The grassroots group Momentum is set to extend its influence within Labour with a “new generation” of candidates for the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), HuffPost has learned.
Ahead of a fresh election for the ruling body this summer, the organisation has finalised its ‘slate’ for the nine constituency party places on the NEC with some key changes in personnel.
Momentum has withdrawn its backing for veteran activist Ann Black in protest at her vote to exclude 125,000 new members from Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership election in 2016.
But Black, who was replaced as the head of the party’s main disciplinary panel last month, has told HuffPost she wants to remain on the 39-strong ruling body when the posts come up for grabs in June.
Another key omission from the ‘slate’ is Christine Shawcroft, a controversial leftwinger who replaced Black only last month as chair of the NEC Disputes Sub-Committee. Shawcroft has decided to step down after years of service.
She told HuffPost: “I’ve done it for 19 years and I think we need to ‘open up’ the NEC to new people. There are lots of them and they’re brilliant.”
Momentum founder Jon Lansman is still on the list of nine candidates, but one source said that new additions had ensured it would be “the most diverse slate in Labour history”.
The candidates backed by Momentum are set to include five women, four BAME (black and minority ethnic) candidates and two who are in their twenties.
According to a Labour source, Rhea Wolfson has also decided not to stand for election again.
Momentum swept the board in elections last month for three new local members of the NEC, easily defeating ‘centrist’ candidates that included comedian Eddie Izzard. Its dominance ensures that supporters of Jeremy Corbyn now have a firm majority on the ruling body.
A leaked version of the new Momentum list, which followed invites for applications from its 36,000 members, reveals it includes new candidates Huda Elmi, Nav Mishra and Anne Henderson.
Existing NEC members Claudia Webbe, Jon Lansman, Rachel Graham, Yasmine Dar, Pete Willsman and Darren Williams are also on the slate.
When approached for comment, a Momentum spokesperson confirmed that the list of candidates was correct.
It is understood that the group decided to pull support from Ann Black because of her vote in an NEC meeting to exclude 125,000 new Labour members from voting in the 2016 leadership election, requiring them to pay an extra £25 to participate.
At the time the NEC had an ‘anti-Corbyn’ majority, and it infuriated activists by ruling that those who joined after January 2016 were ineligible to take part in the leadership ballot.
The party lost a court hearing but then successfully appealed to keep its ban in place. A spokesman for Corbyn’s campaign described that as “the wrong decision - both legally and democratically” and rancour has existed since.
Black told HuffPost UK: “I shall be standing as a candidate for the NEC, on the centre left platform that I have supported for the past 18 years.”
Allies of Black pointed out that she had actually proposed in the 2016 NEC meeting a solution to allow a leadership vote to all Labour members who joined up to June 24. The motion was tied but lost because Corbyn and Jon Trickett were not present for the vote.
Given her popularity in previous years’ ballots, Black could still win one of the nine NEC seats for local party representatives.
If Shawcroft decides not to stand again for election, the party will this year have to find another chair of its crucial Disputes Sub-Committee.
The body is charge of overseeing suspensions and disciplinary cases against members accused of racist and anti-Semitic abuse and other rules breaches. The chair’s post also carries with it a crucial seat on the party’s Officers’ Group, which determines things like panels to select Parliamentary candidates.
Shawcroft sparked anger among some fellow NEC members at a meeting last month when she decided to defer judgement on the case of a Tower Hamlets member facing disciplinary charges.
Momentum’s fellow leftwing groups, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) and Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) are yet to decide their own slate. But given Momentum’s dominance, particularly in mobilising its huge numbers in online elections, it looks likely to get its candidates in place.
Open Labour, an umbrella group of the Left, said it was ‘saddened’ by the Momentum decision and would continue to support Black.
“This is not accountable, visible or pluralist as we would expect from a democratic Labour left,” it said in a statement.