Jeremy Corbyn could be subject to a trigger ballot designed for the deselection of MPs, under plans discussed tonight by members of one of his most supportive party groups.
The Labour Representation Committee, from which both Corbyn and John McDonnell hail, met this evening to discuss how to get its way when it comes to party democracy. Save for when McDonnell popped in to thank the LRC for continuing to organise when it looked as though the Left would never win a foothold in the party, the mood was one of frustration.
Members were largely cheerful yet also irritated that plans for ‘open selections’ – more commonly known as mandatory re-selection – hadn’t made it into the party’s rule book this week. The trade unions and Momentum came in for a great deal of criticism, with members variously suggesting ‘reorganising the unions’, warning the leaders of Unite and Unison to watch out for their jobs and suggesting that the national Momentum was out of touch with local branches (one speaker branded it ‘Lansmanentum’ after founder Jon Lansman).
The meeting heard from Labour International, which represents party members who live abroad and which tabled a motion on open selections. One Labour International member, Pat Byrne, told the meeting that the group was looking at
‘What we are talking about the possibility of doing is mass trigger ballots in all Labour constituencies, left and right. One of the big problems of negative campaigning is you’re campaigning against particular MPs.
‘So it’s not going to be against any particular MP, we want to do it in Jeremy’s constituency, we want to do it everywhere as a principle that opens the way to open selection as a practice. And that’s one of the things we are going to be talking about, and I think that we will find that a large section of the membership will be behind that and we will be able to use this new advance, easier trigger, to achieve that.’
Other Labour International speakers pointed our that of course Corbyn would be re-selected, but that the process would bring ‘thousands of people on the street, you will have so many people joining your Labour Party’. Another member offered up her local MP Nina Griffith as a test bed for a trigger ballot as she would definitely get re-selected. ‘It would actually be an endorsement of our MP,’ she said.
It was clear from the meeting that though those on the ‘moderate’ wing of the party feel as though they have been crushed, the Left of Labour doesn’t feel as though it is winning the battles, either. Indeed, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, also criticised Momentum for some of its recent decisions in internal party battles, including dropping its support for Peter Willsman in the NEC elections (the group decided that anti-Semitic comments Willsman was recorded making rendered him unsuitable for the role to which he was subsequently elected).
Wrack finished his speech with a warning that ‘the Left has a history of cocking things up’, telling members not to waste the unique opportunity they have now. On the basis of the exchanges about the unions and Momentum this evening, it’s easy to see the basis for that cock-up forming: the Left is now fighting with itself.