MOMENTUM IS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN on the British left for decades. A growing, relatively diverse, movement spread throughout the country, it presents us with opportunities of a sort many of us have never experienced. You would have to go back to the late ‘60s to find anything remotely comparable.
However, there is a danger of getting so caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment that we think that Momentum is beyond criticism. It isn’t. In particular, there are legitimate concerns about the transparency and internal democracy of the organisation. These have intensified in the light of recent events, in particular the Steering Committee’s removal of Jackie Walker as vice-chair. If Momentum is to succeed in the long-term, these concerns need addressing.
Recently, discussion papers have been circulated detailing a timetable for deciding on new democratic structures for the organisation, culminating in a conference in February. One option mooted for this conference is a system of virtual voting, with the conference being live-streamed and any member eligible to take part in votes on-line. A quite frankly baffling process is laid out for submitting proposals on Momentum’s structure in advance of this conference. Everyone on the Labour left should take an interest in this.
The debate around these suggestions will play a big part in deciding whether Momentum becomes a static bureaucracy or prospers as a grassroots-led organisation. The proposals will be discussed at the level of local groups and regional committees.In my view, there are two priorities.
First, it is not satisfactory that the Steering Committee has responsibility for organising the conference. The larger, and more representative, National Committee should take control of this as soon as possible, electing a Conference Arrangements Committee if necessary.
Second, although it has the ring of democracy about it, the on-line conference idea minimises the opportunity for arriving at positions based on real discussion and involvement of members at every level of Momentum. A much better model is a delegate conference, with delegates being informed, and even mandated, by discussion at local and regional level.
Leeds Central CLP and member of UCU executive committee at Leeds University,