Labour ‘control freakery’ claims rejected

Jeremy Corbyn.

A Labour frontbencher says she does not recognise allegations of “control freakery” over an internal party vote.

A row broke out at the National Policy Forum gathering in Leeds after the election for a new chair was cancelled.

There were claims allies of Jeremy Corbyn stopped the vote as part of wider efforts to control Labour’s executive committee.

MP Luciana Berger said she witnessed “disgraceful treatment” of acting NPF chairwoman Katrina Murray at the event.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said there were “robust debates” in the Labour movement and that the policy forum gathering had been “lively”.

But asked about another MP’s claims of “old school control freakery”, she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Well I didn’t recognise that.

“I’ve been at the policy forum all weekend and we’ve had an energy and the atmosphere was much like it was at Conference in September and that’s about we’re a government in waiting.”

She said the vote had been postponed because not enough notice had been given to ensure the “maximum participation from delegates”.

There were angry scenes in the conference hall as the NEC Chair Andy Kerr took control of the podium from Ms Murray to inform the gathering they would not get a vote.

Shouts of “shame” could clearly be heard – though there was some applause too.

Analysis by BBC political correspondent Matt Cole

The winner of the election, expected to have been Ann Black, would have joined the eight-strong group of “(core) officers” within Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which is considered to have six pro-Corbyn members.

Despite being a left-winger, Ann Black does not enjoy the support of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group.

The official line is that insufficient notice had been given for the vote – but those angered by the decision say the rulebook doesn’t specify how much there should be.

Jeremy Corbyn’s office says it should be seven days, and rejects any suggestion that this is about anything other than due process taking place.

A spokesman stressed it would be wrong to suggest that the vote was blocked to prevent anyone obtaining a position amongst the NEC officers.

There is now likely to be a postal vote in around a month’s time – but the episode is indicative of the ongoing row within Labour about which faction has control.