Labour's NEC election: what does the left stand for?

Submitted by AWL on 15 July, 2020 - 8:19 Author: Sacha Ismail
Labour NEC election 2020

The “Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance” is actually a collection of organisations on the Labour left, dominated by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. It has just agreed a single slate of six candidates for the nine CLP reps on Labour’s National Executive Committee.

Only six, because this will be first NEC election run under Single Transferrable Vote, and it is now inconceivable the left could win all nine.

In the two-place CLP rep by-election and BAME rep election earlier this year, the left was split and the right won all three places. This time there was pressure for a single slate, to avoid further disaster.

The CLGA candidates are: Laura Pidcock, Mish Rahman, Ann Henderson, Yasmine Dar, Nadia Jama and Gemma Bolton. Only Henderson and Dar are currently on the NEC. Former Momentum Chair and current NEC member Jon Lansman applied to be a candidate but was not chosen. The CLGA is also supporting Lara McNeill, who is restanding for Youth rep, and Ellen Morrison for Disabled rep.

Supporters of the conservative/Stalinist grouping Momentum Renewal, defeated in the Momentum national coordinating group elections, have demagogically attacked the Forward Momentum-dominated NCG for not holding a ballot of members to decide candidates. Given the new NCG had only a few days after coming to office to get this sorted, this criticism is insubstantial at best.

The real issue is the broader culture of backroom deal-making that dominates the Labour left, the absence of political discussion about what the left should stand for – and on that basis discussion about who should represent it.

The one political issue that has come up in election is trans rights, on the basis that Ann Henderson and Laura Pidcock’s positions on the issues are ambiguous. Momentum has issued a statement saying that it is fighting for the whole slate to issues a statement in support of trans rights, signed by all the candidates. It is unclear what will happen about this.

There has been little political debate about the trans rights – just angry denunciations of Henderson and Pidcock (who in turn seem to have said nothing to clarify their positions). And what about other political issues?

What, for instance, about free movement and migrants’ rights? Laura Pidcock has taken a pro-Brexit position. What about broader internationalism? Yasmine Dar has repeatedly attended Islamist events celebrating the “Islamic revolution” in Iran, i.e. the Islamist counter-revolution that crushed Iran’s workers, women and national minorities.

Lara McNeill and Ellen Morrison are both linked to the Stalinist left in Young Labour and have been actively involved in witch-hunting the socialist left and shutting down democracy in sections of the party and left where they are active.

Beyond these and many other possible objections, what positive politics does the slate stand for? What does it say about Labour and the labour movement’s stance and intervention in the current and coming crises?

In the Momentum NCG and Open Labour committee elections, several campaigns (Labour Campaign for Free Movement, Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, Uyghur Solidarity) produced pledges for candidates to sign, with some impact. Whatever its limitations, this approach seems like it might be necessary in the NEC elections too, to draw out at least some clear political lines.

Soft left group Open Labour has endorsed long-established middle-of-the-road NEC member Ann Black and young activist Jermain Jackson as CLP reps and George Lindars-Hammond for Disabled rep. It has also endorsed incumbent Councillors rep Alice Perry.

Right-wing groups Progress and Labour First, united as Labour to Win, are standing six CLP candidates: Johanna Baxter, Gurinder Singh Josan, Terry Paul, Michael Payne and Shama Tatler. They are also backing Ann Black, former MP Paula Sherriff and former MEP Theresa Griffin (both endorsed by the middle-of-the-road Tribune Group of MPs, as is former MP Liz McInnes). Right-winger Kira Lewis is standing for Youth rep, but LabourList reports Labour to Win haven't decided if they are backing anyone yet.

• For more on how the election will work, see this article on LabourList. For LabourList's overview of the candidates, see here.

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