Labour First, the supposedly “moderate” Labour faction, are gearing up for “battle.”
They have recently begun a crowdfunding campaign to pay for an organiser so they can fight against “Momentum and other Hard Left groups”. Their aim is to raise £40,000 to be spent, not on fighting the Tories, but on fighting within Labour.
Their conceit, that they are “fighting to keep Labour a broad-based and electable party” seems at odds with their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. A man who, whilst personally unpopular, represents policies that most of the country support: the re-nationalisation of the railways, removal of privatisation from the NHS and increased taxation for the wealthy all have a wide base of support amongst the wider electorate.
However, Labour First’s crowdfunding effort appears to be focused on two goals. Avoiding “divisive debates” and preventing the “McDonnell amendment” by organising to send their delegates to conference. These delegates have previously won such victories as keeping Trident and maintaining NEC power.
In keeping with Labour First’s undemocratic endeavours, the language of the crowd funding page is specific. Someone will not be elected to the position, they will be appointed. This top down group would do things no other way.
There is also the implication throughout their begging emails that the “Hard Left” have somehow infiltrated the party. To that I simply post this quote from Saving Labour:
The new recruits had been digitally tracked from Saving Labour to the Labour party website. At that end party officials could see where new recruits had come from. Party sources confirmed to Race that Saving Labour were comfortably ahead.
This comes from the build up to 2016’s leadership election. It appears that infiltration, whilst unsuccessful, was also part of the Saving Labour plan. Saving Labour have close ties to Labour First.
Of course Labour First’s new primary concern is the “McDonnell amendment.” In an email entitled “Breaking News: John McDonnell is now the head of the Labour Party”, Labour First come out against a rule change reducing the number of MP’s signatures required to get onto the ballot.
Their worry appears to be that if John McDonnell got onto the leadership ballot, should Corbyn be unseated, then the Labour Membership might do the unspeakable and elect him!
This lack of faith in the membership to make “the right choices” is incredibly patronising and underlines a consistent problem for Labour First. They don’t believe the members have a role in the party. To them, the people that deliver leaflets, canvas doors and run phone banks are of little importance. Any mandate they might give the leader pales in comparison to the mandate of MPs. Their right to choose their candidates comes second to the rights of MPs to mandatory reselection.
However the most worrying aspect is the implication behind their opposition. The anxiety around the McDonnell amendment reflects the court case used to try and exclude Corbyn from the ballot. Labour First are working hard to ensure the membership doesn’t get a full range of choice again, lest they continue to make mistakes. Would it not be simpler to dissolve the people and elect another?
Are Labour First gearing up for another attempt to oust Corbyn? After the disastrous Owen Smith campaign they have every reason to be nervous. However, if they are preparing to swamp conference with their delegates they may be able to secure the rule changes needed to eliminate their biggest liability, the membership.
Talk of unity is just that, talk. Labour First make it quite clear through their language that they see no compromise with Momentum. They refer to what should be robust debate as a battle and a fight. They don’t see a future where Labour work together but one where they take over.
As Mark Steel put it, they lost and now, bafflingly, demand the winners must make concessions.