I sometimes wonder what I would start my documentary about the death of the Labour Party with, years from now. Until today, I figured the first clip would be Ed Miliband’s resignation speech following the 2015 election defeat. While all of Scotland bar one constituency had been wiped out, and Ed Balls, his prospective chancellor, had been unseated as well, Ed joshed about “Milifans”. After today though, I may need to begin said documentary with something about this week’s election of three new NEC members and that event’s immediate aftermath.
The election of the three Momentum folk to the NEC would have been news enough before you get to the fact that they blew everyone else away, including the fourth placed runner, who happens to be Eddie Izzard. If Eddie Izzard can’t get within 20,000 votes of these people, it is hard to say who could. No, it was what happened after that.
Ann Black, who had been the chair of the disputes panel (the person who deals with interparty disciplinary issues, like whether something qualifies as anti-Semitism or not), was replaced with Christine Shawcross, who happens to be one of Momentum’s directors. The fall out from this is wide ranging. One, Ann Black was not a figure from the party’s right but rather it’s soft left; her removal signifies just how left-wing you need to be in Momentum’s eyes to hold a seat on the NEC. Two, it shows just how deeply Momentum have dug themselves into the DNA of the modern Labour Party – and how much father their ambition stretches. Three, it adds weight to the idea that deselection of moderate MPs might well be on their way.
That well known anti-Corbyn rag The Guardian last night published an article about trade unions getting involved in an “arms race” at CLP level. The intimation is that Unite are trying to get their people in at local level to a greater degree in order to be able to swing deselection races. Meanwhile, the GMB, according to the same article, are putting their people in as well. This could result in a cold war between two trade unions, one trying to deselect moderate Labour MPs, the other trying to keep them in place.
We can have an abstract conversation here about how to the left the Labour Party can be and still win a general election. I’ll only say that not losing the 2017 general election as badly as everyone predicted does not provide the definite answer many on the Left think it does. My point is that you have a group of people whose main, stated aim is to destroy the Labour Party as it has existed since 1900. Momentum and its Corbynite acolytes openly want to turn Labour into a social movement, which is the precise opposite reason the party was founded. The idea back in 1900 was to take the energy of the various social movements alive at the time and turn that into a political party, capable of gaining real power. Momentum and Corbyn’s aim is deconstruct the party back into a social movement.
I know, say what you will – I was wrong, just like most everyone else, about how badly Labour were going to lose the 2017 general election. Maybe I’m wrong again. But I just don’t see how any of this ends well for the Labour Party. Last summer, I wrote a book called “Apocalypse Delayed: How the Left is Still in Trouble”. It’s telling to me that in early 2018, not only do I not regret anything I said in the book, I would now be able to double its length without great effort.