Having been brought up in a family where everyone had strong opinions but no-one ever listened to anyone else, I was well-placed to attend Thursday’s North Norfolk Labour Party’s Leadership nomination meeting. I went with low expectations but departed feeling optimistic that the Party will survive, although it will take many years to win back the confidence of the electorate.
For those who are not familiar with the process, local Labour Parties such as North Norfolk, can hold an All Members Meeting to choose which, if any, candidate to nominate to succeed Jeremy Corbyn; however, the ultimate decision will be taken by the forthcoming national ballot when every member will have an individual vote once the ballot opens on February 21st. So, to some extent, this week’s event in Cromer was a pointless exercise, no more than a test of strength for the competing factions: it offered Corbyn supporters the opportunity to demonstrate continuing ascendancy locally; it offered mainstream counter-insurgents the opportunity to rally for the first time since we were crushed in 2016.
From my point of view the meeting began well. At 7.00 p.m. the Chair warned all those present that the formal proceedings would begin at 7.05 p.m.; anyone who turned up after this would not be allowed to vote. At 7.10 p.m. a hard core Corbyn supporter who had been gratuitously offensive to me and had been obliged to send a churlish apology* arrived with two other people; once the situation was explained to him, he promptly departed.
It is of course the numbers that matter. There were 32 members present. Since there are over 500 members currently in the North Norfolk Party this is a dismal turnout. Significantly it was half the number present in August 2016 when Jeremy Corbyn defeated his challenger Owen Smith by 44 to 15 in our local vote. This time our mainstream candidate, Keir Starmer, defeated the anointed heir to the Corbyn project, Rebecca Long Bailey, by 18 votes to 12. Set against this, these figures were reversed in the contest for the Deputy Leadership where leftish Angela Rayner defeated mainstream Ian Murray by 18 votes to 13. However, this all indicates a major shift in mood, albeit in a remote and wholly unrepresentative part of the UK.
I am sure that no-one came to this meeting with an open mind nor was influenced by anything that took place there. Any discussion was simply a necessary ritual to be undergone before the vote took place. However, the meeting was well-chaired and all those who spoke made their points in a non-aggressive, often reflective, manner. Indeed, what was most evident was both a collapse of bombast and a lack of organisation from the Corbyn faction. On the same evening we were asked to put forward nominations for Labour’s National Executive Committee – the NEC. This might not sound important but Momentum, the Corbyn faction’s organisational arm, have captured this body to do the leader’s bidding. In due course the NEC will be held to account for the shameful failure to deal with antisemitism in the party. Significantly this time Momentum could not produce and communicate an agreed slate of candidates for the NEC. I was able to secure the Constituency support for Gloria Mills (recommended to me by the mainstream Labour First faction) as our BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) nominee in the absence of alternative names.
The meeting finished early and I left in time to get home and indulge in my current binge watch: I am working my way through a box set of Game of Thrones, something that I never saw on live television. Late on Thursday I watched the final episode of Series 1. It ended with a slightly built fair-haired woman trying to regain a throne by hatching a number of dragons from their eggs, and thus commanding huge loyalty from a warlike tribe. If Thursday’s North Norfolk figures are any indication, Rebecca Long Bailey will have to produce some similarly unexpected initiative if she is to win. I am hopeful that she will not be able to do so.
*See my previous blog I’ve told to send it, but I didn’t mean it. https://leftyoldman.wordpress.com/2019/10/21/ive-be-told-to-send-it-but-i-didnt-mean-it/
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