Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) elections are soon kicking off, and slates of candidates are being formed. The contests will be conducted under a single transferable vote (STV) system and the deadline for submitting candidate statements is July 10th. We already know that the Tribune group of MPs (not to be confused with the magazine) is endorsing three former parliamentarians as candidates for local party representative seats. If you’re wondering why there are slates of less than nine candidates, which is the full number of local party reps, STV has a lot to do with it. Under the new proportional system, you don’t want first preferences to be spread too thinly among your favoured candidates.
It is interesting, then, to look at the set of recommendations newly released by ‘Labour to Win’. The new joint project of ‘old right’ organisation Labour First and Blairite group Progress is putting forward six candidates of its own, including the two incumbents who won their NEC seats in the recent by-elections but will now have to fight for them again. But the umbrella group is also recommending that party members vote for three other candidates: soft left favourite Ann Black, and two of the Tribune three (I’m told it couldn’t be all three as they wanted at least three BAME candidates among the nine recommendations). This is part of Labour to Win pitching itself as a “coalition of mainstream activists” who above all want Keir Starmer to succeed.
Open Labour, LabourList can reveal, will be backing just two local party rep candidates (one of whom is almost definitely going to be Ann Black), plus one councillor (likely Alice Perry), one disability and one youth rep candidate. They know their onions when it comes to STV, having been its fierce champion over the years, so their decision to back only limited numbers in these sections is no coincidence. The need to optimise first preference is crucial. Open Labour members will be able to self-nominate until Saturday, then a ballot will be held from Sunday 5th to Thursday 9th, in time for the candidate statement deadline on Friday 10th.
The missing piece of the puzzle is Momentum, and other Labour left groups if no single slate can be agreed. The organisation has only just elected a new leadership – with just over a week to figure out what they’re doing. The winning Forward Momentum campaign promised to ballot members before endorsing slates for internal party elections. But can they arrange such a vote in this very limited time period? Or will they pass it off as a legacy from the old guard and go ahead with Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance negotiations? (If so, will they kick off current NEC members Jon Lansman, Huda Elmi and others?) It is a balance between not wanting to break a recent campaign promise and not wanting to risk far too many Labour left candidates being put up for election.
Some lefties are withering about the new Momentum’s chances of dealing with this situation successfully. “They’ll renege on their promises and become everything they hate as they realise the reality of the situation. Sad really,” one former Momentum staffer said. The dilemma illustrates one of the key debates on the Labour left, which is also taking place within the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. As the source put it: “Does the left of the party remain cohesive and effective under new challenging circumstances… or do we just throw shit into the tent from the outside and get nowhere?” Keep following LabourList for further developments, which will shape the future direction of the party.
Update: The Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) has put out a statement saying it wants to “assemble a slate of candidates that will attract broad appeal across the party”. This is the umbrella under which groups such as Momentum, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the Labour Representation Committee, Jewish Voice for Labour and Red Labour work to form a united Labour left slate for the NEC.
There is some nervousness around the process as nobody is certain of how the new Momentum leadership will approach it yet. LabourList understands that this CLGA statement has been issued to reassure members on the party’s left that all those groups want a single slate. It is also understood that there is consensus over the slate not being a full set of nine candidates – more likely five or six – due to the STV change.
I will be in conversation with Lisa Nandy tonight in an event organised by the Tribune group of MPs. Sign up here and feel free to email your suggestions for questions. And another quick reminder that LabourList has launched a fundraising campaign this week. Read my editor’s letter here and visit our donate page here. Many thanks to everyone to our existing and new regular donors.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.