Momentum South Birmingham is on good terms with Momentum founder Jon Lansman and his NEC supporter Christine Shawcroft – last Sunday, she was speaking at an event it organised for Birmingham Labour members and supporters.
However, after a vote at the same meeting it has issued a statement supporting Unite’s Jennie Formby for the position of Labour General Secretary – yet again showing the falsehood of the media’s depiction of recent events as a ‘union/Momentum split’ – and describing, amid high praise for his contribution and capabilities, Jon Lansman’s decision to apply for the position as ‘a mistake’:
It is a testament to how far we have come since September 2015 that there is even a debate about two left-wing candidates for the post of General Secretary and that both are outstanding.
Momentum South Birmingham owes it’s existence to Jon Lansman and there is little doubt that his role over the years, of firstly keeping the flame burning of socialism in the Labour Party despite defeat after defeat, and then being so central to the astonishing progress that the left has made since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, has been a key one and will continue to be key. Without Momentum, and Jon Lansman, it is very clear that the Corbyn project would have been strangled at birth and we should never, ever forget that.
Jon would make an exceptional general secretary and his motivations for standing are we are sure unquestionably good and democratic ones; but MSB members, after a decisive vote at our 4th March branch meeting, are of the view that Jenny Formby should be the next general secretary of the Labour Party.
Jenny has shown over the years an exceptional aptitude for this kind of role and it is high time we had a woman in a senior party position. Her politics are clearly and consistently of the radical left and it is right that Unite, the biggest affiliated union, plays a major role in the future direction of the party of the organised working class.
The stakes right now could not be higher. We have an historic opportunity to make permanent changes to the party and build a mass movement rooted in workplaces and communities, and takes office with a plan to transform society on socialist principles. But we mustn’t think that the left’s current ascendancy is permanent or anything more than fragile. As we know in the West Midlands, the task of changing the party at every level is enormous. Just modest improvements have taken protracted and draining struggle and we have not been able to relax for even a moment.
We will only succeed in our mission of party and socialist transformation if the Labour left is united and right now there is no room for complacency – and sadly having two left candidates competing for the role is not an indulgence we can afford. If the right were thoroughly routed and we had an enormous majority on the NEC then we could consider a selection of candidates. We are not in that position yet. And while the rules may allow for an exhaustive NEC ballot the signal a that a single left candidate would send is a strong and positive one.
The media stories about a Momentum/Unite split fill MSB members with horror, particularly as many of us are proud members of both organisations. The future of the project hinges on ensuring that any split is firmly nipped in the bud and we have seen over and over again locally the importance of Momentum’s relationship with the union. To take one prosaic example, we took the decision to endorse Jenny in the Unite offices in Birmingham.
MSB seeks to retain it’s comradely relationship with the Momentum national office and Jon Lansman, and we would be diminished without that. But the power of friendship is the ability to tell a friend when they are making a mistake, and we believe Jon’s candidacy at this moment is a mistake. The left needs to unite behind one candidate and that candidate should be Jenny Formby.
We offer her our full support and urge Jon Lansman to re-consider his decision to stand.
The strength of the Labour movement is in unity – and the resurgence of that strength can be seen in the ability of members who disagree to deal in good faith with each other and still disagree.
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