Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has recommended that the 200,000 new members of his party stay away from meetings of their local Labour branch. Corbyn made his recommendation in an interview with Red Pepper magazine, where he responded to a question on how to make his party more democratic.
Here is the question and Corbyn’s answer in full (emphasis ours):
Red Pepper: This leads into another question concerned with the party. It’s from Thomas Barlow: his question is how are you going to open up the party — both the party apparatus and the Parliamentary Party — to democratic inputs and participation in policy-making? And I might add, how far could your own Islington North constituency party be a participatory model for the rest of the party?
Jeremy: There’s no perfect model, but what I say to anyone active in the party is that we’ve recruited 200,000 new members, but please don’t take them to the branch meetings. You get to your average branch meeting and you’re discussing the minutes of the last meeting but one, it’s not necessarily very attractive. My constituency party is not perfect but we have a very large membership. We’ve got 3,300 members in my CLP and 2,000 registered supporters. So we’ve got 5,000 people and the Labour vote is 30,000 — so one in six of the Labour vote are members of the party.
Labour branches are set up to represent Labour at the grassroots level. Based on the ward boundaries for the election of councillors, branches are where a lot of Labour Party activity takes place. Later in the interview, Corbyn recommends that branches make themselves more attractive by modelling themselves on his constituency.
Though he doesn’t say it explicitly, Corbyn’s comments suggest he’s endorsing new members being funnelled into local branches of Momentum, the grassroots left-wing movement that supports his leadership.
Business Insider has reached out to Labour for clarification.
Sources inside the Labour Party tell Business Insider that some local Labour branches are concerned about the establishment of local branches of Momentum. Their worry is that it’s becoming a parallel “ghost” organisation to the official Labour party machine. This is leading to all sorts of problems.
For instance, in the run-up to the vote on whether to extend RAF airstrikes against ISIS into Syria, the Momentum branch in Lambeth London decided to host a debate on the issue. The one person at the meeting who thought that the RAF should extend operations to Syria ended up being publically humiliated by a Lambeth Momentum organiser. You can see why local branches are concerned about the largely unaccountable Momentum muscling in on their patch.
If Corbyn wants to keep and strengthen his place as party leader, he needs to keep local branches on his side, as they form the constituency groups that will be selecting the new parliamentary candidates ahead of the next general election. Corbyn needs as many of these new candidates as possible to be as sympathetic to him, in order to keep control of his party in the election campaign.
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