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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Does Momentum's loyalty test threaten to disrupt an uneasy truce within the Labour Party?

If there is one thing that has been fuelling discontent within the Parliamentary Labour Party around Jeremy Corbyn's leadership it is the fear that his allies will use their foothold in the party to initiate a series of deselections, to purge disloyal MPs.

Corbyn and his praetorian guard have been at pains to reassure those who are considered to be disloyal that this is not going to happen, however recent developments seem to suggest otherwise.

The Observer report that the left wing pressure group Momentum is asking Labour parliamentary contenders to sign a contract that ties them to the “political objectives” set out in the organisation’s constitution to secure its support in upcoming selection battles.

They says that the 13-point “political accord for Momentum-backed candidates” asks candidates to “work to ensure the Labour manifesto (subject to future policy development) is fully implemented once Labour are in government”. Included in the signed contract is the commitment to “revitalise the Labour party by building on the values, energy and enthusiasm of the Jeremy for Leader campaign”.

As the paper says, some Labour MPs are known to be alarmed by the move, following an attempt by Labour activists to unseat the leader of Haringey council last month:

Claire Kober fought off a challenge to win reselection in her ward, but it was seen as a warning that Momentum plans to support candidates that back Jeremy Corbyn at all levels of the party.

One Labour MP, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It reflects a Stalinist approach to politics that Momentum would come up with such a contract for candidates. It has worrying implications for our democracy that there could be MPs in parliament who have signed away their right to independent judgment,” he said.

The chair of Momentum, Jon Lansman told the Observer that he would back a move to ensure MPs needed the support of 66% of their local Labour and trade union branches to be automatically reselected as an MP, rather than a simple majority under current rules.

“I don’t think that any hardworking MP has anything to fear,” he said. “Having greater say in election is not about deselection, it is about greater accountability.”

There are many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who would disagree,
One of the saddest sights of 2017 has been the string of capable Labour MPs who openly (and rightly) rejected Corbyn and McDonnell's leadership trying to row back after the election. It's not their party any more. Labour is now controlled by people who believe in revolutionary socialism and don't believe in parliamentary democracy. They haven't changed their minds about anything in fifty years of adult life, have never compromised and never countenanced civilised debate. This approach, allied with a perfect storm of Conservative incompetence and Brexit confusion, has taken them to the verge of power. They'll attempt to seal the deal with mass deselection of moderates prior to the next General Election, and it'll be up to the British people to decide if they want to follow them off the cliff or listen to more honest, reasonable voices. But those voices have to speak up, and speak up loudly.
If ever there was an opportunity for a moderate voice of the centre left to be heard it is now - but I suspect the Brexit din is drowning it out. Perhaps shouting a bit louder is in order rather than quiet contemplation of a political navel???

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