“We reject the NEC’s undue interference in Islington North, which undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice”Islington North CLP
By Labour Outlook
Today, Labour’s NEC shamefully voted to block Jeremy Corbyn from being Labour’s candidate in Islington North, in a motion proposed by Keir Starmer and seconded by Shabana Mahmoud, the party’s national campaign coordinator.
The motion was rightly opposed by the “Grassroots Four” left CLP delegates, Mish Rahman, Gemma Bolton, Yasmin Dar and Jess Barnard, alongside disabled member’s representative, Ellen Morrison, Ann Black, and representatives from Unite, FBU, CWU, ASLEF and TSSA – but unfortunately passed, 22 votes to 12.
Responding to the news, Islington North Constituency Labour Party issued the following statement:
“‘Local Party members should select their candidates for every election’”
“The officers of Islington North CLP strongly support this statement from Keir Starmer in February 2020’
“We believe in the democratic rights of all constituency parties to choose their prospective parliamentary candidate. Therefore we reject the NEC’s undue interference in Islington North, which undermines our goal of defeating the Conservatives and working with our communities for social justice.”
Reporting the decision, Owen Jones said, “Jeremy Corbyn’s local party denounces being prevented from having the right to reselect him,” and added that “this attack on democracy has been led by Keir Starmer, who promised Labour members could always select their candidates – and called Corbyn a friend – when he stood for Labour leader.”
Rallying to support the CLP, John McDonnell wrote “with the election in 18 months we need a united party to win a Labour government. This decision will be seen as divisive & brutal, victimising someone who has given his life to our movement. We need a campaign in CLPs & affiliates to reverse this decision.”
The campaigning group, Momentum, were unequivocal – “we condemn this anti-democratic stitch-up in the strongest possible terms. Keir Starmer was elected on a pledge to end NEC stitch-ups and let local members decide their candidates. Yet at a stroke his paper bans a former Party leader from seeking the Labour nomination in a constituency he has won ten times and represented for over forty years. This unjust decision drives a massive wedge within the Labour Party and risks alienating the millions of people, especially young people, who were energised by Jeremy’s socialist politics.”
Matt Willgress, National Organiser of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity, added “In recent months, hundreds of thousands of workers have taken industrial action against the Tory offensive on our jobs and livelihoods. Jeremy Corbyn has stood with them on picket lines in Islington North and across the country, yet again representing the interests of the people of Islington North as he has done tirelessly for 40 years.
This disgraceful decision to deny Islington North CLP the right to decide its own candidate must be reversed.”
Co-chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy Rachel Garnham said “This decision is a huge affront to Labour Party democracy and the right of members to select the candidates of their choice. Jeremy widens the Party’s electoral appeal and it was good that more CLP & TU reps voted against than voted for. The Party needs to listen to members and trade unions.”
In addition to McDonnell, other Socialist Campaign Group MPs outlined their support for member-led democracy, with Richard Burgon saying “today’s NEC decision denies Islington North CLP members their democratic right to choose the parliamentary candidate they want. Well done to Unite, CWU, ASLEF, FBU, TSSA and all the NEC reps who voted to uphold this democratic right. Islington North CLP should be free to decide.”
After the vote, Zarah Sultana said, “Islington North Labour Party members should have the right to choose their parliamentary candidate. Denying that right is divisive and undemocratic. I support Aslef, CWU, FBU, TSSA, Unite and all the NEC Reps who upheld this democratic principle at the NEC today.”
Likewise, in the run-up to the NEC meeting, the Socialist Campaign Group tweeted, “it is the democratic right of Labour Party members and the affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in the Islington North CLP to choose their Parliamentary candidate. We urge members of the NEC to uphold this vital democratic right at Tuesday’s meeting.”
Apsana Begum, Nadia Whittome, Jon Trickett, Beth Winter, Andy McDonald, Ian Lavery, Ian Byrne, and Kate Osborne all argued that member democracy should be defended and that it was for the CLP to choose their candidate.
Opposition to Keir Starmer’s motion blocking Jeremy Corbyn also came from campaigns such as the Stop the War Coalition, who pointed out that “It is ironic that Keir Starmer should persecute Jeremy Corbyn on the 20th anniversary of the aggression against Iraq, a war against which he campaigned so strongly,” and the Peace and Justice Project who said “Keir Starmer’s decision to block Jeremy Corbyn from reselection in the constituency he has represented for the past 40 years is a disgrace and an insult to the people of Islington North.”
Diane Abbott noted the bizarre rationale behind the motion, which justified blocking Corbyn on the basis of a poor 2019 electoral performance and that the chance of a Labour victory would be “significantly diminished should Mr Corbyn be endorsed by the Labour Party as one of its candidates for the next general election.”
As Abbot argued, “the decision to bar Jeremy Corbyn on the grounds he lost the 2019 election is ridiculously flimsy, without logic or precedent. On that basis, many other Labour leaders would also be barred.”
Simon Fletcher, a former advisor to Keir Starmer, argued that “many people will feel that in granting itself such a sweeping approach to its judgement, the party leadership is involved in peremptory behaviour. Concern about the implications of that for transparent and inclusive politics ought to stretch well beyond the Labour left.”
He is not wrong – the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire wrote that “blocking Corbyn is wrong and authoritarian, intended to intimidate other Left MPs. Should be up to Islington North whether they wanted him again.” His comments follow leader of the liberal left Compass think-tank, Neal Lawson, earlier this year, who cautioned against an assault on the left of the party.
All these voices and many more have it clear that the block on Jeremy Corbyn should be reversed – it’s for the members in Islington North to decide their candidate at the next election.
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