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Young Labour in Left landslide but chaos, manipulation & smears mar NEC election

Young Labour Labour Students Next GenerationThe Young Labour conference in Scarborough this weekend has seen the triumph of the Momentum Youth and Student slate in the elections for the Young Labour national committee. The sweeping victory of the Left for the first time in 30 years presents an opportunity to create a movement capable of attracting not those who want careers in politics but those who were enthused in such large numbers last summer by the prospect of a new kind of politics. Unfortunately it is marred by the dirtiest contest for an internal election I have ever witnessed.

What the Labour Party needs is a generation of activists motivated by idealism and hope with the ambition to make the world a better, greener, more equal place, with communities that care about peoples’ needs, and workplaces that develop skills and offer secure jobs with proper wages. Not another, much smaller generation of people who would provide yet more identikit MPs in suits, of whom the British public have already seen too many.

On the national committee, of thirty three seats (with the NEC representative still in doubt) only six are from the right-wing slate — two seats elected by the conference, three Labour Student reps and one young Fabian. All eleven seats elected by a one-member one-vote ballot of all young members of the party to represent Scotland, Wales and the English regions were left candidates as is Caroline Hill, a primary school teacher, who was elected as chair.

Although the result of the election for Young Labour‘s representative on Labour’s national executive was declared with the Progress/Labour First candidate Jasmin Beckett winning by the narrowest of margins, 49.55% to 49.41% for Momentum‘s James Elliott, with 1.05% declared as spoiled ballots, the result is still hotly disputed. The wafer-thin winning margin could have been overturned by a single student or union delegate. Last night, James Elliott sought a recount but was refused by the returning officer, Stephen Donnelly (until recently Chair of Scottish Labour Students leader and a recruiting serjeant for Progress accused of bullying young students in the process), in a manner described as “rude” and it is expected that the declared result of the election will be challenged, as it already has been by Unite, in a number of formal complaints this week about the way the election and the conference was conducted.

According to a report by Labour Students, allegations relating to the conduct of individual Young Labour party members have already been received by the Labour Party which “is now conducting an investigation. Baroness Jan Royall has been appointed to lead this investigation.” It is thought that investigation will cover at least two main areas of complaint:

  1. The charges of antisemitism made originally by the resigning co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC),  Alex Chalmers, on 15 February citing the club’s decision  to endorse Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) as the immediate cause but also claiming that “a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.” This was later actively used against two candidates in Young Labour elections, James Elliott and Max Shanly, though early reports in student newspaper Cherwell, the Mail, Independent, Telegraph and even Guido don’t mention them and later reports which do mention them are remarkably lacking in actual allegations.
  2. Allegations that Jasmin Beckett seriously  violated the candidates’ code of conduct by disparaging James Elliott “labelling him as antisemitic to a large group of young members” and encouraging her supporters to do likewise using Facebook and Twitter labelling him an antisemite. The full complaint, first revealed by the Morning Star on Saturday, lists several statements by Jasmin Beckett doing just this backed up by screenshots (of which the unedited version is here) including such comments as “Just get a few people tweeting saying ‘shocked my union GMB are supporting James Elliot who is antisemitic’ or something??”, “at the end of the day do you actually want an antisemite as NEC rep? Think people need to know” and “Think it’s appalling behaviour and the fact he could become the next NEC rep is scary.”

Now some, like former Young Labour NEC rep Bex Bailey writing in the Murdoch Red Box supplement to the Times argues that this demonstrates that “both sides are claiming foul play“. Party officials have in effect made the same assumption by refusing to disqualify Jasmin Beckett from the election which on examination of the evidence presented in the second complaint alone looks like an open and shut case. This is in my view quite wrong.

I do take charges of antisemitism very seriously but, as I argued this week in the Jewish Chroniclethere are several reasons for not pre-judging as valid the charges of antisemitism and especially as applied to James Elliott (and Max Shanly), not least the fact that they have been deliberately whipped up by people whose primary interest has been to damage them in internal Labour elections – an appalling trivialisation of the serious charge of antisemitism. I confess I am prejudiced in this matter – I know both well and judge them both to be utterly innocent of this charge.

I do believe that James Elliott should not two years ago have said in his article on an Oxford student website “Antisemitism is a tired old accusation from Zionists, retreating behind mendacious slurs when losing the arguments“. This seems to be the basis of Alex Chalmers claim that a former Co-Chair of OULC claimed that “most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf“. When taken out of context, James’s statement can be seen as dismissive of charges of antisemitism in general and is unacceptably generalised in relation to “Zionists”. I think James recognises this and demonstrates that in the statement he made on 19 February:

In January 2014, then-President of Oxford’s Israel Society, Richard Black, accused the entire Palestine Society of antisemitism, based on one rogue post in a Facebook group by a non-Society member. I saw the post, immediately told the Society President that I found it offensive and wanted it deleted, and she happily complied. Black was later condemned for his behaviour by a majority of Israeli Oxford students in a letter arguing that “Black’s actions do not reflect the opinions of Israelis in this town.” I wrote my article to insist that Black’s allegations were misleading.

Opposing anti-Semitism and supporting Palestinian human rights are for me inseparable. As I commented to Jewish News earlier this week: “I was very concerned to hear allegations of anti-Semitism within OULC and I am glad the Club is taking these claims very seriously and investigating them.” Anti-Semitism is always reprehensible, and let me say this clearly: it is abhorrent whether it comes from the far-right or from people proclaiming their solidarity with the Palestinians.

I am deeply distressed at the thought that anything I wrote could ever give succour to antisemites. When I complained that Richard Black was using allegations of racism dishonestly, I should of course have made crystal clear my view that antisemitism is no political football: it exists across society, and it’s a vile poison. I really regret not saying that in the article and I was wrong to say what I did and apologise fully for that. 

Learning from these experiences, I am proud of my record in fighting antisemitism.

Furthermore, as Rhea Wolfson, former president of both the Jewish Society and the Israel Society at Oxford and newly elected member of the Young Labour national committee put it: “James has gone out of his way to educate himself about antisemitism”. She disagreed with his two-year old article, but she has “full faith” in his opposition to antisemitism.

The evidence supplied in support of the complaint against Jasmin Beckett makes very clear that there was an organised attempt to smear James Elliott (and Max Shanly against whom the only claim is based on a report on a scurrilous Oxford student website that he had been disciplined by Ruskin College for an incident which Shanly and also the principal of Ruskin deny ever took place).

The evidence demonstrates that those who organised the smear were aware that they needed to take steps to ensure that they needed to be careful. As the Morning Star reported, Jasmin Beckett cautioned: “If you’ve got my twibbon on and you want to go hard please take the twibbon off.” And Josh Woolas — whose mother, Tracey Allen, is Office Manager of Labour general secretary Iain McNicol’s office and whose father, ex-MP Phil Woolas, ironically lost his Westminster seat for smearing a candidate who lost by a tiny margin — is featured in the screenshot as saying: “Needs to look like a genuine complaint about racism and not a smear campaign!

Unless there is some genuine evidence rather than the rumours and smears presented to date against James Elliott, it appears that there is no case for him to answer.

Michael Rubin and Rachel Holland

Michael Rubin and Rachel Holland

If there are grounds for deep suspicion of charges against James Elliott, there are even greater grounds for suspicion of the independence and reliability of the “enquiry” into antisemitism in Oxford and the as yet unpublished report by Progress member and former chair of Labour Students, Michael Rubin. Though I have not had sight of his report, his girlfriend, Rachel Hollland, is one of those in the screenshots of “Team Beckett” who encourages the collective intention of disparaging the candidacy of James Elliott (on page 6) by saying “He basically says that he doesn’t care if he gets accused of being antisemitic, right?” No report into antisemitism at Oxford University is going to have sufficient credibility unless it is written by someone further removed from the partiality of Young Labour and Labour Student politics.

These two lines of enquiry for the Royall investigation (assuming that it is confirmed by Labour’s NEC Organisation committee which meets tomorrow) are not into two equal and opposing cases as Bex Bailey claims. The complaint against Jasmin Beckett,in respect of James Elliott, in effect negates the other. It is difficult to see why the Organisation Committee should not simply disqualify Jasmin Beckett and therefore declare James Elliott elected.


  1. James Martin says:

    I agree that the apparent slurs and dirty tricks by Jasmin Beckett need investigating first as if they are true (and the Morning Star report was pretty conclusive given the tweets from her it had uncovered) then she should be disqualified by default (there is even a question mark over whether she should remain in the Party given the seriousness of spreading lies about another Party member being a racist).

    There are of course lots of other questions that fall out of this sorry episode. Why was Beckett being backed by CWU and will they reconsider this support in light of her alleged actions? Also there is the issue of the person she was caught out conspiring with to spread the racism lies, a certain Josh Woolas who I understand was elected as the new Labour Students secretary at the Young Labour conference. Woolas is of course the son of former New Labour cabinet minister Phil Woolas who was convicted and barred from holding public office as a result of his own smear campaign against a rival. Perhaps the son will also now face losing his elected office?

  2. I’ve been a labour supporter for years and like to think we’re a progressive movement. But, referring to Rachel as ‘Michael Rubins girlfriend’ is backwards and sexist. She is currently two year running president of her SU, first person to do this and has held two positions on her student unions labour society previously not to mention serving as women’s officer.
    I get what the article is trying to say but having such blatant sexism really ruins the credibility.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Lauran: My point is that people in positions of public responsibility can be and in this case are tainted by the actions of people with whom they have a relationship.

      In the case of Tessa Jowell, for example, when her husband David Mills was accused of taking a bribe from Silvio Berlusconi, the ministerial code of conduct tasked her with avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest not only in her own life but also in that of her spouse.

      I don’t accept it is any way sexist – it is unrelated to the gender of the person with whom Michael Rubin chose to have a relationship, it describes her as his girlfriend rather than him as her boyfriend only because he rather than her was the subject of this section of the piece and alternative gender-neutral words did not seem to convey the nature of the relationship adequately as it had been described to me.

      I think it is important to mention people’s (especially women’s) relationships only when it is materially relevant (as it is here). The relationship is mentioned here because of his role not hers, and it most certainly is important – indeed it is one reason why the report has not been published.

  3. Paul Kaye says:

    Interesting that James Elliot’s 2014 OxStu article – which was there a couple of days ago – has now been taken down. Getting rid of the evidence? Fortunately it’s still out there, online – if you know where to find it.

    Perhaps more telling than his line on “Antisemitism is a tired old accusation from Zionists, retreating behind mendacious slurs when losing the arguments” is the admission: “I don’t like being smeared as anti-Semitic, but I don’t bleed from it either”.

    Not exactly a confidence boosting statement!

    1. Paul Canning says:

      Am looking at Elliott’s article right now :/

  4. John P Reid says:

    Talk of sore losers, they anti semeticism, accusations, from others have to be based on something,it’s not as if they were made up in thin air

    1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

      John don’t you ever look at the evidence or do you agree with that kind of smear campaign?

      I like people that ague on issues not smears, do you also believe everything you read in the Torygraph?

      1. John P Reid says:

        No I don’t believe everything I read in the telegraph,but they are subject to libel, so they don’t deliberately lie… Unlike Trotskyites

        1. Sue says:

          the anti semitism accusations come from a deliberate conflation of anti Zionism and anti semitism. I am anti the Israeli State which I believe to be an apartheid state that is deliberately stealing ever more Palestinian land, bull dozing homes, tearing up olive trees etc. I am sure that in the State of Israels eyes I am antisemitic! I am not and neither are the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who also support the Palestinian cause.

          1. John P Reid says:

            I wouldn’t say that you would be seen by the Israel state as anti Semetic anymore that, it would regard Gerlqd Kaufman, rosin purnell, Sue Balmqnno, or Alqn sugar,all know Jewish critics of Israel,as being anti Semetic
            When you say deliberate conflation, at first I thought you meant some anti Semetic people were jumping on the Anti Zionism bandwagon to use it as away to encourage anti semeticism, which is half the Anti Semites in the labour parties problem.

            It reminds me of john Lydon talking about the NMe in the 1980’s.
            the NME is so cynical it probably encourages people to vote Tory, which is good as otherwise I’d worry what the Labour Party stands for if you(NME) support the Labour Party.

  5. John P Reid says:

    What has Phil wools got todo with anything just because he has a relative, yes he was deselected, but we dint judged people by their parents or we’d judge Bobby Knnedy by his dad’s Anti semeticism, or Kate Osamor,by her mothers anti white racism

    1. James Martin says:

      He would have nothing to do with it were it not for the fact that his son appears to repeating his mistakes when it comes to smearing rivals.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Not really Phil woolas lied,and one can’t be responsible for ones parent, plus it’s not as if there’s not anti semeticism in the far left of labour

  6. John Penney says:

    Young Labour appears to be a hotbed of ghastly young wannabe careerist Blairite-style politicians of the worst sort. As an oldie it brings back vivid and distasteful memories of the unprincipled young utterly opportunist Right-Wing creatures who peopled the Broad Left in the NUS all too often in the 1970’s and 80’s . Out of that poisonous cohort we got the likes of sell-out New Labourite politicians like Jack Straw and Phil Woolas , and so many others of the “guilty men and women” generation of Blairism (and the now strangely amnesiac about his then fervent pro-Stalinist past – the now reborn “I was a Libertarian Socialist in my youth “, now neo-con enthusiast , David Aaronovich of the Times).

    The sooner the new rising tide of committed young socialists in Labour Youth forces the latest ghastly recruits to this ignoble political tradition, of endless entitlement and total lack of scruple, back into the neoliberal shadows (hopefully in some other party) , the better.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Jack straw the trot,who threw bricks at copper in the 60’s a right wing careerist!

      1. John Penney says:

        Jack has come a looooooong way politically from his one , fake Left cred-establishing, act of 1960’s naughtiness. Even a totally blinkered Right Winger like you must be able to see that, John ? What don’t you agree with that Jack Straw has done politically for the last 30 years ? And you think he hasn’t been a careerist opportunist his entire career , from NUs President onwards ?

        His son is obviously cut from the same cloth. What is it with the second generation of Labour politicians , from the two younger Benns, to Straw jnr, to the ghastly Kinnock jnr. Opportunist, entitlement obsessed, right wingers , keen to ride the Labour brand to personal prosperity, all.

        Your contrarian trolling has , as so often, left you posting a comment which makes no sense at all. Please post less , much less, and try to think more, John.

        1. John P Reid says:

          Maybe he was a careerist after backing Tony Benn for deputy,then twigged labour nearly came third, but this quote referenced him being a right winger in the 70’s and when he was calling Thatcher evil on TV on the day he resigned it was hardly a career move
          So people who’s patent were in politics can’t be, Straw u r and Emily Benn fought unsafe seats when you say secind generation, referring to Benn, as the first Benn was a hereditary liberal lord
          I assume you mean, Tony Benn was the second generation one
          Don’t call me a troll,how would you feel if I called you a left wing fascist thug,

          1. John Penney says:

            Call me whatever you like, John. I would be seriously put out by your approval. Doesn’t alter the fact that you are a tiresome right wing Labourite – incessantly trolling this specifically left-oriented discussion site, presumably just to irritate.

            The point about the careerist politician, as a breed , Broad Left or otherwise , is that they adopt whatever fashionable pose that the particular moment requires for personal advancement. No-one looking at Jack Straw’s career could conclude other than that the man, and most of his , eventually fully formed Blairite, contemporaries were actually troubled by any underlying principals at all during the various opportunistic “political position swerves” over their careers. We all remember the dreaded David Blunkett masquerading as a distinctly Leftie Sheffield Council Leader back in the day. look at him now.

            Who can have seen the various pronouncements of Emily and Hillery Benn, Kinnock Jnr, or Straw Jnr, without concluding that these people have no place in standing as candidates for the newly Left-oriented Labour Party.

            That is what is so refreshing about Jeremy Corbyn – and John McDonnell, the first socialist conviction politicians to lead the Labour Party for many a generation.

          2. John P Reid says:

            The newly left orientated Labour Party, JC got 49% of Labour Party members votes, so when Blair got 57% of Labour Party members votes in 1994′ should the hard left have been deselected, and the newly left orientated, pro EU JC, does that mean Jon cryer Kelvun Hopkins shouldn’t be allowed to stand?

            Ys david glunketss tranistion from Stalinaiat to fascist was easy,tells us something about hoe fascistic,the hard left is

            As for Tony Benn, hopefully Hilary will come out as anti the aeU to quote PmWilson
            Tony Benn ,he I matures with age.

            Not so much of the old,wither please

        2. C MacMackin says:

          Well, Tony Benn said that people in his family tend to move left as they get older. Let’s hope it happens very soon with Hilary 😉

  7. according to the Guardian, the turn out in the election was 3.5%. Its report of 19th February states the 50,926 members under 27 were entitled to vote, Most did not do so,

    Would Momentum like to comment on this turn out figure? The soft left has no handle on the infighting in this sector, but will need to consider the implications of an election in which the turn out is so derisory then that would be something to consider.

    So a little enlightenment please. Did 96.5% of eligible members fail to vote?

    Is the Guardian correct?

    Trevor Fisher

    1. Rhys says:

      That election – the one to decide regional reps for the Young Labour national committee – is totally separate to the NEC Youth Rep elections that took place this weekend.

    2. James Martin says:

      This turnout was for the regional YL sections (and is separate from the trade union young members and Labour Students) and is sadly correct as an average, the breakdown is here:

      As the ballot for the YL section should have automatically been sent to all Party members under 27 (c.51,000 not including the South West where there was no election due to unopposed candidates) there are questions about why participation was so low and I hope these are addressed. Don’t forget that for decades YL was not taken particularly seriously by New Labour, while Labour Students was treated by the right-wing as being a career ladder to becoming an MP. The fact that this has now been shaken up and YL has the opportunity to again find its own voice in the Party just as the LPYS once did is a good thing and will hopefully lead to more active participation at the same time.

  8. Paul Canning says:

    Just to note that there were serious complaints about the event from both black + ethnic minority youth and disabled youth too. What does it tell you that in reporting on the event Lansman is either, a/ unaware or, b/ chooses to ignore them?

    1. Paul Canning says:

      An open letter to Labour Students and Young Labour,

      Labour students and Young Labour held their conferences this weekend. These conferences are meant to be open, inclusive and accessible; however this weekend proves this is anything but true.

      Delegates this weekend have been discriminated against and unfairly treated on a basis of their disability and ethnicities. People have had voting rights removed due to circumstances relating to health issues, events have lacked basic accessibility and minority groups have been consistently disenfranchised and silenced.

      The members’ concerns have been consistently dismissed as trivial, with staff unwilling to even spare 10 minutes to discuss them.

      More >

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        In which respects, (and I believe you completely,) they’re behaving exactly like the rest of labor party; since Blair and Straw had Walter Wolfgang chucked out of the labor party conference and then detained under the anti terrorism laws, (for god’s sake,) simply for calling jack Straw and with uncanny accuracy a damned liar or Milliband had disabled delegates moved off camera to create a photo opportunity for his well heel mates and so on……………….

        Nice people.

        1. James Martin says:

          Yes Weston, but you forget that unlike your sneering self Walter Wolfgang has been a proud lifelong member of the Labour Party since the 1940s (I’ve heard him speak a number of times and once spent some time with him in a Liverpool pub while he was waiting for his train back after a meeting and he was great fun to be with), and Walter was also elected to the NEC a decade ago of course, but you with your constant attacks on the Labour Party and socialists in it are not fit to even mention his name.

          1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

            And your point is?

        2. Paul Canning says:

          Er, I wasn’t there. I’m just upping this cos few others are (Lansman being one of them) +I note the official party investigation isn’t going to look at it either.

          Nice whataboutery btw.

        3. John P Reid says:

          stop and account forms are voluntary,introduced under the McPherson report, unlike stir and search,where cops can detain for the purposes of a search, there’s no power to detain under stop and account
          It was also volunteer security guards who had him chucked out

  9. Sue says:

    It seems clear to me that Jasmin Beckett should be disqualified and James Elliot should be given the position. Re the apartheid system and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli State well it stinks to high heaven ————- and that is not anti semitism but it is what ever greater numbers of people are coming to believe. And these numbers include huge amounts from various Jewish organisations.

  10. gerry says:

    Truly, you couldn’t make this up…claims of racism, bullying, anti-Semitism, infiltration, union-fixing, misogyny, class hatred: Young Labour in all its glory! On one level, it’s all really funny, pathetic, inbred, sad, ridiculous – like an episode from the 80s sitcom the Young Ones….

    I understand Jan Royall is investigating the Labour students group at Oxford- let’s wait for the results of that – but left anti Semitism is a real and growing problem, even if Jon Lansman deludes himself that it is not.

    I am tempted to say to Elliot and Shanly and the rest: grow up! They are all an embarassment, really – and they all seem determined to present socialism as self absorbed, puerile, laughable, and crazy. Who cares what these ridiculous people think about Israel/Palestine?

    If these people are my party’s future, then heaven help us all.

    1. John P Reid says:


  11. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

    ― Socrates

  12. David Ellis says:

    Still nothing on the EU and Labour’s position on the referendum? I used to say if you want to leave politics join one of the sects but I think it might also apply to the Corbynistas.

  13. Charlie Mansell says:

    The person conducting the count should be an NEC appointed rep made by the GS under delegated powers and there should be representatives of the candidates at the count. Once a result is provisionally declared candidates have the right to request a recount which should not be unreasonably withheld and I would not have witheld a recount over a 1 vote difference. However the request for a recount should be by the candidate or their agent at the count and not after as the returning officer has to make a public declaration that should be accepted by all. I have conducted 2 parliamentary selections as an NEC rep where it was won by just 1 vote and in both cases there was no call for a recount by the loser, which I think shows how much attention to detail I paid and candidates accepted the accuracy of the result. If there is a case of malpractive after that clear process a losing candidate can write to the compliance unit making the case and demanding a full investigation

  14. Charlie Mansell says:

    On ballot papers, I assume these were individual ballots and not a block vote cast by one person for a TU. The guidance note on the individual ballot paper should really specify it it is a secret ballot and you are are under no obligation to show it to anyone. Then if people want to post their filled in ballot paper online, they can, but they are under no obligation to do so. If an organisation wants to fund people on the basis of a ‘solidarity show’ of a ballot paper they can then do so if they wish, but should state that in writing well in advance of supporting funding and not during a balloting process. Then we get full transparancy over that organisation’s approach too

  15. Charlie Mansell says:

    Another key piece of training advice I do for candidates is to always say ‘lose gracefully’ in a close result, however much you would hate it. It earns you so much political capital as you are seen accepting the process and you earn trust across the political spectrum in the party which builds your long-term political reputation. Between 1982 and 1984, I was runner up as CLP conference delegate 3 times losing by just 1 vote each time. In 1985 I got to go to conference with an easy 2-1 majority and what a conference that was to be a delegate to! In 1997 I lost leadership of my small Labour Group after 3 years by 1 vote. The following year I was re-elected leader for a further 6 years which is relatively rare in Labour Cllr politics. Thus losing by 1 vote can actually be the making of your politics if you make the most of it after

  16. in reply to rhys on turnout, there were two elections where the turnout was low, and the link given by James Martin gives the turnout figures. They were for YL National committee regional reps and for the Youth rep on the regional board. The figures understandably are much the same for each, people had two votes and most used them.

    The NEC youth rep election figures have not been circulated to my knowledge. Where can these be found?

    Trevor Fisher

    1. James Martin says:

      I can’t find those, but there is possibly a delay in publishing the detailed breakdown due to the various complaints and inquiry. So far as I know (and I’m happy to be corrected) these results will not be an issue for turnout as such as it was a conference vote by the conference delegates who would have been representing either their region, Labour Student club or a particular trade union. It is the latter category that appears to have had the issue with one person in the Unite delegation and voting with a Unite ballot paper who either didn’t vote at all or didn’t vote in line with the Unite delegation mandate, and given there was there was it seems just the vote of one delegate who separated the two NEC candidates you can see why this has caused a bit of a ‘kerfuffle’.

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