'We're not enemies': Labour's student wing delivers message to Corbyn amid party row

22 September 2019, 18:17 | Updated: 22 September 2019, 23:11

The head of Labour's student wing has hit out at a "ridiculous" move to abolish the organisation, telling Jeremy Corbyn: "We're not enemies, we're on the same side here."

Rania Ramli, national chair of Labour Students, told Sky News the move to replace them was a distraction with a general election on the horizon.

Earlier this week, the party's National Executive Committee supported a motion which a party source said asks Labour staff to "draw up proposals for a reformed student organisation that complies with the rules and represents the tens of thousands of students in our party".

Jon Lansman, founder of the left-wing Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, put forward the NEC motion.

Labour Students, which is generally seen as having taken a more centrist line since Mr Corbyn became leader, rejected claims it had not paid its affiliation fees on time.

Ms Ramli said: "Lansman now seems to be on a rampage against everyone.

"So I don't really know [why the motion was proposed], I think it's ridiculous timing when we should be focusing on a general election, focusing on Brexit, all of these issues that are going to affect us for generations, and we're trying to abolish our student wing and try and get rid of our deputy leader [Tom Watson].

"It just doesn't make any sense to me."

The start of Labour's annual conference in Brighton has been dominated by a row over a plot to abolish Mr Watson's role of deputy leader.

Mr Watson issued a call for unity after the move was abandoned, saying that divisions in the party were undermining efforts to present Labour as a government-in-waiting.

Ms Ramli echoed this, saying: "This is not what a party that's ready for government should be doing.

"If Jeremy Corbyn wants to be prime minister, he's not going to do that by getting rid of the student wing of the party, we're not the enemy, it's the Tories.

"But no one seems to understand that."

Asked what her message for Mr Corbyn would be, she responded: "We're not enemies, we're on the same side here.

"We want to help, but we're being sidelined for factional reasons when there are much more important things to be worrying about."

A defiant Ms Ramli said that even if their efforts to fight disaffiliation were in vain, Labour Students would continue campaigning.

"We'll still be recruiting students, we'll still be running campaigns and going to campuses and fighting for a Labour government like we've been doing for the last 40 years," she said.

Former cabinet minister Lord Falconer has written to the party's general secretary Jennie Formby, contending that the NEC motion has no legal standing because it was based on factual inaccuracies.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "There are tens of thousands of students in the Labour Party and their energy and campaigning enthusiasm is invaluable, and will be in the coming general election.

"Only 500 are members of Labour Students. We will be drawing up proposals for a reformed student organisation that fully represents them and complies with the rules."

Sky News has also contacted Momentum for its response to Ms Ramli's comments.

A Momentum source said earlier this week that the move was a "victory for democracy" that the "rotten borough" of Labour Students was "finally being reformed".

They added: "There are 30,000 students in the Labour Party and only 507 took part in their last election, causing many branches to disaffiliate.

"It's always been a bunker for a tiny clique who care more about their own careers than building a student movement, and it's right that the NEC have decided to overhaul it."