You have decided to take them on and for that you deserve all our support. Moderate MPs, too, need some positive examples to look to as they prepare for their own deselections, as and when they come.

It’d be kind of nice, though, if local Labourites could, you know, take the fight to the Tories, rather than spending all their energies on deselecting a decent and proven candidate? At this point there are less than three months to the election, and one of those will be taken up with the selection battle. Apart from anything else, how is Labour going to put its best foot forward in the election, if it ends up with a last-minute replacement as mayoral candidate?

The bigger concern, of course, is that the die is now cast for deselections up and down the country of non-Corbynite figures in local, national and regional government. Exactly as predicted. And exactly as denied.

To wit, three weeks ago, Momentum’s Jon Lansman apparently said there would be no campaigning for deselection. Except he didn’t. What he actually said was, “Momentum nationally [my italics] is not going to campaign to deselect any MP and we will stick by that.”

Of course! They don’t need to do anything nationally, which might be seen as victimisation. No, at national level they will suggest “reselection” in general as the way to go, and let their local branches do the bullying. More quietly.

Deselections of moderates are here. They are a fact. The only course of action now, for those who do not want to see a mass exodus of long-standing, moderate members, is to resist.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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22 Responses to “Turning on Labour councils, not Tory ones: the next step in the Momentum plan”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Although Newham has an elected Mayor,it’s an example of complacency, momentum and co will try to get candidates in Areas near by like a Dagenham,which labour lost to the BNP,and Ilford which was always Tory, and could lose seats there,
    Hopefully I’m wrong,

  2. John Wall says:

    Never believe something until it’s been officially denied!

  3. Alf says:

    I think most of the so-called “Zombie Blairites” will leave of their own volition. Perhaps to join a new millionaire-backed party?

  4. Peter Carabine says:

    Corbyn can only win with swing voters in marginal seats. These Momentum events hitting all the media not just the Tory Brexit paper rags are alienating needed voters because it confirms to the conflicted voters especially in the SE and East Midlands that yes behind Corbyn there is a more darker force , class war driven, ideologue based and unsuited to attract the voters Corbynites need most. In the end some sort of need for a centre/centre left movement is inevitable.

  5. Jon P reid says:

    the idea that most of the moderate Councillors in Newham are blairites is silly

  6. Alan Griffiths says:

    There are two CLPs in Newham.

    I am the Secretary of the one that meets.

  7. paul barker says:

    Britain already has a Centrist, Social Democratic, Liberal Party, not backed by Millionaires. Labour moderates should either join The Liberal Democrats or just stop doing Party Politics. To back Labour is to promote Momentum in the long run, you are not getting “Your” Party back.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Paul barker, when David Steel wanted them to join,and toy Jenkins wanted to ,he suggested to Roy Jenkins to foe the social democrats then, after a few years the liberals would swallow them up

    You’ve got to be tactical, David Owen who opposed this new to keep his Plymouth seat, where it eas the working class who voted SDP, a merger with the liberals would see the seat go back to labour

    John Woodcock, Ben Bradshaw Wes Streeting, Peter Kyle ,besides, any labour Remainer up north who joined the libdems would lose their seat,

    One thing that helped the libdems was winning council seats in ao king class areas, I’d even say Hornsey where Lynne featherstine was,was middle class,how many Councillors are there in Lewisham ,look at labour Councillors in places lsbour won’t form councils, they know, they’re not going to get deselected and couldn’t care less about momentum,

  9. Mike Homfray says:

    This is a particularly stupid article.
    In fact the dissatisfaction with Wales is more that he can’t grasp that people think it’s time for him to go. It’s not a left right thing.
    And its very likely that the mayoralty will be abolished and not before time too

  10. Dave Roberts says:

    The situation in Newham is a little more complicated that either this article or those posting here seem to know. Wales has done a fairly good job but has been in position for four terms and has a very abrasive and dictatorial style. He is very unpopular and is now the target by a group of Pakistanis in the same way that Bangladeshis ran neighbouring Tower Hamlets for many years either through the Labour Party or the independents around Lutfur Rahman.

    This isn’t about Momentum or the left it’s simply an up and coming group of Asians who have hit a glass ceiling in terms of personal and political advancement in the shape of the executive mayoral system who have put up the money for a firm of specialist solicitors who have been successful in getting the trigger vote.

    The same thing has now happened next door and a Bangladeshi whip round has raised money to employ the same firm of solicitors to unseat John Biggs who, once again, is personally unpopular and is standing in the way of younger ambitious Bangladeshis. All in all it’s very interesting.

  11. Peter Carabine says:

    Paul , Labour never could nor will succeed as a hard Leftist party, It has never won in its 118 yrs history on such a ticket. Atlee , Wilson and Tony Blair appealed to the ‘broad church’ of voters; Corbyn is not perceived in that light. His appeal with voters over 47 is weak, his appeal in all the English swing seats which Blair won is too little to form a majority and this especially so in the East Midlands to the South East.

    Moreover he is not getting the self employed, trades man and skilled working class and employees in the private sector services. He is not a uniting or popular statesman. Finally his shocking Brexit position is unforgivable as he colludes with May’s Hard Right position and tanks our economy as we leave Europe hitting working class regions. Many Voters in Remain seats like Canterbury will think twice about his retreat from the worse event in UK history since 1941.

  12. John P Reid says:

    Mike Homfray the left are using his unpopuality to ignore the views of locals to make it a left/right thing

  13. John P Reid says:

    Peter Carradine
    firstly the word colludes” implies he’s either an Appeaser or hes sold out,sold out to what democracy, the public voted for Brexit that means leaving the single market
    and what is hard right about not having a open border employment policy it allows business men to under cut bend the rule son Job and Knock on the mimimum wage, and, there’s nothing hard right about stopping that

    you’re right in many ways, although Wilson won in 1974 by fault with any liberal votes gained by Tory voters, voting liberal in protest, and labour spending so much Money in March 1974 to get re elected in October, it put laobur out of pwer for years

    the other problem labour face ss losing working class hearltands like Stoke, with first Blair saying they’ve no where else to go, and then Corbyn thinking he could afford to lose Copeland if he gains Chelsea, but then he needs to Win Rochester and Strood and we all know what Emily Thornberry thinks of people who have St Georges flags on their council home sin that area

  14. John P Reid says:

    Had Hugh Gaitskell lived,he would never allowed Militant tendency to join the Labour Party in 1964′ Tony Benn to get so powerful or allow trots or those from the workers keys revolutionary Party to gain entry,
    Barbara Castle would have pushed through in place of strife,and it would have been labours policy to sell council homes, and much of callaghans private public partnership to have unions in boards from the 1979 manifesto, would have seen off Thatcherism,a strident opponent of Aparthied, there would have been now Black caucus to the Labour Party, driving division
    But unilateralism,or Europe still may have caused a problem,
    So in his death the seed of the hard left taking over and neatly destroying the Labour Party happened
    Now who’s fault is it, that the hard left took over now
    ed Miliband, for convincing the party,labour list in 2010 as it wasn’t left wing enough?

    blair for giving the left something to unite around with Iraq, Blair not re inventing the party with think tanks when it was close to burn out in 2007
    Or Blair’s plan the white working class had no where else to go,so Blair in wooing the private sector,non union job,or self employed voter in 1997′ could afford to lose working class votes till they found Ukip, then Ed Miliband and Gordon brown at first thought, they could keep the private sector middle class, and get back the working class, with a few quotes like control immigration on a Mug,or a british jobs for British workers, then gave up and assumed,there’s a mythical public sector worker, or stay at home mum, who had a pay freeze, for the past 7 years who’d be enough, to deliver Ed Miliband to office,

    But mostly the moderates who’d dominated the party for 25 years were burnt out by 2015 and the hard left saw their chance
    Thatcherism could have been prevented, had the moderates not let Wilson let benn take over
    Labour was lucky to get the protest vote that had gone from Libdem, to Ukip in 2015′ go to labour in 2017 it won’t be there next time, if labour doesn’t stop the hard left, 2022 could be 1983 all over again,

    If labour thinks it can keep Dagenham and win Basildon and Clacton and Thurrock, labour is delusional, even with Demographic changes it may win Ian Duncan Smiths seat ,in Chingford

  15. Dave Roberts says:

    And some news just in! Left Foot Forward is deleting comments critical of Corbyn. All of a sudden I’m a non person. Shades of Stalinism and Seamus Milne.

  16. Tafia says:

    Just had a four hour argument with a high ranking Manchester Momentum activist (who I know personally from my Forces days). He has absolutely no idea about devolution , how it works, policy implications etc – and the fact that a lot of what Corbyn says about the NHS, tuition fees, social housing etc is only applicable to Engand. All his answers were ‘If we have to, we’ll row back devolution whether or not Wales or Scotland or NI want to row it back. We will force what we want on them if we have to because it’s for the greater good’.

    Think the devolved regions might just resist that a bit.

  17. Alan Griffiths says:

    John P Reid says: February 21, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Had Hugh Gaitskell lived,he would never allowed Militant tendency to join the Labour Party in 1964′

    “Militant” was first published in the early 1960s, but the small group around Ted Grant had infiltrated Labour years earlier. They didn’t begin to grow until the SLL/WRP were expelled and the IS/SWP walked out.

  18. Dave Roberts says:

    I seem to recall that there was a major purge as early as 1965 under Harold Wilson’s first government.

  19. Tafia says:

    Momentum now appears to be infiltrating some of the Welsh CLPs. A few little spats in Ceredigion already. My money is this is linked to students from England at Aberystwyth Uni, and will start to manifest in Bangor, Cardiff & Wrecsam next.

  20. John P reid says:

    Tafia was that welsh CLPs moribund?

    the way I see it was there was a gerneation of Gordon Brown/Ed miliband era ,maybe rejoined the party in 2008, for a decade and are burnt out,so the new angry young man, not quite student politics, but un aware enough to think it wasn’t Ed miliband not being left wing enough being the reason he lost, but there’s actual a market out there for almost revolutionary politics to break the system, of people actually wanting to devalue the pound as away of low inflation to demand a new low interest economy where labour don’t have to worry about inflation, when there’s massive increase in spending

    I feel that with the Tories collapsing Labour region can afford to not care about ever winning councils in the working class areas outside the Cities, and not care about the structure of constituencies they don’t think they can win ,and momentums lack of concern for the rules of those CLPs see them take over and if they don’t get the paper candidates in place and those CLPS get in debt then region will pretend it wasn’t momentums fault and just ignore it, but one day if labour want to have a overall majority they’ve got to twig that the need to win constituencies with white working class vote and also, not lose seats in sunderland to the tories

    but how long will those Momentum types hang on for they may win, a councillor or two, but if they don’t like the student ed miliband types before them, they may think the electorate were wrong for not voting labour and disappear or they may like the Bennites take a generation to twig they’ll have to junk their ideas,if they want power again

  21. John P reid says:

    I wonder if there’ll be a case of momentum take over CLPS that don’t even have labour councillors cos the area full of white working class people, who just wont vote labour while it hate them, and if those momentum people actually want power co s they dislike what the tories stand for will twig that momentum like Blairites or the Emily thornberry era that separated the two, all dislike the white working class and as such, and those momentum CLPs that ignore the rules on have ad hoc meetings, putting motions or ,cancelling meetings when they know they’ll lose a vote or not backing labour candidates or canvassing in non labour seats or supporting policies against the leadership ,that don’t see labour win, and result labour members leaving as they feel bullied out, and when they clear off the CLPS they got hold of, will be in even worse states than they were when they started

  22. John P reid says:

    Militant wanted power to run councils get their preferred MPs in who would get into government,at any costs, momentum want power but not of councils, power of their local parties to be a protest group, then don’t want to take over all councils, they don’t car if they can make money out of it, if anything CLPD Hackney/Harringey labour and unite are the new militant

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