What does Forward Momentum’s win mean for the Labour Party?

Sienna Rodgers
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Keir Starmer scored another big internal win at the latest Labour national executive meeting (NEC) yesterday. The ruling body decided to switch from first-past-the-post to a single transferable (STV) system for member representative places on the NEC. In plain English, the nine local party reps will now be elected by a more proportional system and – according to proponents of the change – this will limit ‘hyper-factionalism’. Basically, someone like Ann Black has a much better chance of being elected to the NEC.

Why is this controversial to some on the Labour left, even sparking threats of a legal challenge? Partly because the issue has not gone to conference, and this shows that Starmer can push big changes through the NEC. Partly because by reducing ‘one-slate-takes all’ results, STV means that even if the left returned to power at leadership level they would struggle more than they did under Jeremy Corbyn to get a majority on the body. In the meantime, the Labour left will be relying on a limited number of reps to stick up for their side on the NEC.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Starmer in the NEC meeting. He was criticised by Huda Elmi and Lara McNeill over his response to Black Lives Matter and approach to racism in the party. Further details of what happened during the lengthy Zoom call can be found in my detailed write-up (including NEC election timetable) and Alice Perry’s super speedy NEC report, which reveals that: policy consultations are being extended; a virtual policy conference will be held in the autumn; local parties will use Microsoft Teams to nominate NEC candidates; David Evans will work on allowing normal local party business to resume online; Labour now has 580,000 members.

In other big internal party news, Forward Momentum has emerged victorious from the Momentum elections that mark the exit of co-founder Jon Lansman. Rival slate Momentum Renewal had high-profile backers, but the Forward campaign started earlier and won over Momentum members with a strong message of change. FM won all 20 member representative places, giving them a majority on the top body, while MR won the four public office holder seats elected by MPs and councillors. We’ve seen this divide between public office holders and the grassroots in Momentum for a long time, but these results offer a stark illustration.

What does this mean for Starmer and the wider party? There were many more public office holders in Renewal’s slate (a point of contention in itself). The Labour leader can be cheered that they have lost: Momentum is now less intertwined with Labour in parliament and local government. Whether these results are good news for the leadership overall, though, depends on how effective you reckon the new Momentum is going to be. Bluntly, you can argue that this is good for Starmer because the left is spread more thinly. But you can also conclude that Momentum will be tough on policy. Forward candidates are strongly opposed to any watered-down positions on migrants’ rights, a Green New Deal or democratisation such as mandatory reselection. To think of them as ‘soft Momentum’ is wrong. And they are determined to organise.

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