Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Reading, May 2017. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Reading, May 2017. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Corbynism and the prospect of a Labour government are at risk if the NEC undermines the membership and democracy

A lot seems to rest on tomorrow’s meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee.

The NEC is deciding on proposals to be voted on at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool this weekend.

The NEC has already gathered once this week to discuss which parts of a democracy review will go through to conference and voted on by delegates. The reports of that initial meeting look like a set back might be in store for Corbyn and the membership.

The aim of the review, carried out by former MP Katy Clark over the last year, was to produce a set of proposals to give members more say over the direction of the party.

Hundreds of thousands of members who joined the party to back Corbyn have learnt the hard way that party structures and rules often seem set up to keep members out of key decisions. Some of this is the legacy of Tony Blair – the sidelining of members was an essential part of his leadership.

Corbyn managed to exploit rules that were meant to keep the Left out of the leadership. But once Corbyn is gone, how will members make sure there are left-wing candidates on the ballot next time? And more imminently, how will party members replace right-wing MPs with candidates who will back a Corbyn government if Labour wins the next general election?

Everyone who wants Corbyn to succeed realises there is an urgent need to replace the MPs who have threatened to sideline Corbyn as soon as he’s won a general election, who have done everything possible to disrupt Corbyn’s leadership and will do everything possible to disrupt his premiership. If the Parliamentary Labour Party succeeds in bringing Corbyn down, they will make sure they will never make the “mistake” of Corbyn again. No left-wing nominations again on the basis of “having a debate.”

The democracy review addresses these democratic problems, making it easier for local parties to nominate candidates through a new selection process and lowering the number of MPs needed to nominate a candidate for the leadership.

But the NEC doesn’t seem to have much appetite for these new proposals. Left-wing NEC member Darren Williams said shortly after Tuesday’s meeting:

I’m sorry to say that the majority of the NEC – including much of the so-called left – has proven itself too cautious and conservative to grasp the opportunity that the Democracy Review presented.

It’s clear to Corbyn supporters that unless new candidates are chosen by the membership to replace at least some of the worst right-wing Labour MPs before a general election, the Corbyn project is in jeopardy.

When the NEC gathers tomorrow they must seize the moment. The Labour Party has become the biggest socialist party in Europe because an outsider from the movements reached the leadership and spoke the language of millions of people. Moves to further institutionalise top-down decisions about leaders, candidates and policy will demoralise members and prevent the people we need from reaching positions of power.

Labour members don’t want to be cogs in a machine. They don’t want to be told that their only role is door knocking and paying membership subs. They don’t want to be told who should represent them and what they should be fighting for. That approach by Tony Blair shrunk the membership and turned many people away from politics entirely.

The membership want what Corbyn promised, which is why they joined Labour in 2015 and since. They want a movement that gives voice to their concerns, gives working class people the chance of political representation, and delivers the majors breaks on domestic and foreign policy.

The NEC has to realise that Labour won’t succeed if it tries to tame what was unleashed three years ago. It must implement the proposals in the democracy review or it risks bringing Corbynism and the prospect of a Labour government that will deliver to a short end.