Labour MP Stella Creasy has launched an attack on Momentum, the grassroots group of Jeremy Corbyn supporters, accusing its activists of trying to deselect members of parliament and draining energy out of the political process.
Creasy, who came second in Labour’s deputy leadership race, also claimed the group was more interested in “meetings and moralising” than real campaigning.
Despite Momentum repeatedly saying it does not support attempts to oust sitting MPs, she said there was an “emphasis by some in these groups on controlling the levers of power to select – or deselect – MPs and party officials”.
Her criticism of Momentum is the most forthright of any MP for some time, after Tom Blenkinsop called for the group to be banned and Tom Watson dismissed it as a “bit of a rabble”.
There have previously been reports that Creasy herself has become a target for deselection in her Walthamstow seat after some campaigners marched to her office to protest against her voting for bombing Islamic State (Isis) in Syria.
Momentum has stated that it is “not a threat to MPs who voted for bombing” and “will not campaign for the deselection of any MP”, concentrating its efforts on campaigning for voter registration, Labour wins in the May elections, defending the NHS, and stopping Trident.
But speaking to the London School of Economics, Creasy said: “Groups like Momentum now appear to be draining the very energy from our political process they claimed to be promoting.”.
“In the last six months I’ve seen little evidence of campaigning ‘for’ something. I have seen a lot of meetings and moralising – and a lot of people standing for positions to be able to divert people into more meetings and moralising to complete the cycle.
“It’s taking the Oscar Wilde argument ‘that the problem with socialism is it takes too many evenings’ to the extreme – as though having meetings with ourselves and passing resolutions is the revolution we seek.”
She argued that the new interest in politics is “not translating into engagement”.
“It’s not just the curdled political debate of ‘red Tory’ and ‘Corbynista’ that make it hard for people to go to meetings with each other or talk on Facebook,” she said.
“It’s that even when people aren’t shouting at each other, they aren’t being encouraged to take action either.”
Creasy also claimed that a focus on party process and deselections “doesn’t challenge elitism, it strengthens it”.
Her intervention comes at a time of heightened tensions with Labour’s parliamentary party over a leaked list drawn up by an ally of the leader that ranked MPs according to their supportiveness towards Corbyn. Creasy was one of those named as “hostile”.
However, the party received a boost from new polling by Ipsos Mori that showed the gap between Labour and the Conservatives narrowing after George Osborne’s budget unravelled over cuts to disability benefits.
It also showed Corbyn leapfrogging David Cameron in the satisfaction ratings, putting him ahead by 35 points to 34.