01/03/2018 10:43 GMT | Updated 01/03/2018 11:51 GMT

Momentum's Lara McNeill Storming Ahead In Race For Labour NEC Spot

Critics say union block votes are creating 'unfair' system

Lara McNeill
Lara McNeill with shadow chancellor John McDonnell

Momentum candidate Lara McNeill is storming ahead in the race for a key spot on Labour’s ruling executive, amid claims of unfairness over union block votes.

The 21-year-old trainee doctor, who is currently vice chair of Labour Students, is running for youth rep on the party’s National Executive Committee.

It follows controversial changes made late last year to the way the position is elected, with 50% of the votes given over to a one-member-one-vote ballot of young party members and 50% to young trade unionists or ‘affiliates’ - effectively removing Labour Students from the electoral college.

Voting closes on March 16 and a HuffPost UK analysis of the results so far shows McNeill, who is running against moderate pro-European candidate Eda Cazimoğlu, has hoovered up endorsements from most of the major unions. 

UNISON, Unite, Aslef, the Bakers’ Union, TSSA, CWU and GMB have all lent their support to the self-described socialist - giving her more than 75% of the block vote - with only Usdaw and Community opting for her rival. 

It means McNeill needs the votes of just one in five of young members to replace incumbent Jasmine Beckett.

She told HuffPost UK: “I’m so pleased to have the support of so many unions and their young members’ networks.

“After being sidelined at the last Young Labour conference in 2016, I believe many young workers feel properly represented in this election. 110,000 Young Labour members have the opportunity to directly vote for who to represent them.”

Critics said only one trade union - Community - had balloted its members before deciding which candidate to endorse and that all those backing McNeill are ‘led by white men’, including key Jeremy Corbyn ally Len McCluskey. 

Eda Cazimoglu
Eda Cazimoğlu says young members should decide on Labour's youth rep

One party insider called the whole process an “undemocratic stitch up”.

“Even if 75 per cent of Young Labour members chose Eda, it would make no difference to the final result,” they added.

“Young members have been robbed of a real say on who their rep is. The youth rep from here on in, will be accountable to Len McCluskey not young people. It is a crying shame.”

Cazimoğlu, whose family fled to the UK amid civil unrest, joined Labour when she was 14.

She said young members should be the ones “deciding the future of the youth movement”.

“I believe in the power of our youth movement to make change and win for our party, that is why I’m standing,” she added.

“I am pro-European, pro-freedom of movement and anti-fascist, and these are the values I will defend on the NEC.

“I will be the champion of young members, raising up our voices so Labour reflects the vision we hold for the future of our country.

“Despite attempts to ensure the outcome of this election is already decided, I am proudly standing to give young members a say in who represents them on the NEC.”

A Momentum source told HuffPost UK: ”Lara is receiving a large amount of support from both the trade unions and ordinary members, because she’s the only candidate committed to transforming Young Labour into a vibrant, engaging and democratic section of the party.”