Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The choice for general secretary is simpler than you think

Only one candidate for Labour’s top job seems to have the full backing of the leader. It should be them that gets the job, argues Adrian McMenamin

I want Jennie Formby to be the next general secretary of the Labour party.

I want her to be selected because she is the least suited of the two known candidates, but the one most firmly backed by Jeremy Corbyn. You see – and I have never hidden this before and I am not starting now – I do not want Corbyn to be leader of the Labour party. I also know that, in holding that view I am in the minority, at least amongst Labour party members. I need things to happen that will persuade more members to agree with me, and appointing Formby, who has never demonstrated to me any of the characteristics needed to run our party’s machinery, should, I believe, help in that task.

I know that is not likely to be a welcome sentiment to many of the good people who work for the Labour party. As someone who spent three periods in party headquarters between 1987 and 2005, I know they are some of the very best and most dedicated of people, yet I also know we live in the middle of a political emergency and the necessity of saving the Labour party from itself overrides so many other things. Sorry, comrades, but I am not sorry.

If Formby gets the job she will be Corbyn’s appointment pure and simple. Others are backing her of course – and tarring them with her likely failure is important too – but the buck stops at the top.

I want her to get the job too because to get her there her supporters have engaged in the most appalling behaviour that makes a mockery of every claim they have ever made about wanting a democratic party where the wishes of members come first and where parachute landings were ended. Their manipulation of the process needs to succeed so they can have no excuses.

The pixels on the press statement announcing Iain McNicol’s resignation had barely switched state before we were being told that Formby was to be the next general secretary. It took less than a working day for the National Executive Committee officers group to announce a timetable for the new appointment that was shorter than any in living memory. Since then we have heard reports that Corbyn’s office have been leaning on everyone they can to endorse Formby and – of course – there has been rubbishing of the only other, now declared, candidate.

Whatever else this will be, it will not be an equal opportunities appointment, but one of the worst stitch-ups ever.

Another reason I want her to get the job is because I want the reality of the way in which Len McCluskey and his followers seek to centralise power to dole out favours to one another to be fully exposed. If Corbyn will be the father of this appointment, McCluskey will be its midwife.

Under McCluskey’s leadership a wicked political culture in Unite has festered. Failing to be honest about the union’s falling membership while going so far as to threaten to sue Gerard Coyne’s campaign for libel and then sacking him are just a few of the examples of the way in which Unite is turning into the Potemkin Village of industrial militancy. That culture, corrosively eating away at our biggest union, needs to be destroyed, and sunlight is essential for that to happen.

Finally, I want Formby to succeed because I want the Momentum train to be derailed. The political world Momentum are busy creating is, if anything, even worse than that found amongst McCluskey’s camp followers. While none of the national or local leaders of Momentum may be sexists or antisemites, it seems many are unwilling to take a firm stand against either if it gets them what they want. They deserve to be beaten and their supporters need to learn that if you run with the tigers you get eaten.


Adrian McMenamin is a Progress columnist and is the former chief press and broadcasting officer for the Labour party. He tweets at @adrianmcmenamin


Photo: Rwendland

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Adrian McMenamin


  • Another immoderate article without any sober arguments. I do wonder if the bottle of vitriol will ever empty. It seems he would rather lose an election than see transformation.
    It seems progress is only moderate in its criticism of those with wealth and power and is craven to the financial forces that ruined the economy.
    The approach he favours is the old Comintern one of ‘after the disaster we will take power. This approach is fatally flawed. Progress needs to review its own history and the legacy it left when it lost power to understand why its narcissistic and undemocratic use of the party machine led to members electing Corbyn. Until it does it will just be pissing into the wind and growing increasingly shrill and bitter.

  • This is surely one of the poorest type of contributions that could be made – full of self-indulgence, negativity verging on depressive. I struggle to grasp the point in making it.

    This site would be wise to do a reCAPITCHA test on it lest it is a spoof designed to discredit.

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