Jeremy Corbyn tightens grip on Labour as left wingers sweep NEC election

Candidates backed by Momentum, including Jon Lansman, won all three positions on the party’s governing body

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 15 January 2018 13:00
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Jeremy Corbyn’s influence on Labour’s governing body has received a significant boost after left-wing candidates won all the positions up for grabs in a crucial set of elections.

All three of the vacancies on the National Executive Committee (NEC) – the organ of the party responsible for setting rules – were swept up by three candidates backed by Momentum, including the organisation’s chief and veteran left-winger Jon Lansman.

The elections mean pro-Corbyn voices will now have a majority on the key decision-making body and could pave the way for significant changes to Labour’s rulebook, including the way in which leaders are elected and members are involved in policy-making.

The Momentum-backed candidates included Mr Lansman, an architect of the organisation and key ally of the Labour leader, Manchester councillor Yasmine Dar, and Rachel Garnham, who is a constituency Labour Party secretary for Mid Bedfordshire.

Ms Dar won 68,388 votes while Mr Lansman achieved 65,163 and Ms Garnham had 62,982 – beating her closest opponent, comedian Eddie Izzard, by more than 23,000 votes.

After the announcement of the results, Mr Lansman said: “The election of Yasmine, Rachel and I shows there is hunger among party members for a new, social-movement style party that is capable of transforming Britain at every level

“This means energising and empowering members to win the next general election. It also means properly resourcing initiatives that help Labour members to make a difference in their communities now.”

Ms Garnham said the result showed the “continued enthusiasm” among party members for the “hope offered by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership”.

The ballot was triggered after Labour decided at the party conference in Brighton last year to expand the NEC and create three new positions, directly elected by the membership – now believed to be well over 500,000.

A fourth position has automatically been given to a trade union representative, taking the total number on the NEC to 39.

In an interview with The Independent last year, Mr Lansman said it was his “objective” to push for changes to the ruling executive, giving members of the party a greater say over determining policy, leadership contests and candidate selection.

“Looking at how the party is operated, there is a glaring deficiency, given our experience of the value of members and what members can do if you mobilise them – because they are ordinary people who know their communities,” said Mr Lansman.

“It is vital that they are fully engaged in the process of the party, in determining policy, in picking candidates, in electing leaders – all of the decision-making in the party. It’s important they feel ownership of the party.”

Until recently, relations between Mr Corbyn and some on the NEC have often been hostile. A particular flashpoint occurred in the summer of 2016 – during Mr Corbyn’s second leadership contest – after the NEC’s procedures committee appealed against a High Court ruling giving recently signed-up members a vote in the contest.

The NEC won the appeal, preventing 130,000 new members from voting in the 2016 contest between Mr Corbyn and his challenger Owen Smith, who now serves as the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.

But since Mr Corbyn defied his critics at the general election last year and increased the number of seats the party has, the left has won a series of victories on the NEC – including the decision to expand it with the current ballot.

The significance of the body was also highlighted last year when it approved a crucial change to the way future Labour leaders are elected, reducing the number of MPs needed to nominate a candidate from 15 per cent to 10 per cent.

But the alteration was the result of a compromise over the so-called John McDonnell amendment, and left wingers are believed to have ambitions to reduce the number of nominations to 5 per cent.

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