The pro-Corbyn faction within the Labour party received an enormous boost on Monday evening as candidates who all support the veteran socialist’s leadership were elected to the party’s chief administrative body.
Six candidates who are backed by Momentum — the grassroots left-wing organisation which supports Jeremy Corbyn — took a total clean sweep in the National Executive Committee elections, increasing Corbyn’s majority by two members.
This is a major development. Despite being hugely unpopular among the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Corbyn now has even greater control of the party’s most crucial organ. The NEC is Labour’s chief governing body — responsible for overseeing key aspects of the party like elections, membership, and party direction.
The NEC’s power was demonstrated recently by its decision to put Corbyn on the leadership election ballot automatically. If it had ruled that Corbyn, like Owen Smith, needed to secure 51 nominations from Labour parliamentarians, it would effectively have excluded him from the contest and crowned Smith as the new leader.
The six, who were elected by the party membership, were Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Rhea Wolfson, and Peter Willsman. Progress — the group which wants to see Corbyn replaced by a more moderate candidate — had no candidates elected.
Corbyn’s critics will regard this development as a sign of just how real the threat of a total left-wing takeover the party really is. All Labour MPs will face a reselection process in 2018, and the current Labour leader refused to rule out MPs who criticise his leadership being deselected and replaced by more left-leaning candidates, at a press conference attended by Business Insider last month.
The results of the NEC election came shortly after a high court ruled it was unlawful for the party to block new members from voting in the leadership contest. This is another victory for Corbyn. Around 65% of the roughly 140,000 people who successfully applied to join Labour since January support Corbyn, according to early sampling.
An unnamed Labour MP who wants to see a change in leadership told the Guardian that the result of the NEC election was “very, very, very bad news,” while shadow chancellor and Corbyn’s closest ally John McDonnell said it indicated a desire for “real and genuine change” under the current leadership.
The divide within the Labour is clearer than ever. In reality, the party is operating in the form of two rival factions which are currently more interested in defeating each other than providing credible opposition to an increasingly comfortable Tory government.
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