Momentum lack momentum at the Town Hall
Old guard sweep the board at Labour meeting of members of the St Pancras and Holborn party
26 October, 2017 — By John Gulliver
Mike Katz and Roger Robinson
LIFE under Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons is one thing – in Camden it’s quite another.
You would expect the majority Labour group at the Town Hall to follow the Corbyn road but this week it may feel it can go its own way following a shock meeting on Tuesday evening.
The old guard swept the board at the annual meeting of members of the St Pancras and Holborn party – taking all the offices from secretary to minor positions.
It was a packed meeting of more than 100 delegates – remember, membership has rocketed to nearly 5,000 – but outvoted were the new delegates, mostly Momentum novices, by 61-42, as each position came up for election.
It seems that while Momentum members have met in recent weeks and agonised over policy questions the old guard were busy lobbying comrades to vote for the right candidates at the annual meeting.
They were able to thumb through the list of members which is only in the hands of branch secretaries and untouchable to anyone else so bereft Momentum recruits were left high and dry.
Thinking ahead to the next local elections in 2018, the old guard began putting its players into position for selection as candidates months ago – and so far they appear to have put in place a sound body of trusted candidates who tend to be, at least, suspicious of Corbyn politics.
Selection meetings got testy at times as the selection panel known as the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), largely under Mike Katz, checked nominated members.
Whatever drove the panel to reject the veteran councillor Roger Robinson, who has been on and off the council since the 70s will never been known but his appeal to the London Regional Office was upheld – perhaps Labour feared the scandal of a civil suit by Robinson on the grounds of age discrimination.
But then the other week they also rejected another candidate who has been in the party for more than 40 years partly because of his “lack of experience”.
He was a known supporter of Corbyn – perhaps too supportive for their liking. To his dismay, his appeal failed at the Regional office.
Baffled by rules, frustrated new members, some of them of the Momentum kind, have rounded on Mike Katz – a motion was passed at a West Hampstead meeting seeking his resignation from the LCF.
This is likely to hit the buffers in the weeks ahead.
Also rejected as a candidate was a young Ellie Machover, the grandson of the controversial Professor Moshé Machover, who has just been expelled from the party. Was it guilt by association with the LCF? Was Ellie Machover, who lives in Hampstead, too close to Corbyn?
Where did the LCF come from? Before the 80s, members were nominated as candidates for the council by a body known as the Local Government Committee – it made few waves among the membership.
All this was changed by, firstly, Neil Kinnock, then Peter Mandelson – a Camden Town resident – along with Tony Blair until today the choice of candidates has been fine tuned towards Blairite contenders.
The creation of the LCF system is attributed to Mandelson, known as the “Prince of Darkness”.
The National Executive may revert back to the old system but that belongs to the future – next year, however, the new Labour council will probably remain safely with the old guard.