Jeremy Corbyn has told his Momentum campaign organisation it needs to unite following weeks of bitter divisions over its future as he plans a relaunch of his leadership in the New Year.
The Labour leader told a rally of his grassroots supporters in south London on Wednesday evening they had the “world to win” and they were “all stronger creatively when we absorb the creativity in each other”.
“There are obviously areas in which debate takes place. Sometimes people don’t like each other. Sometimes people disagree with each other. I tell you this. If you don’t agree with somebody, that’s fine. Treat them with respect. Listen to them with respect and try and persuade people,” Corbyn told the Momentum end of year party.
“Look for the common ground and try and take people together down the road to achieve things together, because disunity is our enemy. Unity is our strength.”
Momentum, the pro-Corbyn campaign group that grew out of his 2015 leadership campaign has become consumed by splits over its future direction and internal structures and procedures. The rift is broadly claimed to be between younger activists and older “Trotskyists”.
The speech came as The Guardian reported Corbyn’s inner circle were planning to rebrand Corbyn in 2017 as a leftwing populist in the hope of capitalising on the anti-establishment mood that helped Donald Trump capture the White House and Nigel Farage achieve Brexit.
Labour suffered two poor by-election results in December in both Richmond Park and Sleaford and North Hykeham - finishing in fourth place behind the Tories, Ukip and Lib Dems in the latter.
An Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard on Thursday showed Theresa May’s Conservatives had an 11-point lead over Corbyn’s Labour.
In his 20 minute speech to supporters, Corbyn addressed a wide range of topics he hoped they would campaign on - including social care, the NHS, housing and the refugee crisis. The Labour leader did not speak about Brexit.
“In the United States, that huge campaign was largely around Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency. The campaign also exists in so many parts of Europe. So we’ve got to come together. We’ve got to be strong. We’ve got to be determined. Because we want a better world. A different world. A peaceful world, based on justice and human rights,” he said.
Earlier this week, some Labour MPs complained after the party’s chief whip, Nick Brown, spoke at a Momentum conference that called for mandatory reselection of Westminster candidates.
Amid the internal splits, Momentum’s founder and Corbyn ally Jon Lansman, who was present at Wednesday nights rally and conducted an auction of christmas cards and a bottle of “Corbyn’s courage” ale, has vowed not to walk away from the organisation.
Corbyn told the crowd: “I see Momentum as a social movement. A movement that will campaign on all of these issues. But above all, excite and unite people to come together, to come together to challenge injustice, inequality and social exclusion. Bring people together to achieve things together. That is what is makes us so different from every other political party in this country.”
“Yes we get a lot of criticism in the media. Ok. Fine. I understand all that. After a while they might get bored with the abuse and the personal abuse they throw at all of us. Instead they might begin to address the real issues that people face.
“We are told that politics only matters at election time. And It’s all about ‘manoeuvring X’ and ‘manoeuvring Y’ and ‘manoeuvring Z’.
“I am not going to stand by. You’re not going to stand by. None of us are going to stand by and allow the far right in Europe to gain more strength. We are not going to allow Ukip to to run round this county dividing people. Blaming minorities, blaming migrants, blaming anybody except a system of grotesque inequality.”
Corbyn added: “I am in a very honoured position to be asked to lead this party and I am very proud of that position and very proud to try and take it forward.”