Progress’s Streatham bastion falls to the left

By Mike Wood, Streatham CLP and RMT member

Last night at a packed meeting of about 400 people Streatham CLP voted out almost all of the right-wing branch officers, albeit by a narrow margin. The left slate got between 190 and 200 votes for almost all positions, to the right’s 180-185. The results replicate almost exactly the split at the recent All Members Meeting that voted to move from delegate to AMM structure, indicating that result was not a fluke but also that the left still has a lot of work to do to entrench its position in the membership.

The right have used the party machinery to defend Chuka Umunna and the local right-wing Labour councillors from criticism. They’ve obstructed grassroots activism wherever possible in order to keep control. Streatham was one of their bastions of power in London, and yesterdays result will likely have others thinking along the same lines as Umunna – is it worth staying?

Unfortunately the left didn’t complete a clean sweep as a number of left slate voters appear to have deserted the slate when voting for BAME officer. One of the left candidates, standing as a job share, used their motivating speech to describe Brexit as a racist endeavour. This was brave, provocative, and absolutely correct. It may be the case this cost 15-20 votes and allowed the right to win. The left strategy of trying not to talk about its Brexit divisions is neither politically nor tactically effective.

A great deal of work remains. The left-wing candidates now in charge of the CLP have many political divisions between them. Much of what unites them is opposition to the right – which to some degree is fair enough, but not enough going forward. The new left CLP exec is going to come under exactly the same pressures the right did, to work within the entrenched party structures and not rock the boat, and to support the local council with its program of cuts. Streatham Labour Left will need serious debate about the next steps in order to spark a serious debate among the membership.

New CLP joint secretary Seema Syeda told us:

“I’m still slightly reeling after winning the contest for Co-Secretary with Axel Landin at last night’s AGM. Make no mistake about it, the left’s results last night were hard fought, and hard won.

“We stood on a manifesto for socialism, anti-racism, community engagement, and serious opposition to Tory austerity.

“We won many positions in the face of negative smear campaigning and deep hostility from some of our Labour comrades.

“But now is the time to turn a new page. The threats of climate change, neoliberal austerity, and the rise of the racist and fascist far-right are real. They endanger liberal centrists and left-wing socialists. They endanger Muslims, ethnic minorities, Jews, the LGBTQ+ community, and anyone who has been defined as the ‘other’.

“I appeal to all wings of the Labour Party to unite and fight these serious existential threats. For it is only by pooling our talents and striving together that we can transform Britain, and transform the world.”

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