Keir Starmer is the favourite to be Labour leader, but the party’s ruling faction may have other plans

The most effective weapon has been control over mailing lists – and it is the Corbynite left who now have access to them.

The Labour Party is a lot like a newly formed state: it has a democratic constitution, but not a democratic culture. Whichever faction is in power uses the party’s standing orders as a stick with which to beat its internal opponents. During the Ed Miliband era, one Labour staffer explained that his long, corporate-sounding title was simply a polite synonym for “using the rulebook to fuck people”.

Whatever the politics of the people in charge, the tricks remain broadly the same. The tactical, and late, deployment of all-women shortlists to shut out well-placed men in favour of an anointed woman – or to redirect a strong female candidate from one seat to another to make way for a favoured son – is one. The removal of dangerous opponents at the longlisting stage is another.

This explains why, though everything suggests that Keir Starmer is the candidate to beat in the Labour leadership, most astute watchers haven’t yet written off Rebecca Long-Bailey. She has the support of the party’s power brokers, which is always useful as far as intra-Labour combat is concerned, but is not always a decisive factor.

Several Corbynites were congratulating themselves for foiling an attempt at preventing Labour’s National Executive Committee officers from declaring a preference in the leadership race: a motion that would have made binding the existing convention that the departing leader does not involve themselves in the contest to decide their successor. Jeremy Corbyn promptly disappointed them by telling the BBC that he would not be making an endorsement of any kind. “A lot of people, they only care about this sort of thing when it hurts them, whether they’re on the left of the party or the right,” explained one close ally, “But Jeremy, well, unfortunately for us, is not like that.”

That attitude doesn’t extend to much of the Corbynite left. (In a measure of how limited the appetite for internal pluralism is, Clive Lewis, the Labour MP most sincere about opening up the party’s internal structures, was able to attract the backing of just four MPs, with the bulk of the Labour left massing behind Long-Bailey.)

Historically, the most effective weapon in internal contests has been control over the mailing lists. Access to these lists is, traditionally, sharply restricted by Labour headquarters to ensure that its preferred candidates are on first-name terms with party members long before their rivals even get a glimpse at their phone numbers. Direct experience of being on the losing side of that trick was one reason Jon Lansman, one of the Labour left’s longest-serving and wiliest operatives, opted not to shut down Corbyn’s first campaign for the leadership, but to turn it into its own organisation: Momentum. Momentum retains the details of the large numbers of party members who backed Corbyn in 2015 and 2016, which gives it a standing advantage over its opponents within Labour. …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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