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Jonathan Lansman (born 9 July 1957)[1] is a British Labour Party activist who worked on Jeremy Corbyn's successful 2015 campaign for the Labour party leadership and subsequently founded the pro-Corbyn organisation, Momentum. He is a member of Labour Party's National Executive Committee. Lansman has worked for both Tony Benn and Michael Meacher and was a prominent supporter of Benn in the early 1980s.[2][3]

Jon Lansman
Chair of Momentum
Assumed office
13 September 2015
DeputyEmina Ibrahim
Cecile Wright
Personal details
Born
Jonathan Lansman

(1957-07-09) 9 July 1957 (age 61)
Marylebone, London, England
NationalityBritish
Political partyLabour
Other political
affiliations
Momentum
Spouse(s)Beth Wagstaff
Children3
Alma materClare College, Cambridge
Birkbeck, University of London
OccupationParliamentary researcher
ProfessionPolitical activist

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Lansman was brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Southgate, north London. His father Bernard was a Conservative Councillor in Hackney.[4][5]

He was a pupil at the independent Highgate School from 1970 to 1975. He first visited Israel when he was 16: "I worked on a kibbutz in the Negev and my aunt lived in Beersheba. It was actually a very politicising experience. When I did my bar mitzvah I saw myself as a Zionist and I think after I went there I felt it less. I was more interested in the kibbutz and what I liked about it was the pioneering spirit, the sense of community and radicalism of it."[6]

He read for a degree in economics at Clare College, Cambridge, graduating in 1979. Later, he attended Birkbeck, University of London, reading History and Politics graduating in 2007 with a Masters. He was active in the student union while at Cambridge University and was an elected student member of the Academic Board. Lansman ran for Union President on the same slate as Andrew Marr, then nicknamed Red Andy, who provided campaign cartoons.[7] Soon afterwards he became a friend of Labour's election agent in Hornsey, Jeremy Corbyn.[7]

Political careerEdit

Tony Benn's leadership campaignsEdit

During the Labour Party's early years of opposition following the defeat of James Callaghan's Labour government in 1979, Lansman worked as the "chief fixer" for Tony Benn.[8] He was a prominent member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and worked with Benn on his campaign during the 1981 Labour Party deputy leadership election.[9] He was also the Secretary of the Rank and File Mobilising Committee, which was the primary campaigning organisation for Benn.[10] Although Benn was not elected, Lansman was successful in his election to the Labour Co-ordinating Committee.[11]

During the deputy leadership election campaign, on the Weekend World discussion programme of 21 September, Denis Healey falsely accused Lansman of organising the severe heckling of speeches he had given in Cardiff and Birmingham. Lansman denied this was the case, as he had been in Spain during the Cardiff meeting and travelling to Aberystwyth during the Birmingham meeting.[12][13] Healey later apologised for his mistake.[14] According to Lansman, the producers of Weekend World, London Weekend Television, accepted he had been slandered and made an out of court settlement.[15]

Mervyn Jones identified Lansman as part of a group on the left that were "quite prepared to see a right-wing breakaway as the necessary cost of swinging the party in what they saw as the desired direction".[16] Alongside Vladimir Derer and Victor Schonfield, Lansman was described as "unreservedly dedicated", with "no political ambitions of [his] own" and "in a position to work day and night for the cause without pay".[16] Lansman later organised Benn's campaign in the 1988 Labour leadership election, unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Neil Kinnock,[17] which Benn lost.

From 2010, Lansman worked as a researcher for Michael Meacher.[7][13] In 2010, Lansman became the editor of the left-wing website, Left Futures.[18][19]

Leadership of Jeremy CorbynEdit

Lansman volunteered for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership campaign in the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, and was the sole director of Jeremy Corbyn Campaign 2015 (Supporters) Ltd, an official campaign company that held the data collected by the campaign.[20] During the election, he was criticised for posting a link on Twitter to a Facebook page depicting rival candidate Liz Kendall as a future Conservative Party leader. Lansman's comments were condemned by a Corbyn campaign spokesperson, who said: "Jon Lansman's tweets are not on behalf of the campaign. We discourage all Jeremy Corbyn supporters from joining in with spoof websites or social media."[21]

Following Corbyn's election as leader, Lansman was a founder of the campaign group Momentum.[22] Before the Labour Party Conference in late September 2015, Lansman was defeated by Michael Cashman and Gloria De Piero in an election for membership of the Conference Arrangements Committee, the body that sets the agenda for the Conference.[23] Lansman is reported to be a supporter of mandatory reselection for Labour MPs.[24]

In October 2015, he denied rumours that he was planning to stand to be the Labour Party candidate in Michael Meacher's constituency of Oldham West and Royton, following Meacher's death.[24]

Labour, Israel, Palestinians and JewsEdit

Lansman was interviewed by The Jewish Chronicle in January 2016. He was asked about attitudes to Israel in the Labour Party and the attitudes of Jews towards it: "Yes, of course the vast majority of British Jews are supportive of Israel as a Jewish state – and actually so is Jeremy – but they are far from supportive of all aspects of what is currently happening there", he said. "I think Jews in Britain want peace too. I think Jeremy's message of fairness for the Palestinians is not something that will be rejected by the Jewish community."[6]

At the end of April 2016, after long-standing Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone had made comments which led to his suspension from Labour Party membership, Lansman was quoted as saying: "A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on antisemitism, racism and Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether."[25] A few days later, in early May, he wrote on the Left Futures blog that the use of the term Zionist to describe supporters of the government in Israel was "counter-productive". He cited one poll of British Jews which found that 71%, favoured a Palestinian state and 75% opposed the Israeli settlements, while 68% still identified as Zionists.[22][26] A "rational debate about how to change the terms of the current debate" requires, in Lansman's opinion, an acknowledgement "that people on the left may also demonstrate some prejudice of their own."[22]

"I think progress has been uneven; let’s put it that way", he said in September 2016. Recent developments in Labour concerning antisemitism have "clearly taken us back as well as forward" he added, citing the Chakrabarti Inquiry as an example of the latter.[27]

In 2018, Lansman criticised the Jewish Voice for Labour group at the Limmud Festival.[28] Lansman argued that “the most influential antisemitism-deniers, unfortunately, are Jewish anti-Zionists” and that JVL "is an organisation which is not just tiny but has no real connection with the Jewish community at all,” he said. “It doesn’t represent the Jewish community in a way that the Jewish Labour Movement clearly does represent the Labour wing of the Jewish community.”[28]

National Executive CommitteeEdit

In January 2018, Lansman was elected to the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.[29]

The following March, he stood as Labour's general secretary in succession to Iain McNicol.[30] However, Lansman withdrew, saying that he had stood to avoid Jennie Formby being chosen unopposed and to help end Labour's "command and control" inclinations,[31] and that he had achieved his intention of creating a debate over how the party is managed.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Lansman's wife, Beth Wagstaff, died of breast cancer in January 1999 aged 39; the couple had three children.[33] Lansman has been a trustee of the charity, Breast Cancer Care, under whose auspices his wife had set up the Lavender Trust before she died, both to help younger women become aware of the disease and to support them.[7][33] Lansman's son and brother run a large network of property companies with assets well into the millions.[7]

Lansman is an atheist, although he still observes some Jewish festivals.[6]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "John Lansman – London – Political Advisor". Check Company. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Jon Lansman's long march to Labour's top table". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  3. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  4. ^ https://www.lgcplus.com/hackney-lbc-former-councillor-bernard-lansman-dies/1466544.article
  5. ^ https://life.spectator.co.uk/2016/09/letting-the-hard-left-off-the-leash/
  6. ^ a b c Doherty, Rosa (28 January 2016). "Ex-kibbutznik who is Corbyn's left-hand man". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wickham, Alex (22 September 2016). "Letting the hard left off the leash". The Spectator. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  8. ^ Beckett, Francis. "Lessons from Labour's wilderness years". Total Politics. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  9. ^ Kogan, David; Kogan, Maurice (1982). The Battle for the Labour Party. Glasgow: Fontana. p. 41. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  10. ^ Kogan, David; Kogan, Maurice (1982). The Battle for the Labour Party. Glasgow: Fontana. p. 108. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  11. ^ Kogan, David; Kogan, Maurice (1982). The Battle for the Labour Party. Glasgow: Fontana. p. 151. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  12. ^ Kogan, David; Kogan, Maurice (1982). The Battle for the Labour Party. Glasgow: Fontana. pp. 112–113. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  13. ^ a b Philpot, Robert (21 December 2015). "In the shadows for 35 years, the activist now gaining momentum". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  14. ^ Rusell, William (21 September 1981). "Healey apologises to Benn supporter". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  15. ^ Lansman, Jon (4 October 2015). "Remembering Denis Healey – the good, the bad and the utterly hilarious". Left Futures. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  16. ^ a b Jones, Mervyn (1994). Michael Foot. London: Victor Gollancz. p. 445. ISBN 0575051973.
  17. ^ Cowburn, Ashley (30 September 2016). "Jon Lansman: Momentum chair would 'understand' Labour leadership challenge if party loses general election". The Independent. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  18. ^ Lansman, Jon (9 May 2010). "Left Futures takes off". Left Futures. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  19. ^ Bush, Stephen (26 October 2015). "Labour MPs are worried about Momentum. Should they be?". New Statesman. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  20. ^ Hawkins, Ross (24 July 2015). "Corbyn campaign supporter in Kendall 'Tory spoof' picture". BBC News. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  21. ^ Wilkinson, Michael (24 July 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn supporter publishes spoof 'Tory' Liz Kendall picture". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  22. ^ a b c Cooper, Charlie (7 December 2015). "Momentum: Meeting the grassroots political movement that grew out of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership campaign". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  23. ^ Pickard, Jim (24 September 2015). "Labour haunted by return of internecine battles". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  24. ^ a b George Eaton (23 October 2015). "Who will Labour's Oldham by-election candidate be?". New Statesman. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  25. ^ Mason, Rowena; Asthana, Anushka (28 April 2016). "Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour after Hitler remarks". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  26. ^ Lansman, Jon (2 May 2016). "Why the Left must stop talking about 'Zionism'". Left Futures. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  27. ^ Peled, Daniella (20 September 2016). "The Jewish Labour Gurus Striving to Turn Jeremy Corbyn's Reputation Around". Haaretz. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  28. ^ a b Simon Rocker. "Jon Lansman faces sceptical audience at Limmud" Jewish Chronicle 24 December 2018.https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jon-lansman-faces-sceptical-audience-at-limmud-1.474283
  29. ^ "Momentum founder Jon Lansman voted on to Labour's NEC". BBC News. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  30. ^ Elgot, Jessica; Stewart, Heather (1 March 2018). "Momentum's Jon Lansman confirms run for Labour general secretary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  31. ^ Walker, Peter (11 March 2018). "Momentum founder Jon Lansman drops Labour general secretary bid". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Momentum chief Jon Lansman drops Labour general secretary bid". BBC News. 11 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  33. ^ a b Jury, Louise (8 February 2016). "Private Lives: A lasting memory of lavender". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
Party political offices
New title Chair of the Momentum
2015–present
Succeeded by