On Monday 17th July a great deal of focus within the Labour Party will shift away from opposing Theresa May’s Conservative government and towards an internal vote for what is known as the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC).
The Arrangements Committee sets the agenda for what is debated at the Labour Party’s annual conference held in the autumn. As a result, the two internal factions which have formed within Labour in recent years. Progress/Labour First take a centrist view and oppose Jeremy Corbyn, whilst Momentum - Corbyn’s wing of the party - are calling for a more left-wing policy agenda, and see it as an opportunity to influence the party.
Already, both sides have chosen their preferred candidates and lobbied for Constituency Labour Party (CLP) nominations, with big names from both Labour factions calling for people to vote for their candidates.
But whoever wins the Arrangements Committee election, Labour remains weakened by the existence of two clear opposing factions. At a time when it should be united in opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit Bill which will put workers’ rights, trade and the strength of our economy in jeopardy, there will once again be focus upon an internal power struggle for the helm of Labour.
This latest contest follows two leadership elections which were marred by allegations of abuse, bullying and misconduct. Such charges which also surrounded Labour’s key backer, Unite the Union, during a leadership contest they had this year, which resulted in Len McCluskey seeing off challenger Gerard Coyne (Coyne has since been sacked from his union post).
Party members on the left will tell you that the centrists started it first, by refusing to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the party and ignoring the democratic will of Labour Party members.
Those on the right of the party are of the opinion that Corbyn (and his pressure group Momentum) has undermined the Labour Party, infiltrated local CLPs and threatened to deselect hard-working MPs in favour of their own ultra-left candidates.
While all of this goes on, Britain is suffering. The NHS is in mortal danger due to workforce and financial pressures and the spectre of privatisation. Brexit threatens to destabilise the pound, force British businesses into bankruptcy and repeal a huge number of EU laws which guarantee workers’ rights, consumer protection and the right to appeal against British law to the European Court of Human Rights.
Inequality and poor social mobility have been cast almost entirely aside due to a lack of public money. A Labour government would be able to rescue us from the brink of what is a national crisis. But to the general public, Labour continues to present an image of being fractured, caught up in its own internal power-struggles and factionalism.
Labour also risks alienating many of its members, to whom the current division and contest for supremacy is not part of why they signed up to the party. Labour members who do not belong to either of these factions are caught in the middle, pressured during local candidate selections, national committee elections and day-to-day life to sign up and support one side or the other. Often, this is even worse at a local level, where due to the lack of scrutiny and simple democratic structures, groups from either the right, or left, from a particular trade union or those supporting a particular MP or group of councillors are able to project their power.
It has to be said that there are some key individuals whose importance and status depends upon perpetuating an internal battle between left and right within Labour. Multiple groups receive undeclared and undemocratic donations to sustain their websites, create adverts and organise phone banking and leafleting for their particular candidates at a local and national level. Likewise, notable bloggers and Twitter-users depend upon a contest for power for their traffic and status within the Labour Party. It is naïve to think that if some sort of peaceful agreement was reached, those people would be content to hang up their Twitter accounts and get back to contesting general elections against the Conservatives.
They will, of course, tell you that their struggle is absolutely vital to changing the country for the better, either by making Labour more electable or more principled. However, they’re wrong. During the past few years, party division has proved fatal to UKIP, and has been the weakest aspect of the Conservative Party, with struggles between Johnson, Gove, Hammond and May.
Labour needs to present a stable, credible alternative to the current government, and any infighting between Progress/Labour First or Momentum candidates will only weaken the public’s trust in voting for Labour at the next general election.