Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the campaign trail ahead of the British general election last year
Voting in Labour’s National Executive Committee elections closes today, with Jeremy Corbyn looking to tighten his grip on the party.
Three newly created seats are up for grabs in the NEC – the main policy and decision-making body charged with running the Labour Party and setting its rules – which is finely balanced between centrists and Corbyn supporters.
The expansion will see the 36-strong body grow to 39 members, and polls suggest a clean sweep for hard-left candidates that would realign the party.
“The new seats will give Corbyn a clear majority on the NEC, allowing him to push through sweeping changes of party rules later this year,” says Politico’s Jack Blanchard.
The party’s leaders called for the creation of the new seats, saying it was important to have more representation for Labour’s 600,000-strong membership base.
“They also knew that those elected to the new positions would almost certainly be favourably disposed to Jeremy Corbyn,” says Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall.
The NEC has the power to propose constitutional changes, so control of the committee can be used to alter the way policy is made and revise the operation of the annual conference.
“If they want to do so, they can pursue changes to the party’s rules which will make life even more uncomfortable for its non-Corbynites,” says The Guardian’s Andrew Rawnsley.
Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who looks likely to be elected, argues that the grass-roots campaigning network – which evolved out of Corbyn’s 2015 election campaign – is simply looking for members to have a greater say in the running of the party.
“Firstly, they need to feel ownership of it, but we also have 600,000 members who know their communities, fellow workers and their workplaces,” Lansman told Sky News.
Writing in The Guardian, political commentator Rachel Shabi argues that if Momentum wants to seize power on Corbyn’s behalf, it has an odd way of going about it.
“Currently, the group is working on an app to create links between Momentum groups and members,” Shabi says. “Giving people tools with which to talk to one another and organise in an unmediated way is pretty much the opposite of what you’d do if you wanted to put control in the hands of a few.”
The ultimate result of an NEC shift to the left, along with changes to leadership rules and the drive towards deselecting centrist councillors and MPs, could be “Corbynism forever”, says Stephen Bush in the New Statesman.
However, as Bush says: “Labour has an amusing tradition of its constitutional quirks not quite working out the way its architects hope, and it may well work out the same way this time.”