Momentum, a Jeremy Corbyn support group, is forcing potential Labour candidates to pledge their loyalty to the group’s vision for the party before it will support their bid to become MPs.
A councillor for the party has publicly admitted that he has signed up to the “political objectives” of the campaigners, while various others are also believed to have enlisted their names to the said agreement.
In one of the thirteen pledges that were included in the accord, the hopefuls should agree to “fully implement” the manifesto of Labour once the party get into government.
While it is not necessary to have the support of Momentum to become a Labour MP, the power of the grassroots group, the resources, and the influence within party circles make the possibility of doing so in the absence of its approval considerably less straightforward.
Momentum is largely regarded to have played a major role in the positive general election result of Labour in June, which saw the party close a 22-point poll gap in order to remove the majority of Theresa May in a humiliating blow for the Tories.
A Labour MP described Momentum’s move as a “Stalinist approach to politics” because the potential candidates were giving away their “right to independent judgement” in office.
The pressure group had been sending the contracts to organisations already. The contracts include trade unions. However, it has also only just started forwarding the agreements to potential candidates.
The hopeful parliamentary members must sign two documents in the deal with Momentum namely, a constitution that binds them to its vision, and a code of ethics that is stating how they should act in office.
Peter Chowney is one of the candidates who signed up with the group. He is a leader of the Hastings borough council who said that he was unrattled by claims that the contract would possibly undermine his independence in office.
Chowney said: “I’m not a member of Momentum, but they approached me and because I fully support the manifesto and was one of the few Labour council leaders to back Jeremy Corbyn in both his leadership contests, I am happy to sign up. It’s not like I am signing anything in blood.”
However, a Labour MP, who did not want his identity to be disclosed, criticised the said loyalty deal with Momentum.
He said: “It reflects a Stalinist approach to politics that Momentum would come up with such a contract for candidates. It has worrying implications for our democracy that there could be MPs in parliament who have signed away their right to independent judgement.”
A spokesperson for Momentum admitted to reporters that it aims to sign up potential Labour candidates who shared the group’s “aims and values” before it pledged its support.
In a statement, the spokesperson wrote: “It’s a perfectly normal part of selecting prospective parliamentary candidates for Labour supporting organisations, including trade unions and others, to back candidates that share the aims and values of their members.
“Momentum wants to see a member-led Labour Party capable of winning elections on a transformative, socialist programme that will reshape Britain. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we’d back candidates who share that vision.”
The spokesperson could not immediately disclose the number of potential candidates that had already signed the so-called loyalty contract with the organisation.
The Labour Party was contacted for comment. However, the group did not immediately respond.