Labour MPs rally against Mo­men­tum plan

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Jes­sica El­got

Jon Lans­man, founder of the hard-left po­lit­i­cal group Mo­men­tum, has hit back af­ter fierce crit­i­cism by Labour MPs of his in­ten­tion to af­fil­i­ate his grass­roots group to the trade union Unite, as a way to con­sol­i­date the fac­tion’s power in the party.

The plans for Mo­men­tum to af­fil­i­ate to the UK’s big­gest union and take full con­trol of the party’s demo­cratic struc­tures by elect­ing a new list of hard-left rep­re­sen­ta­tives were re­vealed over the week­end af­ter Lans­man was se­cretly recorded at a Mo­men­tum Rich­mond branch meet­ing.

In the record­ing, Lans­man said the af­fil­i­a­tion would re­quire Unite gen­eral sec­re­tary, Len McCluskey, to win his re­elec­tion bat­tle against ri­val, Ger­ard Coyne.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips, a mem­ber of Unite, said she would quit the union un­less it made clear it would not ac­cept af­fil­i­a­tion from Mo­men­tum. “McCluskey has to come out and say, this is noth­ing to do with me, and dis­tance him­self from it all and say no prom­ise has been made,” she told the Guardian. “If he doesn’t, there is no way I will con­tinue to pay my subs if it is go­ing to fund an or­gan­i­sa­tion that sends co-or­di­nated abuse to my col­leagues.”

Lans­man told Phillips Mo­men­tum had never re­ceived a penny in dona­tions from Unite. “And it won’t un­less it is agreed through the proper process,” he tweeted.

A new con­sti­tu­tion drawn up by Lans­man last year made it clear ac­tivists must be mem­bers of the Labour party in order to par­tic­i­pate in Mo­men­tum, but in the record­ing, the Mo­men­tum chair sug­gested en­sur­ing Labour mem­ber­ship would not be en­forced.

“It was im­por­tant to re­quire Labour party mem­ber­ship in the rules but it is down to en­force­ment. No one from the cen­tre is go­ing to tell you to kick peo­ple out,” he tells the meet­ing. Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Wat­son, tweeted Lans­man last night say­ing the record­ing was “very clear” in what it meant. “You’ve re­vealed your plan. If you suc­ceed you will de­stroy the Labour party as an elec­toral force. So you have to be stopped.”

Lans­man replied: “We won’t al­low non Lab mem­bers to hold of­fice or vote (un­like Coop party or Fabi­ans) but we won’t ex­clude them from ac­tiv­i­ties/meet­ings. For 20 years the left was de­nied a voice. We will deny a voice to no one. We face big chal­lenges, & we need our mass mem­ber­ship to win again.”

A spokesper­son for Mo­men­tum said Lans­man was speak­ing in an “as­pi­ra­tional man­ner” about the pos­si­bil­ity of Unite and the CWU af­fil­i­at­ing to Mo­men­tum.

A Unite spokesman said af­fil­i­a­tion de­ci­sions could not be made by the gen­eral sec­re­tary alone and were a mat­ter for our ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil. “No dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter is sched­uled,” the spokesman said. Vot­ing in the Unite gen­eral sec­re­tary elec­tion takes place be­tween 27 March and 19 April.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips said that she would quit Unite un­less it made it clear it would not ac­cept af­fil­i­a­tion from Mo­men­tum

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