As the Prime Minister grappled with the fall-out of the Carillion collapse this week, her opposite number on the front bench secured a major victory in his campaign to tighten the Left’s grip on the Labour Party machine and constitution. This week’s election of a trio of Corbyn allies to the Party’s ruling National Executive Committee cements the hard Left’s power over the Party and is likely to lead to fundamental changes in the way MPs and Party leaders are selected and how policy is determined. Make no mistake, the election of Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham to the NEC this week is decisive. For the first time, the left has control of virtually all levers of the Labour Party machinery – from the Parliamentary leadership, to the executive and the biggest trade unions.
Some Labour moderates are quaking in their boots. The spectre of de-selection has long hung over Corbyn-sceptic MPs as Jon Lansman has always backed mandatory re-selections – whereby sitting MPs are obliged to go before their local party before being allowed to stand again – and this rule change could now be just around the corner (councillors incidentally have had to do this for some time). But whether there’s enough to be gained for the Left by going down this road is questionable. It would spark a furious backlash from most of the Parliamentary Party and a round of intense in-fighting would not be a good look for a so-called Government in waiting. In any case the Left can wait for the reduction in the number of Parliamentary seats to take place and use this to unseat moderates.
So, the Momentum wing has a choice – fight for (further) control of the Party focusing inwards to stamp its imprint or look outwards to try win the country. Either way, some moderate Labour MPs will need to up their game. If automatic deselection does make it in to the rule book, what will they do? Some will win anyway as they are popular and Momentum does not control every Party. Some are rapidly befriending their new members and might start batting more left on key issues. Others? Stand as independent candidates or walk away? Many Labour MPs are not looking optimistically at the future.