After a three month election process and a thirty-eight day voting period, today the Labour Party announced to the surprise of very few that Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner had been elected as leader and deputy leader respectively.
While the current situation is unprecedented and has shaken our political culture, as well as everything else in the country. It had very little impact on the results of this race as most votes were cast back in February when the ballots were issued.
Many in the centrist wing the party will celebrate these results as the death of Momentum and forcing the hard left of the party to obscurity, while those from the left are lamenting a return to Blairism. Both views could not be further from the truth. This stems from a broad misunderstanding as to what Momentum is.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election to party leader in 2015 was fuelled largely by a movement of grassroots campaigners who lobbied both high level and rank-and-file party members. These campaigners would go on to form Momentum, a movement supposedly built around Corbyn and his ideology.
But Corbynism is built not around the Islington North MP but instead around the two most powerful people on the hard left of the party: the two Johns. John McDonnell, the outgoing shadow Chancellor, is the most visible of the two but Jon Lansman, who has been influential behind the scenes in the Labour left since the deputy leadership election in 1981, where Corbyn’s mentor: the late Tony Benn narrowly lost his challenge of Denis Healey.
After Ed Miliband’s defeat in the 2015 general election, the left of the party wanted to run a candidate representing the left of the party. McDonnell couldn’t reasonably run himself having tried and failed to get on the ballot in both of the previous leadership races, and many other potential candidates were unable to for various reasons. Under consideration for the left’s representative was newly elected MP, who had experience as Director of Public Prosecutions: Sir Keir Starmer.
They decided to move in a different direction, but it is clear that Starmer, if it wasn’t for Corbyn before him, would be viewed as quite a hard left leader. If the Labour left can succeed in getting a version of their ideology to the top of the party, without the tags of being an extremist placed on him by the media, they should be thankful.
What has ultimately stopped the left of the party from winning the other elections is a lack of unity. In the deputy leadership election, there was a splintering of support from key figures: Long-Bailey backed Rayner, while Momentum supported Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler too stood from the Party’s left. However, Burgon coming second in the first preference votes and third overall, indicates a huge influence for Momentum in managing to get someone so poorly thought of in the party to such a high position.
A lack of unity also impacted the NEC (national executive committee) by-elections as Momentum and the CLPD (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) endorsed different candidates which allowed all three Progress/Labour First candidates from the Blairite wing to sweep the board in elections to Labour’s ruling body.
The NEC continues to have a strong Corbynite presence, and if the Corbynite wing can stay united and keep their heads up, the left of the Labour Party is just down and not out.