Momentum leader Jon Lansman withdraws from race to be Labour’s general secretary

Grassroots group founder says he plans to focus on his role on the party’s National Executive Committee.

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Momentum leader Jon Lansman has withdrawn from the race to be Labour’s general secretary, saying he plans to focus on his role on the party’s National Executive Committee.

In a statement published on Twitter, Lansman criticised “misogynist attacks” against rival Jennie Formby, and said he had succeeded in sparking a debate about the future of the Labour Party.

Unite official Formby was backed by the union’s leader Len McClusky, and is the preferred candidate with the Labour Leadership.

Lansman was one of three Momentum figures elected to the party’s ruling committee in January.

In his statement Lansman said he wanted to “restore the elected NEC to its proper governance role including holding our new general secretary to account and upholding the rights of party members”.

He also issued a call for party members to join the race for general secretary, before the deadline for entries next week.

The contest between Lansman and Formby was seen in some quarters as a tussle between Labour's membership and the unions for control of the party.

Last month, the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush wrote that the competing sides were also divided over their approach to politics.

“All sides of the Corbyn project like to talk up their commitment to the rights of the membership and the other side’s love of a fix, but the reality is that the divide is not that neat. Among supporters of Formby and Lansman, you have people who think Labour should be a genuinely member-led organisation, and people who prefer central control," he wrote.

“A more genuine divide is over method. Formby’s backers in the leader’s office have a more convivial relationship with the new left-wing blogs, particularly Skwawkbox, a website that many of Lansman’s closest allies find distasteful. (As a result, briefing the case for Lansman to step aside to that website may have been something of a blunder.)

“Whoever prevails, or if a third candidate comes down the middle, we will get an idea of which of the emerging new factions at the top of Labour is currently in the ascendant.”

Read more: Left vs left: the battle for control of Labour pitches Unite against Momentum

Jasper Jackson is the New Statesmans digital editor. He was formerly assistant editor of Media Guardian, and editor of TheMediaBriefing.