Why Labour is scrapping its 40-year-old student wing

Momentum founder raises motion to kick out the centrist group

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(Image credit: Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

Labour has voted to end its affiliation with Labour Students, a move that would effectively disband the centrist-leaning youth wing.

The party’s National Executive Committee voted to scrap the group after Momentum founder Jon Lansmen put foward a motion calling for an alternative, the BBC reports.

The motion said that the “organisation which currently describes itself as ‘Labour Students’ claims to be an organisation affiliated to the Labour Party” but does not meet the requirements for affiliation.

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“The NEC therefore asks general secretary to urgently devise a plan to establish a Labour Students organisation which does meet its obligations,” the motion continued.

Following the vote, a Momentum source told The Guardian: “It’s a victory for democracy that the rotten borough of Labour Students has finally been reformed.

“It’s always been a bunker for a tiny clique who don’t care about building a broad student movement in Labour, and it’s right that the NEC have decided to overhaul it.”

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What is Labour Students?

Launched more than 40 years ago, Labour Students has been “has been a bastion of centrists” and “started the careers of figures such as Peter Mandelson and Tom Watson”, says HuffPost.

The Labour Students website says that as “the official, autonomous student wing”, the group organises student events and offers “training, political education and the chance to meet fellow students from across the country”.

The group also develops its own policy ideas.

Why has it been excluded?

Labour Students is dominated by the more centrist side of the party, putting it at odds with the left-wing, pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group Momentum.

Addressing the NEC ahead of next week’s party conference in Brighton, Momentum chair Lansmen claimed that Labour Students was not officially affiliated with the party and had not paid affiliation fees.

This was disputed by student chair Rania Ramli, who wrote to the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, setting out Labour Students’ case.

As news of the row broke, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson tweeted: “I’m hearing Labour Students are in effect being wound up.”

He added: “Labour Students say accusations they haven’t paid affiliation fees are untrue and say it’s an attack on party ‘centrists’.”

The group could now dispute the exclusion on the grounds that it has been removed on the basis of inaccurate information, according to The Guardian.

What have MPs said?

A number of Labour MPs have criticised the move, arguing that it is counterproductive at a time when the party should be uniting to prepare for a general election.

Several accused the NEC of going after Labour Students because of its centrist links.

Wes Streeting, a former Labour Students chair, said: “The Labour Party should be focusing all its energies on winning the next general election, not Jon Lansman’s factional vendettas against Labour Students. It is literally student politicking, when we’re in the fight our lives for the future of the country.”

Fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy added: “Why at such a critical time in our country, and with an election on the horizon, does anyone who wants Labour to be an effective force for good think this is the time for such attempts to silence parts of our youth movement ,when we need them to be seen and heard campaigning?”

How is Labour Students responding?

The student wing said in a statement that the exclusion was based on “false and inaccurate claims which we have not had the opportunity to address”.

The statement, posted online, continues: “Labour Students is therefore under the Labour Party’s rules, a legitimately affiliated independent and autonomous socialist society.

“We hope that the NEC will recognise the inaccuracies and false claims made in today’s motion and we look forward to working with the party in the upcoming general election.”

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The students tweeted separately that Lansmen had not contacted the group before raising his motion, and had instead “wasted” time on the process.

Privately, the group and their supporters were even more scathing. A party source told PoliticsHome: “It’s another nail in the coffin for a sensible Labour party delivered by an old man who couldn’t lace the campaigning boots of Labour students.”

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