The dangers to the left of Lansman’s decision to stand

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Amid conflicting reports of voting methods, claims of democracy and a statement by Jon Lansman that seems to say that he, a man, is standing against a female candidate because he wants to see more women take positions in the Labour Party, many people appear to be wondering what the harm is or could be in him applying for the position of Labour Party General Secretary.

The SKWAWKBOX has great respect for Jon Lansman and everything he has done for the Labour Party and to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. But his decision to stand is fraught with risk for no perceptible gain, at a time when Labour’s focus should be on a smooth, straightforward process that does not distract from the impending local elections.

But people are struggling to understand what the problems are – so below, in as dispassionate a fashion as possible and without speculation on Lansman’s possible motivations, is a non-exhaustive list of the realistic dangers.

The ‘inside rail’

Although some journalists have written that the NEC (National Executive Committee) will decide which candidate to recommend to this autumn’s Conference by ‘exhaustive ballot‘ – and that this means there is no risk of a right-wing candidate winning because of a ‘split’ vote – this is not the case.

NEC sources tell the SKWAWKBOX that the decision has alway been made by ‘first past the post’ voting – in a similar way to the UK’s General Elections, the ‘winner takes all’ and the winner is the one with the most votes.

With a 21-17 left/right split on the current NEC, a second left candidate only needs to peel away a few votes for a right-wing candidate to ‘come through on the inside rail’ to win, as long as the right votes solidly.

The right will vote solidly – and it will put up a candidate, if it sees a chance to block the preferred choice of Corbyn and McDonnell. It’s certain that a candidate has already been identified in readiness.

The ‘alternative’ vote

Journalists have been confused about the voting system because it appears someone has briefed them that the NEC’s decision will be made by ‘exhaustive vote’. However, the SKWAWKBOX understands that Lansman hopes – and has suggested – that the vote be made by STV (single transferable vote).

This would reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of a right-wing ‘inside rail’ candidate coming through to win. However, it would also mean the NEC changing the practice of years to accommodate Lansman.

It would take seconds for that news to reach the ears of hostile press – who would have a propaganda ‘open goal’ to claim that Momentum’s take-over of the Labour Party was complete.

STV would also reduce Lansman’s chances of winning. Given the support that has already swung behind Jennie Formby, he could only win if the right voted for him. Right-wingers on the NEC might do this to snub Corbyn – but Lansman’s and Momentum’s credibility with left-wing members would be damaged and the party hindered going forward.

The ‘fastest loser’

One immediate consequence of a successful Lansman bid would be that he would have to resign his seat on the NEC to take up the role. Under Labour’s rules, the candidate in the recent NEC elections with the next-highest number of votes would take the seat – just like the ‘fastest loser’ in an Olympic heat getting through if an automatic qualifier was unable to compete.

In this case Eddie Izzard – who was supported by right-wing factions Progress and Labour First.

Izzard’s initial tenure might be short – new elections take place in the summer for all nine ‘CLP’ (constituency Labour party) positions on the NEC – but it would mean Izzard fighting the new elections with the significant advantage of incumbency.

The next round

Lansman’s decision to apply for General Secretary is, he says, connected to his desire to democratise the party. But he was elected to the NEC only last month and many who voted for him have expressed dismay that he is ready to effectively nullify their votes by stepping out of the position into which they voted him.

This will be compounded if any of the above consequences take place. If the party is damaged, Lansman may struggle to get votes even if he stands as part of the ‘left slate’.

Not only that, but the credibility of the left slate itself may be compromised – and the solidarity of left-wing members.

If this allows right-wing candidates to get onto the NEC in the new elections, the ‘left project’ will be seriously hampered for the next two years – with some semblance of the ‘bad old days’ the Labour Party’s left-wing majority have just escaped and hoped to put further behind them with the resignation of Iain McNicol.

The priority

Hugely important local elections are just two months away. The decision to pick a fight where one is not necessary and little or nothing is to be gained is a counter-productive distraction from local election campaigning – and a PR gift to those who want to damage Labour’s prospects.

The Tories have been expecting to do badly. Very badly. So badly that they are busy managing expectations by talking of a ‘wipe-out’, so that even a disaster can be portrayed as better than expected.

The propaganda opportunity this decision is handing to the hostile media risks helping them achieve that ‘better than expected’ and claim some kind of win in May.

The lost ground

Any or all of the above consequences will mean throwing away ground hard and painfully won against the machinations and propaganda of the ‘centrists’.

And all this for no significant gain for Labour Party members and the people who need a genuine Labour government – against a widely-supported and highly-regarded female candidate with a track-record of superb work for the party and its members.

And certainly not for any improvement in Labour’s internal democracy or the furtherance of the party’s fantastic women.

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  1. I see Jones the flip-flopper appears to be sitting on the fence again in today’s Guardian. Read more carefully and it’s clear he’s slyly backing Lansman and advocating a downgrade of Labour’s vital link to organised labour and the working class through the trade unions. Add to that the fact that Lansman and Jones are using the Guardian, the paper that tried to bury Corbyn alive, for their underhand assault: it’s not pretty.


  2. Luke Akehurst has declared he is standing, not sure how much support the right of the NEC will give him mind you. I imagine their actual candidate atm is a much more shadowy and much less risible figure.

  3. An excellent analysis of the pitfalls if Lansman running.

    But the bottom line is that Lansman does not have the political capital to win. He’s used it all up.

    Stand down, Jon. The perception is starting to form that you are happy to sabotage the Labour Party for your own personal gain. You’ve got Wes Streeting endorsing you for heavens sake!

    Get out while you can Jon, the Blairites are taking you for a fool and you will be the one who picks up the tab.

  4. I only hope Izzard doesn’t end up fronting anything to do with the Labour Party.

    1. That’s fine no problem with a democratic vote , so if Lansman wins to become GS and his old post becomes vacant then we run another democratic OMOV selection to elect the new successor to that post.
      You don’t fill the vacancy with the looser last time round , that would be Izzard , the result of the last vote was clear Jon was selected , next vacancy up then we run the democratic selection process and vote again , there is absolutely nothing to stop Izzard and anyone else from applying/running .

      1. So just to be clear rob, contrary to what skwawkbox says in the above article, you’re saying that Eddie Izzard WOULD’NT automatically take Jon Lansman’s place if he – Jon Lansman – were to win the vote to become GS?

      2. On reading your comment again – which is in response to aajay’s comment of course – I gather that what you are saying (to aajay’s point) is that Izzard SHOULD be elected democratically and NOT just fill the position automatically (if Lansman were to win). So ignore my above comment.

        The reality is though that Izzard WOULD automatically take Lansman’s position (if he were to win the vote for GS), and THAT in itself is another reason why Lansman’s bid to become GS is questionable.

      3. @ Allan yes you are correct in your second response , it is a somewhat rhetorical stance I am trying to take in reply to Aajay’s comment seemingly to infer that the left is picking and choosing when democracy suits us. I refute that implication as far as I am concerned the left ( or for that matter the right if the roles were reversed ) is stuck with a situation and a dilemma created by the ruling of 2nd place looser taking the vacant position which now forces us into a corner that gives the impression as perceived by Aajay.
        I am quite happy for a re-run election as described in my above comment that is what the rules SHOULD be. However , you are quite correct in that with the present ruling the looser automatically takes the post , this , I feel is something that must be changed. Like a lot of things in the rule book I am finding , they seem to be archaic and just begging for abuse .
        Apologies if this seems somewhat muddled hope this makes (some) sense .

  5. I cannot see any advantage in Landsman. It looks suspiciously like an attempt to boost himself rather than the good of the Party. I’m in the Labour Party. I remember the damage caused by entrenched parties-within-party which cracked our unity and led to Blair.
    Let’s not go there again. Please.

    1. Jon Lansman is no doubt well aware of the scenarios outlined in the above article, and would have been prior to formally announcing his bid for GS, so why has he done so. Given that he knows that Jeremy is backing Jennie, why would he do such a thing, and not just publicly back HER.

  6. I have been a Labour voter all my life now, but am actually an Anarcho/Commie bastard who stands and watches all the shenanigans which go on in those Parliamentary Parties and their Party machines! I think it’s time for voters to demand more than just the jockeying for positions by professional political elite who, in the end just maintain the status quo of corruption with little or know real meaningful connection to the mass of people who vote! I’ll continue to vote Labour, despite that, in my area, the Labour candidates are just another couple of opportunist careerist pricks without a Socialist bone in their body and the two, Comrade Lansman and Comrade Formby who are standing for the Gensec post just look like a couple of similar careerists of which the Labour Party seems to have a plethora of! Look closely at the PLP and, except for some very few honourable exceptions, one finds far too many of the PLP who are just in it to carry on assisting a Parliament which is so removed from any real democracy and is controlled by the establishment which maintains it’s crushing hold on the people of the UK! I’ll continue to vote Labour because it’s all I’ve got but come the day come the time when a real Socialist Party with a mandate to democratise Parliament and not just use voters as a stepping stone to wealth and self aggrandisement, fields candidates, that’s where my vote will go! I’m afraid this continual inner Party bickering by individuals who just look and sound the same is just downright petty and demeaning! A curse on both your houses!

    1. I’m so far to the left I’m all alone too 🙂 I don’t shout ‘revolution!’ because too many people die in the process.

      Always thought of myself as an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary Communist for that one overriding reason – now though, when the right are letting so many of the less fortunate among us die – it’s getting harder to keep thinking peaceful thoughts.

      I don’t expect to live to see a truly just society – maybe such can only become permanent when Capitalists have oppressed us to the point where we have no alternative but to rise up and take everything back by force. If so I hope our new society isn’t encumbered with memories of the violent deaths of the 1% and their enablers.

      The right-versus-slightly-left society that exists, where voters vacillate between the two, is because the Tories allow us too little education to see an alternative to their hegemony.
      Education should be the next priority after homes and health for all.

  7. In my ignorance I’d hoped that his intention may have been to act as a target for the MSM’s bile, drawing their flak away from Jennie Formby.
    I also imagined that the last thing someone with his credentials would ever do would be to leave a gate open for any right-wing, self-obsessed idiot to stroll through.

  8. It is beginning to look like he has his own agenda. If he stands I will never vote for him in any election in future. The Labour party is a broad church and not the Jon Lansman show.

  9. So, Wes Streeting backs him. And Galloway he has said should never be allowed back in the party as “an anti-semite”. Snap, cries Ian McNicol. Wes Streeting and Ian McNicoll. Any more?

  10. I am now very confused about the role and power of the GS. I was not aware it was a political role to push for changes as some appear to be suggesting it is. or could be.

    I personally found this list and comment by Ben Sellers very helpful and more in line with what I thought the role of GS was.

    This appointment (and article *wink*) have certainly exposed some of the left ‘factions’ for want of a better word.

    Looks like more men are throwing their hats in the ring… where are more women?

  11. Has Lansman been ‘got at’ in some way? Seems such an unnecessary battle to fight, only causing harm.

  12. I will be transferring the fairly large and regular donations I make to Momentum’s national organisation to the local Momentum group until Lansman stands down from this contest.

    I would suggest others who wish to support Momentum but who wish to protest against Jon Lansman’s destructive and self serving behaviour do the same.

    1. I.A , just a thought , there are a lot of good folks in the Momentum National organisation besides Jon Lansman , perhaps they feel the same way who knows , but if we all followed suit then I fear that the unity behind Momentum might falter .This would be very serious for Labour and the left. Appreciate your concern but we ought to be careful not to punish dedicated colleagues in making a point.It is none of my business whatsoever , but as a respectful suggestion perhaps a 50:50 split between National and Local might be a not to destructive way forward and makes the point.
      If Lansman stands down he will still be on the NEC and we need him onside.
      The left has to stay unified in it’s efforts to reform Labour back to it’s roots

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