Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis has delivered a withering verdict on the decision of Momentum’s governing committee to offer Momentum members only a choice on whether or not to back the committee’s preferred candidates for the leadership and deputy leadership.
In an email to the group ahead of its meeting, Lewis had said that he would not ask for endorsement by a small group instead of a proper ballot of members:
Our movement has suffered a serious defeat, but we must embrace this leadership contest as an opportunity to renew the party, and to renew the left. Doing this means celebrating our successes and defending our gains, but also being honest about the mistakes we have made.
2015 was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our party. The election of Jeremy Corbyn was a historic shift – it brought hope to millions and it opened up a space to transform Labour. I am proud to have supported Jeremy from the start, and in both leadership elections. I joined Momentum, and played a role in it from the beginning, because I knew that unless Labour was willing to be bold about its ideas and harness the power of a mass movement, we never stood a chance of delivering the transformative change that our society needs.
Creating a mass movement that is worthy of the name means more than mobilising doorknockers and winning internal elections, essential though those things are. It means creating a political project which is internally democracy, pluralistic and committed to listening to every part of its support base. We don’t need footsoldiers – we need activists who can think critically, and who have a democratic say in our policies and campaigns.
The biggest issue facing us today is a crisis of democracy. The 2019 election result, and the Brexit referendum, were the product of 40 years of neoliberalism, which wrecked livelihoods, ripped the soul out of communities and undermined social solidarity. People lost control over their own lives, and the democratic system failed. If we ever want to win again, we need to be serious about democratising every part of our country, from scrapping the rigged voting system, to empowering trade unions and bringing democracy to the workplace.
But we will never be able to bring real democracy to the country if our own house is not in order. In 2015, we talked about a new kind of politics, but we must be honest in saying that members have not been given enough of a say – either in Labour or here in Momentum. A culture of command and control has crippled our party and our collective creativity. In this leadership election, the left must convince the Labour membership that we are the true inheritors of the democratic promise of 2015. If we don’t, we will lose, and we will deserve to lose.
Tomorrow, I will be releasing an initial manifesto, and I look forward to developing my policies in dialogue with you and grassroots party members in the course of the campaign. As well as laying out an economic programme that delivers for everyone and a Green New Deal to tackle the climate emergency, it will include support for Open Selections and pave the way for a deep democratisation of our party. Now is not the time to triangulate to the right on immigration or abandon our radical programme. We must strive to lead a decentralised social movement, distributing resources and autonomy to our regions, and building alliances beyond the boundaries of the party on key issues.
It would be an undemocratic move for Momentum to endorse a candidate at a meeting of a small committee – so I cannot call on you to simply endorse me at this meeting, without even having seen my initial manifesto or anyone else’s.
If Momentum is to back a candidate, it must ballot its members, and the process must be fair and transparent. That is my request of you today.
However, Momentum’s ‘NCG’ has decided to ballot members only on whether they agree with its decision to back Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader and Angela Rayner for deputy.
An angry Lewis told the SKWAWKBOX:
It looks very much like someone in Momentum’s leadership has been reading the Kim Jong-Un handbook on democratic engagement.
Momentum has been contacted for comment.
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