The results of recent internal elections in three Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) in Merseyside show the advance of socialist ideas – but also that there is still much to do to create a mass party that truly represents the interests of the working class. Mike Hogan of Merseyside Momentum reports on the battle to transform the Labour Party.
The results of recent internal elections in three Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) in Merseyside show the advance of socialist ideas – but also that there is still much to do to create a mass party that truly represents the interests of the working class.
In Wallasey, despite the local party being suspended, 95 members came to a CLP meeting to elect delegates to conference. The meeting was only able to take place as a result of pressure from the officers elected at last year’s AGM. At the meeting seven left-wing delegates were elected unopposed, whilst nominations were made for the left-wing candidates for the Conference Arrangements Committee and National Constitutional Committee. This is a great victory for local grassroots activists, who have faced not only suspension but also vilification after false accusations of homophobia – charges that have now been dropped for lack of evidence.
The results in Liverpool Wavertree have been the subject of articles in the media that have stretched from exaggeration and spin to outright lies. What has made the ring-wing Labour establishment unhappy is that all but one of the new officers describe themselves as consistent supporters of Jeremy Corbyn – that is, that they have backed him through thick and thin, especially 12 months ago in the midst of the “chicken coup”.
The Wavertree AGM was attended by 163 members, with the Left winning by a margin of around 10 on most votes. In comparison, last year the attendance was 49 and the highest left vote was 21. This year, left candidates obtained four times that.
The Liverpool Echo approached one officer, Roy Bentham – a respected campaigner against the construction blacklist, a member of the Unite Executive, and a member of the Spirit of Shankly, a prominent opponent of the Sun (or Scum as it is known in Liverpool) – for comments. Roy, as an individual, said the vote was significant. He felt the local MP, Luciana Berger, should join others and apologise to Corbyn, and he pointed out that before future important votes she would have to consult the new Executive. Roy’s statement should not have been controversial, as Berger states that she does consult members, and especially with the local CLP. The only problem is that, in the future, the Executive would object if she again voted to bomb a country or rebel against the leader.
In a few days these events had been transformed into a false story that the Executive had threatened the MP with reselection unless she did what she was told. This was despite a joint statement by the MP and the new secretary stating they would work together for a Labour government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
The article in the Daily Mail sought to personalise the issue of reselection, focusing on the MP as a victim, not as a representative who should be accountable and subject to democracy. Others have said they do not want the MP beholden to a small group. I would agree: Labour MPs should be accountable to the local party as a whole; in Wavertree this is 1,800 members, the majority of whom have joined since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. In fact, the party could grow larger than that; in the last two years there has been no concerted recruitment campaign.
In an incredible piece of hypocrisy, Dan Hodges in the Mail on Sunday claimed that Luciana Berger is being bullied, before proceeding to call her “useless” because she has not done what he demands of her – to effectively sabotage the Labour Party. It shows that for the capitalist press, Labour MPs are only useful when they are rebelling against the elected left-wing leader. This is reminiscent of Thatcher, who demanded that Kinnock witch-hunt the Militant. At the time Kinnock was warned that this could only damage Labour’s chances, but he followed Maggie’s advice and subsequently lost two elections.
The CLP next door, Riverside, however, showed that the party machine will continue to resist any way they can. The CLP had been holding all-members meetings up to this year, when the Regional Labour Party ordered the party to revert to a delegate-based meeting. This was in response to an anonymous document accusing the Left of organising to unseat the MP, Louise Ellman. One of the crimes activists have been accused of is trying to recruit Muslims and black people who had taken part in the local Black Lives Matter movement to the party.
Using councillors in the wards where the Left was weak, along with five right-wing CLP delegates from the Co-operative Party, the Right organised and scored a victory. It is significant that the councillors organised against the Left, as they are fearful of opposition to their policy of passing on and carrying out Tory cuts. The delegate system also worked against new members and affiliates, who were unsure of how they could be delegated from their trade union.
These three sets of results – on the one hand – demonstrate the advances that our movement has made recently, as a consequence of the inspiring Corbyn campaign in the general election, which has acted to mobilise and galvanise grassroots members and activists. On the other hand, they also highlight the work to be done going forwards in terms of getting organised, reclaiming the Labour Party, and transforming it into an unstoppable vehicle for socialist ideas. This is the challenge that lies ahead for workers and youth.