Unions v Momentum battle for Labour general secretary gets underway

Written by David Singleton on 1 March 2018 in Diary

Jon Lansman has announced that he will challenge Jennie Formby for the gig.

"New battle lines are emerging within Labour," ran the headline of a piece by Daily Mirror associate editor and Total Politics columnist Kevin Maguire earlier this year.

"The seismic disputes in the coming years for the heart and soul of Labour may prove to be not between a Jeremy Corbyn cult and its enemies, or wider Left versus Right clashes but the collective industrial movement up against individual political activists," wrote Maguire.

The 'unions versus activists' battle was then over parliamentary candidates, according to Maguire. But a few weeks later it has escalated to the level of Labour’s general secretary with Momentum founder Jon Lansman confirming that he will stand against top Unite official and fellow Labour national executive committee member Jennie Formby.

Lansman said he was applying "to open up the contest and ensure we have a wide range of candidates". In an apparent swipe at the way Labour continues to be dominated by the trade unions, the veteran left-winger pointed out that Corbyn had run for the Labour leadership on a pledge to end "the old machine politics".

The contest comes almost seven years after outgoing general secretary Ian McNicol got the job in 2011, at the fag end of the Blair/Brown battles.  And just as the Blair/Brown battles used to put many Labour noses out of joint, the first major Unions/Momentum skirmish is already causing some disquiet within Labour's ranks. 

In particular, Lansman’s decision to run is said to have infuriated members of Corbyn's inner circle who are backing Formby, including his chief of staff Karie Murphy. It is also far from ideal for those Labour MPs who are publicly supporting Formby, such as Andrew Gwynne, Laura Pidcock and Chris Williamson...



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