Labour’s civil war is currently playing out at a local level, with the right-wing maneuvering in order to seize control of CLPs. The scene is set for a sharp struggle at annual conference. The left must organise and go on the offensive.
On Twitter last Friday afternoon, 9 July, one could find renowned right-wing troll Luke Akehurst bragging about “Momentum” losing control of yet another CLP (Constituency Labour Party).
Unfortunately, Akehurst was not jumping for joy without basis. After months of wrangling and maneuvering, the right-wing have finally managed to stitch up the vote and install their disagreeable gang of right-wing headbangers at the top of Poplar & Limehouse CLP.
The left candidates got around 50+ votes out of a total of 120. The right, however, managed to win all the contested EC positions.
One well-known left EC member lost her election to the CLP executive by only one vote, but was elected to the Local Campaign Forum, as well as being voted as a delegate to the Labour Party conference.
The political leanings of the new local executive are clear.
New right-wing chair, Chris Worrall, is an investment manager with a particular affection for private development. His election is undoubtedly a great asset for local developers, who have long courted the party. (The hall for the 2020 leadership selection meeting was provided free of charge by the Canary Wharf Group.) He’s also known for supporting private healthcare insurance.
Worrall and the new Vice-Chair Membership are notorious for their abrasive behaviour at CLP meetings. They were even accused of Islamophobia earlier this year when attempting to stop a motion going through the GC (general committee). They are fitting local representatives for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.
The recent election of this right-wing CLP EC is the culmination of a long drawn-out struggle.
London Region got involved back in February after complaints by the right-wing. At first, they took a backseat. But sometime in late May, they came in heavy-handedly, outrageously cancelling all the planned AGMs.
Regional officers forced the CLP to postpone their AGM for a month – presumably to allow the right wing to secure the support of wavering elements. Then they cancelled the AGMs for two of the biggest wards; again, presumably because the right-wing needed more time. Certainly, the excuses they gave did not hold water.
The AGMs of Mile End and Limehouse wards, in particular, were fraught with controversy and received many complaints, as many members were never let into the meetings. The Women’s Forum even had to be cancelled after a group of right-wingers, led by councillors, disrupted the meeting. They had not managed to get their nominations in on time, and therefore sought to disrupt the meeting in order to cover up for their own mistake.
In general, throughout the process, ridiculous demands were imposed on branches.
Nominations had to be submitted days in advance, with no nominations allowed from the floor. The deadline for nominations to come in from branches was arbitrarily changed by London Region and the CLP secretary – likely to exclude a couple of nominations.
The secretary of the CLP was working hand-in-glove with London Region and the right-wing throughout the process.
This local example clearly demonstrates the contempt that the right-wing – following the lead of Keir Starmer and Labour general secretary David Evans – has towards party democracy.
The right-wing are eager for revenge. They are moving heaven and earth to ensure their total control of the party, from top to bottom – particularly with councillor and mayoral selections on the horizon.
But the fact that the right-wing had to go to such extraordinary lengths just to win in one CLP election shows that they are not strong on the ground.
If only 10% of the votes had swung the other way, the outcome would have been quite different. The right had to rest on bureaucratic maneuvering and underhand tactics just to see them over the line.
Episodes such as these set the scene for a series of fierce battles at the Labour conference in September, and in the coming year to stop the right-wing from consolidating their power.
The left will only succeed – locally and nationally – if they act with the same determination to retake the party and transform it along socialist lines.