POLITICS

Corbyn Tightens Grip As Leftwingers Win Key Posts On Labour's NEC And Disciplinary Body

Another Momentum landslide. Will it affect Livingstone case?

27/09/2017 07:50 BST | Updated 27/09/2017 16:21 BST
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn’s grip on Labour has tightened significantly after the Left scored key victories on the party’s ruling body and its disciplinary committee.

The ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) shifted decisively in favour of Corbyn supporters as Unite’s Jennie Formby was elected to the crucial post of vice-chair – despite hopes among centrists that veteran MP Margaret Beckett would get the job.

And in another huge gain for the grassroots group Momentum, leftwinger Emina Ibrahim was elected by a landslide to the party’s powerful National Constititional Committee (NCC), defeating the ‘moderate’ incumbent and chair Rose Burley.

The NCC is in charge of Labour’s disciplinary procedures, including misconduct hearings on Ken Livingstone and other cases, and could next year be totally controlled by the Left.

Ibrahim and fellow left-winger Anna Dyer, both backed by Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, beat moderate-backed Burley and Kevin Hepworth by 70% to 30%, a bigger win than expected.

The Left candidates won more than 145,000 votes each while their rivals managed under 65,000.

The dominance of Len McCluskey’s Unite union was underscored at the annual meeting of the National Executive Committee behind closed doors at the Brighton conference on Tuesday when Formby was elected as vice chair.

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Unite's Jennie Formby with Jeremy Corbyn.

Unite’s Jim Kennedy and Diana Holland were already on the NEC’s crucial “officers group”, along with Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, but Formby’s election means that she joins chair Andy Kerr on the body that selects all other NEC positions.

With the backing of Corbyn supporter Kerr, who is the CWU union rep, the Left’s majority on the NEC is now “solidified”, one source told HuffPost UK.

Union sources said that Beckett, a former interim Labour leader and Cabinet minister, had not indicated she wanted to run for the vice-chair job. But moderate party sources said that it had expected her to get the slot.

The NCC election conducted by party delegates on Tuesday, with the result posted overnight, was a huge victory for Ibrahim, a Haringey councillor.

The ‘moderate majority’ on the 11-strong body was cut from 7-4 to 6-5.  At its first meeting on Wednesday, it elected GMB veteran Maggie Cosin as chair. However, moderate Judith Blake is likely to be targeted by the Momentum movement at next year’s conference in Liverpool, amid its hopes that the 6-5 split would then fall in favour of the Left.

The NCC meets only once a year, but it has a crucial role in selecting chairs of disciplinary panels that oversee the most controversial cases of alleged misconduct.

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Ken Livingstone, who is facing a fresh disciplinary case heard by the NCC.

It has yet to decide on Ken Livingstone’s second misconduct charge of alleged anti-Semitism, as well as the case of Jackie Walker, another party activist accused of making anti-Jewish remarks. 

The NCC also has in its in-tray the case of Greg Hadfield, who was suspended from the party in 2016 for “a pattern of behaviour, including intimidation of individuals, which is capable of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute”. He denies the charge, which is part of bitter infighting in Brighton and Hove Labour.

The scale of Ibrahim’s victory was another clear example of the success of Momentum, which was set up only two years ago to promote Corbyn’s brand of politics.

It also won a landslide last week with the election of its members on to the Conference Arrangements Committee, ensuring the Liverpool 2018 conference will be even more under the control of the leadership.

The conference voted yesterday to expand the 35-strong NEC with three more places for party members, all of whom are expected to be chosen by Momentum. With the Scottish Labour slot also set to be filled by Corbyn supporter Richard Leonard, the balance of power on the ruling body has shifted dramatically in just a year from being narrowly “Corbyn-sceptic” to indisputably “pro-Corbyn”.