POLITICS

Momentum Plotting To 'Storm' Party Conference In 'Attack on Social Democracy', Says Labour MP

Moderate Labour MPs lament party's election manifesto.

11/09/2017 23:47 BST | Updated 12/09/2017 14:08 BST
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Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a Momentum event at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in central London.

A Labour MP has accused the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum of plotting to “storm” the party’s annual conference in Brighton later this month as part of a leftwing “attack on social democracy”.

John Spellar said Momentum was attempting to suppress dissent by dispatching an “overwhelming tide” of pro-leadership delegates.

A Momentum spokesman dismised Spellar’s criticism as “disappointing and strange”.

Spellar was speaking at a gathering of so-called moderate MPs and activists in parliament on Monday evening organised by Progress and Labour First - two of the internal party groups who have been most opposed to Corbyn’s leadership.

The meeting was also told anti-Semitism within the party had handed Theresa May power.

MPs who have been critical of Corbyn in the past said the party should stop acting as if it had actually won the election.

And Corbyn’s manifesto was slammed for proposing “nothing about tackling poverty” in the country.

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John Spellar MP warned a meeting of moderate Labour activists that Momentum will try to 'storm' the conference.

The joint Progress and Labour First meeting was called to plan how to try and hold back the pro-Corbyn tide at the party conference at the end of September.

One of the key battlegrounds will over over the so-called McDonnell amendment which, if adopted, would significantly reduce the number of MPs needed to nominate a leadership candidate.

The change is seen to favour of the Left of the party as it would prevent the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) blocking a pro-Corbyn candidate running in any future contest.

Spellar said: “What I am focused on is making sure we save social democracy. It is under attack from two sides.

“One is around the world from a relentless Conservative attack. But also the attack internally on social democracy and we are seeing that now with Momentum.”

The Warley MP added: “One of the things we have to be absolutely clear about with Momentum is winning an election is not their first priority. Control of the party is their fundamental ideological objective.”

He said Momentum, the grassroots organisation that powered Corbyn’s 2016 Labour leadership victory, wanted to “create an atmosphere of disillusion in the party” so its critics would give up and go home.

Spellar also accused Momentum of engaging in “personal intimidation”, “unpleasantness” and of “harassing people” it did not like including Kezia Dugdale, who recently quit as Scottish Labour leader.

“They are trying to storm the conference. In that sense I mean they are trying to create an atmosphere that they are an overwhelming tide,” Spellar added.

A Momentum Spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “It’s disappointing and strange that Mr Spellar has attacked Labour members and constituency Labour Parties for fulfilling one of their key functions and sending delegates to conference.

“When Labour is polling so well and after Momentum made such a contribution during the election, we’d urge Mr Spellar to get behind Jeremy Corbyn ready for the next election rather than makes comments that divide our party.”

His comments came hours after the Right of the party suffered a defeat when Corbyn supporters won a resounding victory in a key party election for two posts on the obscure but critical Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC).

The CAC is in charge of the crucial process of selecting and prioritising motions for Labour’s annual conference and the balance of power has now tipped in the Left’s favour. 

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Addressing the around 100 party activists at the event, Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, warned the party’s “lackadaisical attitude” to tackling anti-Semitism had done enough damage to swing the election result.

“It cost us enough seats in north London alone to deny the Tories the opportunity to govern with the DUP,” he said,

And he said while it was worth celebrating the unexpected election result, the party should not get carried away as it will still in opposition.

“The Tories lost their majority but are running around this week inventing ways to recreate one without the inconvenience of another general election,” he said.

“But let’s be honest. We are also walking around as people who lost the general election behaving as if we won.”

His criticism was echoed by Hove MP Peter Kyle, who told the meeting it was wrong for Corbyn’s supporters to claim all the credit for Labour MPs winning seats many expected the party to lose.

“The lesson we are constantly being rammed down our throats about how Jeremy increased our vote needs to be tempered by how Wes, me and a whole bunch of other people defeated Tories,” he said.

“It feels like they lost and it feels like we won. That is not the case.”

He added: “I did have frustrations with our manifesto. It’s like heresy now to say that. We can criticise every manifeso right back to the Atlee manifesto but we can not criticise this manifesto at all.

“We were spending about fifty times more on the kids who get to university than we were on those who don’t,” he said. “That is not a Labour manifesto.

“My criticism of the Labour manifesto is quite simple, it’s not working class enough yet.”

Rachel Saunders, a Labour councillor in Tower Hamelts, also criticsed the party’s election platform.

“That manifesto,” she said. “Nothing about how to get people into good jobs, it said absolutely nothing about tackling poverty.

“The hard graft about policy making has just not been done by the leadership. I am sure they will get round to it.

She added: “We don’t think the last general election manifesto is the Bible, because we lost.”