Momentum founder Jon Lansman has pulled out of the contest to become Labour’s new general secretary amid claims of rifts within the party’s Left.
He Twittered that he had achieved his aim of sparking debate about the party’s governance and now intends to focus on his role on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
Lansman (pictured) appears to have come under pressure from Jeremy Corbyn, who is backing Unite official Jennie Formby. She is now be the heavy favourite to be elected general secretary by the NEC on 20 March.
Ms Formby would be only the second-ever female general secretary in Labour’s history and is seen as the pick of party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s allies. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has already offered his public support.
Lansman’s initial bid to replace outgoing moderate Iain McNicol sparked alarm within Unite, Labour’s biggest financial backer, as Momentum’s founder has long advocated reducing the power of the big unions within party structures. Lansman has argued for a much greater say for Labour members in the running of the party, including whether the general secretary should be elected by the membership, rather than chosen by the NEC.
Ms Formby and her allies are now aiming to calm concerns she would launch a “clear-out” of Labour staff deemed to be insufficiently supportive of the leader.
In his statement, Mr Lansman said his main aim had been to open the contest up to other contenders. He said: “Over the last few days, in spite of media reports to the contrary including misogynist attacks on Jennie Formby, NEC members have begun a productive, comradely debate about the future of the party.
“Whether the general secretary should be elected and what a transformed, member-led Labour party would look like are big, urgent questions – and I’m heartened to see members across the country openly debating them.”
He said would give his “full support” to whoever took up the post, but he called for an end to the era of centralised “command and control” in the Labour Party, in which the views of members were “too often ignored” and over-ruled at the party conference.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said Labour needed a general secretary that did not just represent one wing of the party. “We want to see the full suite of candidates and we’ll make an informed decision at the time,” she added.