Stop the McDonnell amendment

My New Year’s resolution is to stop the hard-left lowering the threshold to stand for Labour leader from 15 to five per cent

First published on ProgressOnline | Featured in the Guardian

2016 was obviously a total disaster for those who want to see a Labour government in the not too distant future. Disappointing local election results, coming third in Scotland, losing the European Union referendum and the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn followed by near silence. Since 24 September 2016 there has been little done to unite the party, nothing done to flesh out of policy ideas, campaign days on grammar schools and the NHS were so poor few voters noticed and the Labour leader appears at prime minister’s question time and that’s about it. Labour finishes the year with a 25 per cent standing in the polls – some 17 points behind an unelected Tory leader that is bereft of ideas and vision. Only 18 per cent of the public like our economy team and just 17 per cent our leader. The Corbyn project has clearly failed and many who voted for him, even the second time, are rapidly coming to the same conclusion.

Charlotte Church is the latest to realise that Corbyn will fail those who need a Labour government, because he is unable to convince their friends and neighbours. She told the New Statesman:

‘I think he can’t win. The best thing for him to do is to train somebody up under him, who can be a new fresh face.’

She is only saying what others are thinking. So the hard-left – understandably not keen to give up the controlling heights of the workers’ party – focus on who comes next.

John McDonnell, in an interview with the Eastern Daily Press, recently tipped ‘Clive Lewis, along with Richard Burgon, Becky [Rebecca] Long Bailey, Angela Rayner’ as future leaders. But the shadow chancellor wants the crown for himself.

To that end Momentum – ironically set up out of Corbyn’s first campaign to bolster his leadership – have a plan. Their friends in the so-called Campaign for Labour party Democracy intend to change just one digit in the Labour party rule book: the threshold to stand for party leader from 15 to five per cent. Known as the ‘McDonnell amendment‘ after the two-time hopeful who craves the leadership his friend currently occupies, it aims to allow a candidate with little support in the parliamentary Labour party into all future races for the top job. It means a would-be leader would need support from only one in 20 of their colleagues, down from one in seven.

This pitiful threshold not only belittles the idea of leadership, it is an anathema to Labour’s commitment to parliamentary socialism and to Britain’s parliamentary democracy. Not only is ‘Clause One’ of the party rule book to ‘maintain in parliament and the country a political Labour party’ but our system require the candidate to be prime minister to command overwhelming support on the treasury benches. The hard-left’s amendment acknowledges that their candidate for leader will never command that kind of support.

2017 will see their rule change come to Labour party conference. It must be stopped. McDonnell is not the answer to Labour’s problems, nor is one of their hard-left prodigies. It is my New Year’s resolution to do all I can to stop this disruptive amendment. Small it may seem, but huge are its potential consequences. At last year’s conference, moderate delegates in the trade unions and from constituency parties were able to vote through a positive set of reforms. If we work together this year’s conference can ensure Labour’s future is in the hands of the voters, not the Corbyn apparatchiks and their failed project.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell


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