Lewis urges Momentum to ballot members before backing a leadership candidate

Leadership hopeful Clive Lewis has urged Momentum to consult its members before backing a candidate in Labour’s leadership contests ahead of a crunch meeting this morning.

The national co-ordinating group (NCG) of the activist network, which grew out of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign, is gathering today and will decide whether and how to endorse one of the MPs running to be Labour’s next leader.

LabourList understands that preparations have been made for a ballot of all Momentum members to be held, but it is up to the members of NCG – including chair Jon Lansman, who is also director of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign – to decide whether a full consultation takes place.

Ahead of the meeting, Lewis has written to the NCG urging the ruling body not to endorse him – or any other person hoping to secure a place on the ballot paper – before having seen his manifesto that will be released on Sunday or seen any other detailed policy platform.

“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,” Lewis wrote.

Encouraging the ruling body to take a different path, the leadership candidate concluded: “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.”

Lewis is currently far short of the 22 MP and MEP nominations required to enter the next stage of the race, and may not make up the necessary numbers before the Monday deadline. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Keir Starmer have all reached the threshold.

Corbynite frontrunner Long-Bailey has also written to senior Momentum figures. She urged the group to back Angela Rayner over Richard Burgon in Labour’s deputy leadership race, according to a Guardian report.

Below is the full text of Clive Lewis’ letter to the Momentum NCG.

Dear comrades,

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.

In Solidarity,

Clive Lewis

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