Back in December we wrote that the battle for Labour’s soul would shift from the Parliamentary Labour Party to the election of the next General Secretary of Unite, the super union which is Labour’s main funder and a key supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.
This prediction was proved accurate this week with the exposure of an alleged left-wing plot to take over the party. Deputy Leader Tom Watson took to the airwaves amidst claims and counter claims from Momentum and Unite. We saw for the first time ever a leader in the Sun supporting a trade union General Secretary candidate.
Why is this important? Momentum, the grass roots organisation which sprung from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, was supposed to herald a bottom up revolution in the Labour Party – bringing in a new left wing activist base to reselect MPs in their own image. The movement has somewhat petered out. Consumed with its own factional infighting, it’s ordinary members appear to be more at home as ‘clicktivists’ rather than activists. Waging war on the Tories via Twitter has been the preferred plan of action, rather than turning up to draughty meeting halls in order to take over local parties.
So Labour’s left need a plan B. This is what was published by the Observer on Sunday. An undercover recording emerged of the leader of Momentum outlining plans for Unite to affiliate to his organisation after Len McLuskey is re-elected. This would provide a massive cash injection into Momentum and give them access to Unite’s political database of party delegates, who attend Labour party meetings at all levels and tend to be mandated on how to vote by the unions’ powerful political committees.
Quite specifically, the objective is to change the party rules to reduce the amount of nominations from MPs and MEPs needed by leadership candidates to get on the ballot paper – a change known as the McDonnell Amendment.
This would allow a Corbyn successor to stand as leader and likely be elected by the hundreds of thousands of new members, who joined to support Corbyn, without being excluded from the race by the party’s MPs.
All of this comes as an ICM poll puts Labour 19% behind the Tories, a gap which has widened in spite of the criticisms over the budget and after a weekend when Tory voices urged the PM to trigger an early election – an act, which, if it came to pass, would risk decimating the Labour Party.
(Tom Watson , By Rwendland – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52451589 & Jeremy Corbyn, By Rwendland – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50258810)