When the Corbynite Left won a majority on the Labour NEC a fortnight ago, I noted that we ‘still haven’t seen the full extent of what the clique running Labour might do if they have a free hand’.
Those wondering quite how they might use their newfound control of Labour’s governing body didn’t have long to wait. Last week, in an extraordinary move, the NEC voted to interfere in the local housing policy of a Labour-run council – Haringey, where Momentum has deselected a swathe of councillors in an increasingly bitter dispute.
That set an important precedent. Corbynites were quick to claim the NEC’s intervention was merely a suggestion, but when paired with deselections and a rise in personal abuse targeted at dissenters it is perfectly clear that this was the new bosses flexing their muscles and testing their ability to centrally dictate the decisions of Labour councillors.
There are already concerns that some voters, accustomed to relatively moderate Labour candidates, might find in May that they have inadvertently lent their support to something far more extreme. This new attempt to force Corbynite policies on Labour groups accentuates that danger – even if your Labour councillor is not a signed up Corbyn enthusiast, how can you be sure that they won’t be expected to follow orders from the NEC, on pain of deselection?
These are not hypothetical fears. They are shared by more than 70 Labour council leaders, who wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Times of their concern that the NEC’s actions were “an affront to the basic principles of democracy”, set “a dangerous and alarming precedent” and were backed by “uncomradely [and] disrespectful” calls for disciplinary action. Their full letter, and the full list of signatories, can be found here.
This is straight from the horse’s mouth: even Labour’s own leaders in local government – the people leading councils in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Lambeth, Lewisham, Durham, Rotherham, Bolton, Cumbria, and scores more – believe that their Party’s governing body is a threat to local democracy, and seeks to impose its own judgements based on “speculation” over the heads of locally-elected representatives.
These are quotes that should appear on Tory leaflets right across the country when the local elections begin. It doesn’t matter how reasonable or sensible your local Labour candidate might appear on the doorstep, or how in touch they might seem with local events – even Labour’s own council leaders know they are at risk of being overruled from hundreds of miles away by the Hard Left factionalists who now run the Party.