It has been a good few weeks for Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party writes Andy Stowe. Steven Saxby, described by the Evening Standard as an “arch-Corbynite” has been selected as the party’s candidate for the symbolically important City of London and Westminster constituency, which remarkably is a Labour target seat at this election.
Saxby’s home constituency is run by the family of the Progress supporting MP Stella Creasey and the Standard exclusively revealed that:
“Three separate sources in Waltham Forest Labour confirmed the local party had decided that Mr Saxby, who was supported by the Unite union and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, was not a suitable council candidate.”
We may never know who those sources were. His two major sins are that he’s a Corbyn supporter and once spoke at the same meeting as George Galloway. Unlike Saxby, who’s a Church of England priest, Progress don’t seem to believe in forgiveness and sometimes give the impression that they’d rather see a left Labour candidate lose than win. The left across London, and particularly from Waltham Forest will be working hard for Saxby.
Meanwhile, in Newham, east London, Corbyn supporter Rokhsana Fiaz trounced the sitting mayor Sir Robin Wales to become the party’s mayoral candidate in local elections on May 3rd. This is despite the fact that the party bureaucracy had imposed a rule that only members of more than two years’ standing could cast a vote. Wales’ team played dirty in other ways too, making unsubtle references to the perils of “ethnic politics”.
Wales who ran the council for 23 years, first as council leader and then as mayor since 2002 thought he had a shoo in again but complaints about the way a trigger ballot had been conducted forced the procedure to be reopened. Fiaz, a sitting councillor, made increasing social housing the centre of her campaign and has also said she will hold a referendum as to whether the post of directly elected Mayor should continue.
The third bit of good news is that the two shortlisted candidates for the job of party general secretary are both Corbyn supporting women. Jon Lansman, the Momentum chief executive, wisely withdrew from the process and the contest is now between Christine Blower, former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers and Jennie Formby, regional secretary of the union Unite in the south east of England.
Both are strong candidates and the appointment of either will be a big boost to the party’s left. They also personify two strands of Corbyn’s support. Formby didn’t leave Labour at any of the moments when left activists decided that the party had committed one betrayal too many. This will give her an advantage in the job interview. Blower is one of those who experimented with life outside Labour and even stood for the Socialist Alliance as a parliamentary candidate.
Most Labour MPs as well as the overwhelming majority of councillors and candidates are not Corbyn supporters. Many would be left candidates were carved out of selection processes in recent months all across the country because the right still controls the levers of power and is willing to play dirty. Nevertheless, Corbyn supporters are making modestly significant advances due to putting in serious work in their local Labour branches. As Fiaz’s and Saxby’s selections show, it is lightminded to dismiss those internal Labour Party battles.