POLITICS

Stella Creasy Attacks Jeremy Corbyn-Supporting Momentum Group Over 'Righteous Bystanding'

Labour MP warns of prioritising “meetings and moralising”

24/03/2016 17:33 GMT
Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Labour’s civil war ploughs on as Stella Creasy has launched a withering attack on the left-wing Momentum group that backs Jeremy Corbyn, warning the party risks falling foul of “righteous bystanding” and placing “meetings and moralising” ahead of real change.

The Walthamstow MP’s broadside - delivered in a speech at the London School of Economics that can be read in full on the Huffington Post UK -  raises fears of the party being controlled by an “elite” that is unreflective of the country.

And she accuses some within Momentum of trying to “control the levers of power to select - or deselect - MPs and party officials”.

Her speech was made a day after a list apparently from Corbyn’s office was leaked detailing which Labour leaders were “hostile” to their leader, and comes as a Momentum activist claimed Labour MP Chuka Umunna was not “politically black”.

Both Creasy and Umunna were pigeon-holed as “hostile”. 

Momentum was formed in the wake of Corbyn’s ascent to the Labour leadership, and says it exists to promote the left-wing views he espouses such as anti-austerity and unilateral nuclear disarmament.

But critics - often dubbed the “moderates” if they’re MPs - argue the group is wielding disproportionate influence on the party, and risks consigning Labour to electoral oblivion.

Creasy, who has come under pressure from left-wing activists in her east London seat, appears to take aim at so-called “Corbynistas” when she warns of “righteous bystanding” taking many forms: “Petitions, protests, boycotts, hashtags, meetings.

“It has at it's heart talking about doing something over actually doing something.”

In a key passage, she writes that the “interest” in the Labour Party that fuelled the Corbyn surge is “not translating into engagement”.

“It's not just the curdled political debate of 'Red Tory' and 'Corbynista' that make it hard for people to go to meetings with each other or talk on Facebook. It's that even when people aren't shouting at each other, they aren't being encouraged to take action either.

“Groups like Momentum now appear to be draining the very energy from our political process they claimed to be promoting, by encouraging the myth righteous by-standing is activism.”

She goes on: “In the last six months I've seen little evidence of campaigning 'for' something.

“I have seen a lot of meetings and moralising - and a lot of people standing for positions to be able to divert people into more meetings and moralising to complete the cycle.”

Creasy, who stood as deputy leader in the summer elections, says groups bent on “controlling the levers of power to select - or deselect - MPs and party officials” are “short-sighted”.

She adds: “Not only is it divisive, it reinforces the idea only a small group of people can actually make a difference - and relegates the power of the rest of us just to picking them. It doesn't challenge elitism, it strengthens it.”

 

It has at it's heart talking about doing something over actually doing something. Labour MP Stella Creasy

Meanwhile, a speech by academic Marlene Ellis, a member of the Momentum group, labelling MPs not “politically black” enough has been branded “poisonous, divisive behaviour” by supporters of Ummuna, the Evening Standard reports.

The Standard reports it has a recording of Ellis claiming that her local party branch in Lambeth, where Mr Umunna is MP, is “very, very Right-wing”.

Ellis, who set up Momentum Black ConneXions, a splinter group aiming for more “black power”, provoked laughter when she added: “Frankly, there’ll be some black MPs that don’t align themselves with being politically black.”

She goes on to add that she is “tired of black MPs” and that she wanted “policy from a black perspective”.

Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Chuka Umunna

Umunna declined to comment today but Ebenezer Taiye-Akinsanmi, a party member of 30 years who has worked with the MP, told the paper: “Chuka is a good representative. He does not just represent black and ethnic minority people, he represents everybody.”

A senior Labour source said: “Poisonous, divisive behaviour like this has no place in Jeremy’s so-called kinder, gentler politics but typifies what Momentum has become.”

Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan condemned the “offensive remarks”.

Ms Ellis told the Standard her speech was “in no way an attack on Chuka”.

She added: “Our argument is that questions of race and racism should be foregrounded in politics and policy. That’s what political blackness is.

“We don’t think that politicians, black and white, have enough of a politically black perspective and would like to see more MPs, black and white, putting anti-racism and black liberation more at the heart of their politics.”

A Momentum spokesman said: “Let’s not get sucked into factional interpretations. Marlene wasn’t attacking anyone.”