Momentum founder Jon Lansman has sparked a potentially bitter battle for the future of the Labour party by confirming he will apply to become the party’s new General Secretary.
The veteran leftwinger’s move makes him the main challenger to Unite official Jennie Formby in the race to succeed outgoing party chief Iain McNicol.
Lansman, who sits on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee and was campaign manager for Tony Benn’s deputy leadership bid in the 1980s, announced his decision on Twitter.
Lansman supporters believe that Labour is still run too much by ‘union stitch-ups’ and that the hugely expanded party membership is excluded from many decisions.
In his statement, Lansman underlined his main pitch that he wanted a more grassroots approach, with the general secretary post elected in future by members, rather than chosen by the 39-strong NEC that is Labour’s ruling body.
He also urged rank and file members, particularly women, to apply for the top job, which involves overseeing all staff matters, party rules and campaigns.
HuffPost revealed he was being urged to run for the top job this week as Momentum activists moved to seize the opportunity to change the way the party works at every level.
But his decision to stand, in defiance of the party leadership’s moves to mobilise support for Formby, marks a significant moment.
A clue to the potentially fierce battle ahead came from one Unite official in the South East.
Formby’s allies have said that the next general secretary should be a woman because the current Labour leader, deputy leader, Scottish and Welsh leaders and Metro Mayors were all men.
The party this week approved a fast-tracked process to replace McNicol, who has been heavily criticised by Jeremy Corbyn supporters during his seven-year tenure.
Formby is understood to have the support of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and her allies had hoped to avoid a split in the Left caucus on the ruling NEC.
However, that may be unavoidable now and the Unite veteran is unpopular among several unions as well as leftwingers on the NEC.
Here is Lansman’s statement in full:
“After being approached by a number of friends and colleagues, I’ve decided to apply for the role of General Secretary of the Labour Party.
In 2015, Jeremy campaigned and won backing for a new kind of politics, for sweeping away the old machine politics.
This means building a broad, pluralist Labour Party that encourages open, transparent and inclusive application processes for positions such as General Secretary. I am applying to open up the contest, and ensure we have a wide range of candidates.
In this spirit, I’d like to encourage any one of our 570,000 members who has the talent and experience to apply. I would especially like to encourage more women to apply. We’ve only ever had one female general secretary, and we should have more women in Labour’s top team.
In the future, I personally would like to see the General Secretary position elected by Labour members. This way we can guarantee continuing accountability through the NEC, but also show that we are a party of democracy and pluralism.
Having spent 40 years campaigning for a more member-led party, I see the Democracy Review as a turning point in Labour’s history. It’s our opportunity to trust, empower and listen to our members and trade union affiliates, giving them a real say over how the party is run and what it stands for.
History shows that we will only be able to transform Britain if our own party has the structures, culture, and practices it wants to see in the rest of society, and I will work to ensure that the Democracy Review ushers in far-reaching and sustained changes to our party.
If chosen as Labour’s next general secretary, I will stay tuned to the desires of our members and trade union affiliates, work hard to strengthen Labour’s trade union link and use my decades of experience to make sure Labour really can deliver for the many, not the few.”