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The radical left-wing grassroots group Momentum celebrated its fifth birthday over the weekend. Rising to prominence under former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum gained considerable ground and changed the party from within. It has enjoyed close ties with Labour’s traditional unions, including the party’s biggest single donor, Unite, headed by Len McCluskey.
Reports suggest the group will receive at least some of the money Mr McCluskey has withdrawn from Labour amid conflicting visions for the party by its left and new leader Sir Keir Starmer.
It was initially suggested that some £1million would now be available to groups and individuals with socialist agendas – although Mr McCluskey dispelled this figure in a Sunday Times interview, citing the number to be closer to £150,000.
Whatever the value of the 10 percent deduction is, many are now watching developments for any sign of a struggle between the party’s left and centre-ground.
Labour’s left has, since Mr Corbyn resigned in April, struggled against any change made by Sir Keir.
Momentum’s founder, Jon Lansman, earlier this year publicly denounced Sir Keir after the leader sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey – a prominent member of Mr Corbyn’s opposition – after she shared an article containing and antisemitic conspiracy theory during an interview with actress Maxine Peake.
At the time, Mr Lansman appeared on LBC and offered his thoughts on the situation, accusing Sir Keir of fanning “factionalism”.
He said: “I think he’s made a big mistake here.
“Sir Keir was elected to end factionalism…and I think he’s made it harder for himself to unite the party.”
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He said Ms Long-Bailey was just as committed to ending antisemitism within the party “as he and I are”.
He continued: “What he did do effectively was condemn Maxine Peake, a national treasure, for antisemitism and he did that without telling her the charges, without any application of the principles of natural justice, without allowing her to respond which is how a Labour disciplinary panel would expect this to have been dealt with.
“I find it very surprising that a lawyer and former DPP should act with such disregard for natural justice.”
The meat of the article focused on Ms Peake’s strong support for Mr Corbyn, and LBC host Iain Dale asked Mr Lansman whether he was suggesting that Sir Keir was in some way punishing Ms Long Bailey for this – to which Mr Lansman disagreed.
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He said: “She was also very supportive of Keir in the article and she made that very clear and said how important she thought it was for Labour to win and she would back Keir in doing that. That also makes it worse.”
He went on to accuse the Labour leader of “trashing” actor Ms Peake’s reputation.
He also said that Sir Keir, who had created the task of uniting the party after Mr Corbyn, had made it “much harder”.
Meanwhile, outlining his intentions in cutting Labour’s funding, Mr McCluskey said: “We know that it is this union’s financial support and dedicated activists that help ensure that the Labour Party is not just election-ready but sustained between elections.
“But we also want to use our political funding to support and nurture the newer voices in our movement.
“There are some very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance – and the Labour Party needs their enthusiasm and ideas too.”
The move has been interpreted as being a result of Sir Keir’s decision to pay “substantial damages” to Labour whistleblowers who appeared in a Panorama documentary exploring antisemitism in the party.
Labour paid between £600,000 and £750,000, to former employees and Panorama journalist John Ware after the party under Mr Corbyn suggested they acted in bad faith.
Mr McCluskey called the settlement a “huge miscalculation”.
Mr Lansman, who initially joined Labour’s attack on whistleblowers, later apologised as part of the agreed high court settlement with former staff.
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