In Depth

‘Corbyn forever’: Momentum prepares to pull Labour further left

Labour members look set to elect three hard-left candidates to the party’s NEC

The battle for Labour’s political soul enters a critical phase today as voting opens to elect three new members of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee.

 The 39-seat NEC, Labour’s main policy and decision-making body, is finely balanced between centrists and supporters of leader Jermemy Corbyn. Three seats created this year are about to be filled for the first time - and polls suggest a clean sweep for hard-left candidates, signalling a realignment of the party.

Among the left-wingers hoping to be elected is Labour veteran Jon Landsman, founder of Momentum, the Corbyn leadership campaign turned grassroots organisation. Momentum is widely credited with delivering improved result in the general election this year - but also accused of bullying and intimidation.

This week, Labour moderates hit out at the decision to remove NEC voting rights from the party’s student wing, reports HuffPost UK. The student party is traditionally dominated by centrists, while young mainstream party members and union sections tend to be further to the left.

The move to expand and take-over the NEC is part of a wider drive by pro-Corbyn supporters to push the party further to the left. This has taken the form of a top-to-bottom approach, with the ultimate goal to hand over more power to the party’s near 600,000-strong, predominantly left-wing, membership.

Another longstanding area of tension between different wings of the party has been the threat of deselection. Only a handful of moderate councillors across the country have failed to win reselection ahead of May’s local elections, “but enough to worry more moderate MPs that they could be next”, says HuffPost political editor Paul Waugh.

North of the border, the recent Scottish Labour leadership campaign “quickly became caught up in the struggle for overall control of Labour at UK level”, says The Guardian.

In the end, former union boss Richard Leonard won comfortably against his centrist rival, Anas Sarwar, after being backed heavily by pro-Corbyn union leaders and allies. The change from his predecessor Kezia Dugdale is already being felt.

Seated next to Corbyn on Monday, Leonard unveiled radical plans for higher taxes on wealthy property owners to fund public services. He is seeking to continue the party’s post-2015 revival against the SNP and win seats that could put Labour over the top and into No. 10 at the next election.

The ultimate result of the shift to the left on the NEC and in Scotland, as well as changes to leadership rules and the drive towards deselecting centrists councillors and MP, could be “Corbynism forever”, says Stephen Bush in The New Statesman.

However, as evidenced by leadership elections that delivered first Ed Milliband and then Jeremy Corbyn, “Labour has an amusing tradition of its constitutional quirks not quite working out the way its architects hope”, says Bush, “and it may well work out the same way this time”.

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