London is the latest battleground in Labour’s internal struggles for power

25th October, 2016 3:29 pm

London_Thames_Sunset_panorama_-_Feb_2008

Labour’s left wing has stepped up its organisation for internal elections following setbacks in votes on party reform at last month’s conference.

London Labour’s regional board elections will take place in November, and Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are looking to make gains after some surprising disappointments in Liverpool despite their candidate’s overwhelming re-election as leader.

However, they face stiff competition, with opposition from the party’s Corbyn sceptics forming a much broader coalition than normal. Rather than a combined Progress and Labour First slate, as is common in National Executive Committee elections, Momentum-backed candidates will face organised competition that includes elements of the party’s soft left.

London is becoming a key battleground in Labour’s internal struggles for power. Despite being presented as a heartland for Jeremy Corbyn’s support, a leadership contest poll found that the long-serving Islington North MP only beat challenger Owen Smith by a margin of 53 per cent to 47 per cent in the capital – a much lower margin of victory than he recorded nationwide. On top of that, Sadiq Khan distanced himself from Corbyn during the London Mayor election this year, and has a strong body of support among Labour members.

But Momentum are ensuring that their own big-name figures are being used to corral support in the lead up to London Labour’s conference on November 12. The group’s supporters in London have this week received emails from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott (both themselves London MPs), urging them to back the left’s candidates for the regional board “that will help Jeremy win in London”.

Over the coming years, the board will play an important role in councillor selections and helping form Labour’s response to the boundary review (which will likely see Labour MPs from different wings of the party go up against each other in selections) but also, as McDonnell and Abbott highlight, in “hearing appeals from people unfairly barred from voting in the leadership election.” For the Labour left, the subject of suspensions and expulsions from the party remains a hot topic, and one they feel can be used to boost support for pro-Corbyn candidates.

This election is confounding many naturally-assumed alliances. Delegates of GMB, a union which backed Owen Smith in the summer, are seen as possible swing votes, although the union has given its support to several candidates on the Momentum-backed slate.

The other slate, meanwhile, sees candidates who in the past would have been more likely to be backed by the left, including former Unite Political Director Steve Hart (who recently defended Corbyn’s appearance at the Stand Up to Racism event) and London Assembly Member Tom Copley.

With around a fifth of Labour’s 640,000 members thought to live in London, next month’s elections could give an indication of how much influence Corbyn’s supporters can wield in the internal battles ahead.

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