THE Labour Party in Brighton and Hove has been taken over by fringe left wing groups, council leader Warren Morgan has warned.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn were elected to all four of the key positions on the executive committee of the Brighton Hove and District Labour Party on Saturday at its annual general meeting, which was held following a pro-Corbyn rally.

Mark Sandell was elected chairman, Greg Hadfield secretary, Anne Pissaridou vice chair and Claire Wadey treasurer.

In a private email seen by The Argus written before the vote, Cllr Morgan said such a result would constitute a “takeover” and encouraged allies to elect a competing slate of candidates, who were all defeated by two-thirds majorities.

The Labour turmoil in Brighton and Hove comes as national leader Mr Corbyn appealed for calm after leadership rival Angela Eagle's office was vandalised.

In a message to 20 people, Mr Morgan said: “Next Saturday our City Labour Party faces a takeover by a group of individuals from Momentum, TUSC [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition], the Alliance for Workers Liberty and other fringe left wing groups, including people who have repeatedly run against Labour candidates.”

He went on: “They have made clear that they will be very hostile to me and the other Labour councillors elected by thousands of local residents last May, with some talking of deselections.

“We are already outvoted by the Greens and Tories in the chamber, and criticised by others in the press, so having the local party as a 'critical friend' rather than an outright opponent undermining our work is essential.”

The council leader told The Argus yesterday the local party was “not entirely” hostile, with some non-Momentum candidates elected to the executive but yet to be confirmed.

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, and an outspoken critic of Mr Corbyn said he “gave no thought” to talk of councillors being deselected, adding: “I have not met many of the people who are now in senior positions. I’m looking forward to working alongside them.”

All candidates seeking positions on the district Labour Party executive committees must be party members, and a condition of membership is not to have actively campaigned against Labour recently.

Sources close to the new executive committee denied suggestions that the new chairman or secretary had ever stood against Labour candidates, and said all candidates were eligible.

New party Secretary Greg Hadfield said: “This isn’t about individuals taking over the Labour Party.”

He added that the membership had elected officers who would represent people across the city.


AT a “Keep Corbyn” rally addressed by union officials and activists on Saturday, hundreds of Labour supporters from the Momentum wing of the party cheered speeches defending their leader in the face of a leadership battle.

Two hours later they walked from the Brighthelm Centre in Brighton’s North Road to the site of the party’s AGM on the City College campus in Pelham Street to vote left-wing candidates into all of the key positions on the executive committee (EC).

Two days prior to Angela Eagle’s formal leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, following his loss of a no confidence motion by Labour MPs by 172 votes to 40, the rally at the Brighthelm Centre heard that her bid constituted a “coup”.

Rally organisers stated on Facebook: “There is no future for the Labour Party as a Tory-lite organisation. Corbyn’s platform of anti-austerity, public ownership, peace, affordable housing and workplace rights are the future of the Labour Party.”

Attendees were given flyers at the rally encouraging Labour members to go to the 4pm AGM, “where pro-Corbyn candidates will be standing for election”.

More than 600 squeezed into the meeting room where they elected Corbyn supporters to the roles of chairman, secretary, treasurer and vice-chairwoman with two thirds of the vote.

This confirmed the worst fears of Labour council leader Warren Morgan, who a week earlier had told close allies in a private email that such a result would represent a “takeover” of the city party by fringe left-wing groups. It means that Brighton and Hove’s labour movement, like the party nationally, is now institutionally split.

The council leadership, along with Hove MP Peter Kyle, support the Progress wing of the party which has called for Labour to reject Jeremy Corbyn and his policies. Meanwhile the local party executive, elected with mass support, continues to defend Corbyn and rejects the legacy of Tony Blair’s New Labour.

It raises the question of if and how the wings of the party will work together to further its agenda in Brighton, or if they can even agree on what that agenda should be.

This EC is not in a position to deselect councillors, who will be reselected by panels in their individual wards in advance of the next council elections in 2019. But it might hold influence over the reselection or deselection of Mr Kyle, especially if a general election is called.

With 6,000 members, the Brighton Hove and District Labour Party, which covers the parliamentary constituencies of Brighton Pavilion, Hove, and Brighton Kemptown, is one of the largest local Labour blocs in the country.

Membership has more than doubled since June last year, with a further 500 members joining since the result of the EU referendum. Many of those members are believed to come from the Momentum, pro-Corbyn faction to which Mr Kyle is opposed.

The Hove MP told The Argus: “I take my job serving local residents so seriously and I won’t waste a moment thinking about people who seek to threaten me.”

Mr Morgan’s email also alluded to former party affiliations of the incoming EC members and accused unnamed candidates of having “repeatedly run against Labour candidates.”

If true it could expose the new committee to the threat of legal challenges, since Labour members must affirm that they have not recently campaigned against it upon joining the party.

Greg Hadfield, new secretary of the Brighton Hove and District Labour Party, said: “All members and all candidates who attended the annual meeting were verified Labour Party members eligible to vote and/or stand for office. The nominations were made public on June 30. I am not aware of anyone questioning the status of any candidates.”

New chairman Mark Sandell could not be reached by The Argus yesterday but the party released a statement on his behalf which read: “I have worked as a postal delivery worker, Sainsbury’s shelf-stacker and secondary-school teacher. I currently work for Unite the union. I have always been active in the relevant union and have been a union rep for the CWU, GMB, and the NUT.

“With a large turnout and by a big majority, the members of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party have voted for an anti-austerity, socialist direction for their party.”

This is not the first time in its history the Labour party has faced a challenge from within.

The late 1970s and 1980s saw the Trotskyite Militant Tendency group gain influence in the party’s youth section and on Liverpool city council, before its members were denounced by then-leader Neil Kinnock and expelled from the party. That era and its battle for the soul of the party included a left-wing challenge to Kinnock’s leadership by Tony Benn., and a manifesto for the 1983 election described by a Labour moderate as “the longest suicide note in history.” In the 1990s many party members felt that New Labour turned its back on traditional labour values and supporters – ill feeling which many believe contributed to Mr Corbyn’s election last year. Those on either wing of the party in Brighton and Hove will hope the current Labour schisms do not take a decade to heal.


JEREMY Corbyn will be automatically included on the ballot in Labour’s leadership contest, the party’s National Executive Committee has ruled.

Unions said party rules were clear the incumbent who is challenged must be allowed to stand but his opponents said he needed support of 51 MPs or MEPs.

The leadership contest was sparked after ex-shadow cabinet minister Angela Eagle challenged Mr Corbyn.

The Labour leader made a last-minute decision to attend the emergency meeting of the NEC in London, having been due to address the Unite union conference in Brighton yesterday afternoon.

Sources said the meeting was a “very slow process” with the vote on the ballot rules to be held in secret.

Labour-commissioned legal analysis stated Mr Corbyn needed 51 nominations – just like any challenger – to get on the leadership ballot but unions said as existing leader, he did not.

Legal advice sent to Unite by solicitors stated: “The rules by which the Labour Party is governed are unambiguous: the leader does not require any signatures to be nominated in a leadership election where there is a potential challenger to the leadership.”

The solicitors made clear that legal action would be launched unless Mr Corbyn was automatically on the leadership ballot and they would halt any leadership election by applying to the High Court for an injunction.

It was thought Mr Corbyn would have struggled to amass 51 signatures because his support was concentrated in the party’s wider membership.

The Unite union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, had warned Labour not to seek a “sordid little fix” to prevent Mr Corbyn defending his leadership.

He said it would be “alien to the concept of natural justice” if the Labour leader was not “automatically on the ballot paper”.

Mr Corbyn, who has never had much support among his party’s MPs, was elected as leader overwhelmingly in a vote of Labour members and registered supporters last year.

He is facing a challenge to his leadership from his former shadow business secretary, who has accused him of failing to connect with Labour voters.