Momentum is a left-wing British political organisation. Momentum was founded in 2015 by Jon Lansman, along with the original national organisers, Adam Klug, Emma Rees and James Schneider, four weeks after Jeremy Corbyn's successful campaign for the Labour Party leadership. It has been described as a grassroots movement supportive of Corbyn and the Labour Party.
|Motto||A new kind of politics|
|Formation||8 October 2015|
(Campaign for Socialism in Scotland)
|Affiliations||Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance|
In February 2016, Momentum set up a paid formal membership structure, under which those who wanted to join had to support the values and aims of the Labour Party. Under the constitution introduced in January 2017, Momentum activists must also be or become members of the Labour Party. As of January 2018, there are over 170 local groups across the UK, and as of April 2018, the organisation has 40,000 members.
Momentum describes itself as an organisation that "exists to build on the energy and enthusiasm from the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader campaign, to increase participatory democracy, solidarity, and grassroots power and help Labour become the transformative governing party of the 21st century". It campaigns on local issues and on topics within the Labour Party. The organisation states that it aims to organise local groups across the country to "encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society" and "assist members in making their voice heard in Labour Party debates".
Momentum draws inspiration and cross-pollinates ideas with Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, both of which were fed by practical, grassroots organising to counter the effects of austerity cuts.
It has drawn comparisons to Militant, a group that was expelled by Labour under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s. Labour MP Owen Smith has described Momentum as a 'party within a party'. Momentum itself and a number of political commentators characterise these accusations as unfair. Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, in December 2015 commented on the Today programme about the group: "They look like a bit of a rabble to me, but I don't think they are a problem for the Labour Party. They are not a party within a party. I just don’t think they're that effective".
Relationship with other organisationsEdit
Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) had raised concerns that groups including the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Left Unity, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL) might attach themselves to Momentum as a means to join the Labour Party. Left Unity in November 2015 was looking into the possibility of cooperation with Momentum and the Labour Party because it shares Corbyn's values. The Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party have denied having any intention to be involved. Momentum stated that it would resist entryism by the SWP and other groups. In October 2015, James Schneider, a leading organiser of Momentum, said that he had voted for the Green Party in the May general election, saying it was only because “I'm in a safe Labour seat”.
In December 2015, Momentum announced that it would be setting up a code of conduct to exclude members of other parties from voting or taking part in meetings about the Labour Party. This was intended to restrict the influence of the Socialist Party and others, but members of those groups were to be permitted to attend meetings on non-Labour Party issues, such as the campaign on Syria. In January 2017, Momentum's new constitution imposed a new requirement for Momentum members to be members of the Labour Party.
Momentum has built ties with other political organisations across North America and Europe. They have collaborated with the Canadian Leap movement, the Social Democratic Party of Germany's Young Socialists, the Democratic Socialists of America, and similar organisations in Greece. In 2018, Rees and Klug went on a 10-week lecture tour of the United States to educate progressive activists and members of the National Nurses United union on political campaigning techniques, as well as advising Real Justice.
Campaigns and issuesEdit
Fears over deselection threatsEdit
Critics of Corbyn within the Parliamentary Labour Party have raised a concern that Momentum may look to encourage the deselection of various MPs and councillors who disagree with, or are seeking to undermine the Labour leader. Referring to the Militant tendency, Oliver Kamm of The Times wrote in October 2015: "Like the Trotskyists of a generation ago Momentum is an entrist organisation that’s parasitic on the Labour host. This time, though, the far left has managed to gain control of the party structures and is intent on making life tough for Labour MPs". Momentum issued a clear denial, saying "we will not campaign for the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so".
Author and journalist Michael Crick opposes the comparison to Militant, stating that "the rise of Jeremy Corbyn can be attributed more to the phenomenon of 'Corbynmania' than to hard-left entrism". Similarly, former Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, who had acted as "enforcer" for the Labour leadership against Militant on Merseyside in the 1980s as the party's North West Regional Organiser, also rejected the comparison, instead describing Momentum as fulfilling the same kind of role on the left of the party as Progress did on the right. The Momentum spokesman James Schneider has said "The purpose of Momentum is not to have internal factional battles, it's to look outside".
Momentum is undertaking a campaign to address the problem of disenfranchisement of electors as a result of the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration. This is part of a broader goal to improve democracy by encouraging new voters to register. The group believes there may be eight million people missing from the electoral register and that a further 1.9 million people could be excluded by the changes in voter registration on 1 December 2015.
Momentum criticised the economic policies of the Chancellor George Osborne which had resulted in the United Kingdom government austerity programme. In particular Momentum criticised Osborne's proposal to cut tax credit payments for working families.
In 2016, local Momentum groups started to collect and volunteer for food banks.
Momentum called for its membership to lobby Labour MPs "to support Corbyn, not Cameron, over Syria" on Twitter, linking to the Stop the War Coalition's "don't Bomb Syria" campaign, which opposed the Conservative Government's proposal to extend its bombing sorties against Daesh (also known as ISIS) from Daesh-held territory in Iraq to also cover Daesh-held territory in Syria. Corbyn had argued that Cameron's government lacked a credible plan for defeating Daesh, and that the bombing in Syria would not increase the UK's national security. Corbyn has also stated his view that military action should always be a last resort. Some Labour MPs criticised Momentum's move to lobby on party political grounds before the Labour party's official position on military action had been decided, with Gavin Shuker asking "Who decided this was your position on Syria, and to lobby MPs in this way"?
Elections to the National Executive CommitteeEdit
In the 2016 elections for the National Executive Committee, it emerged that Momentum, alongside the centre-left Grassroots Alliance and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy were jointly backing six representatives for the NEC: Rhea Wolfson, the former chair of the Jewish Society who replaced Ken Livingstone, a senior NEC figure who was suspended from the party for alleged antisemitism; Ann Black; Christine Shawcroft, a senior figure in Momentum who had been a member of the NEC for 15 years, and who had been briefly suspended from the party after defending Lutfur Rahman, and has gained media attention after 'jocular' comments about dialogue with Daesh instead of air strikes; Peter Willsman, Claudia Webbe and Darren Williams. All six of the candidates Momentum supported were elected to the six available places.
The World TransformedEdit
From 24 September 2016, Momentum held a four-day fringe festival alongside the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. Foregrounding art, music and culture alongside political discussions, 'The World Transformed'. One event featured a debate between Caroline Lucas co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Compass chair Neal Lawson and Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson of Momentum. In The Times, Tony Blair's former speech writer Philip Collins was positive about the event, compared to the Labour conference, "harnessed and embraced, Momentum could be a force for good", but wrote "the only thing wrong with their slogan 'Jez We Can' is the first word".
The World Transformed spanned nine venues across Brighton, where the Labour Party 2017 Conference was held. Many MPs attended, including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry, and Ed Miliband.
Former vice-chair Jackie WalkerEdit
The vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, who is of mixed African and Jewish heritage, was briefly suspended from Labour Party membership in spring 2016 for making comments concerning the alleged role of Jewish people in the Atlantic slave trade on Facebook. Jon Lansman, the chair of Momentum, defended her against these claims at the time.
Near the 2016 Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Momentum organised The World Transformed, a four-day event. Walker spoke at Momentum events. Her comments about Holocaust Memorial Day led to renewed calls for her to be expelled from the Labour Party and, this time, for Walker to lose her position as Momentum's vice-chair. Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA union, said their Momentum funding would be reconsidered if Walker did not resign or failed to be removed. She was suspended from Labour Party membership at the end of September. On 3 October 2016, the organisation's steering committee decided she should cease being vice-chair, but would remain a member of the committee itself. Lansman in the Morning Star wrote that they considered Walker's comments about Holocaust Memorial Day "to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive though not anti-semitic".
Internal tensions (late 2016–early 2017)Edit
In late October 2016, a short-notice meeting voted to change to One-Member-One-Vote (OMOV) using information technology, instead of a delegate system at the founding principles conference, which was, at that time, planned to be held in February 2017. The meeting also opted to cancel a national committee meeting at which Lansman's opponents had intended to temper his position in the organisation. One connected group, Labour Party Marxists, commented on its website: "This is worse than anything Tony Blair managed to foist on the Labour Party" and ended asserting: "This is an anti-democratic coup". An early December 2016 national committee meeting did, however, take place at which OMOV was rejected.
Momentum women's officer Laura Murray blogged about her fears the Alliance for Workers' Liberty might be attempting to take over the organisation. An AWL member on the steering committee, Jill Mountford, had written of a potential split, accusing Lansman of threatening to walk away if his own views were not supported. In an AWL pamphlet, published in October, the group described Momentum as being "politically conservative" and claimed the group's leadership were "avoiding any criticism of or going beyond what party leadership has said and done". The sectarians, the Trotskyists opposed to the Labour Party, according to Owen Jones in The Guardian, were seeking to destroy Momentum, perhaps aiming to create a new party. During a BBC interview, Mountford denied such intentions. Meanwhile, at a pre-Christmas rally, Corbyn urged Momentum to unify.
The introduction of a new constitution was announced on 11 January 2017. New members of Momentum were now required to also be members of the Labour Party, with existing Momentum members being given until July to join. Lansman initiated changes via an email: after managing to convince the steering committee, he abolished the national committee and replaced it with a Labour-only national coordinating committee (NCC). A new online model of organisation without a regional structure was created with the specific intention of preventing Trotskyists dominating delegated meetings. Lansman resigned as a director of Momentum on 12 January, being replaced by Christine Shawcroft, in order to stand for election to the steering committee, it was reported.
A relaunch of the group in early March 2017, with John McDonnell having assisted Lansman, included a first meeting of the new NCC on 11 March and a conference on 25 March, both in Birmingham. Another group, Momentum Grassroots, held its alternative meeting in Birmingham on 11 March.
National Coordinating GroupEdit
In January 2017, following a survey by Momentum - to which over 40% of members responded - the organisation's steering committee voted by majority to introduce a new constitution. Eight Members' Representatives were elected: four for London and the South East; two for the Midlands, the East, the West and Wales; two for the North, Scotland and International; and four public office holders.
In April 2017, over 13,000 votes were cast – 35% of eligible members – with increased turnout compared to last year, with four Members' Representatives for each region elected.
|London and the South East||Midlands, the East, the West and Wales|
|North, Scotland and International||Public office holders|
After the Stoke-on-Trent Central, and Copeland by-elections were called, Momentum mobilised its large activist base to campaign for both. Momentum launched two pieces of technology to help this, a Phone Banking web application called Grassroots Now (previously used in Corbyn's Labour leadership election campaigns in 2015 and 2016), and a carpooling web application to help activists travel to the campaign days from across the country. Ultimately, the Labour Party Candidate in Stoke-on-trent, Gareth Snell, won, while in the traditional Labour stronghold of Copeland the Labour candidate Gillian Troughton lost to her Conservative opponent.
2017 general election campaignEdit
In the run-up to the general election on 8 June 2017, Momentum worked to mobilise voters and encourage volunteers to canvass on behalf of Labour. As part of the campaign, MyNearestMarginal.com, a website which allows voters to search for campaigning events in marginal constituencies closest to them, and ElectionDayPledge.com, where voters can pledge to volunteer on Polling Day, were created. Momentum also worked with organisers from Bernie Sanders' 2016 Presidential campaign to hold training sessions for volunteers. It drafted in senior figures from Sanders' campaign, including Erika Uyterhoeven, formerly a national director for outer-state organising, Grayson Lookner, Jeremy Parkin and Kim McMurray.
The organisation's Facebook page reached 23.7 million views and videos were watched by 12.7 million unique users. In total Momentum spent less than £2,000 advertising on the social media platform.
In May 2017, Noam Chomsky claimed the future of the party must lie with the left of the party and Momentum. He said: "The constituency of the Labour Party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on ... if there is to be a serious future for the Labour Party that is where it is in my opinion."
Post-2017 general electionEdit
In June 2017, after the general election, Giles Kenningham, former Conservative Party director of communications said: "Labour have used Momentum to devastating effect." Later in the month, Michael Gove, Conservative MP said: "The Conservative Party can learn a lot from Momentum."
In August, it was announced that the Communications Workers Union will formally affiliate to Momentum after its ruling executive voted unanimously in favour to join the organisation. A former critic of the Labour left and Corbyn, John McTernan joined Momentum in Summer 2017.
In September, Momentum launched M.app, a smartphone app to alert delegates to timings of key votes on the national conference floor, as well as send real-time information about events and rallies.
In summer 2017, Adam Klug resigned as national co-ordinator following the snap general election. In October 2017, Emma Rees, a co-founder of the group, stood down as national co-ordinator. Laura Parker who left her role as Jeremy Corbyn's political secretary before the national conference replaced Rees as national co-ordinator.
In partnership with Owen Jones, Momentum is mobilising for the 'Unseat' campaign, targeting constituencies where prominent Tory MPs have a small majority and could be susceptible to a Labour win at the next general election.
Thousands have attended Unseat events in seats held by then Education Secretary Justine Greening (Putney), former DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip).
2017 Labour Party ConferenceEdit
At the 2017 Labour Party Conference itself, thousands of members committed to making the party more democratic and inclusive, pass policy to enhance the party's openness and representation. Conference overwhelmingly votes in favour of the Labour Party Democracy Review, so that in the coming year, every Labour member will have the chance to share their views about how the party can improve.
Labour Party Democracy ReviewEdit
In January 2018, Momentum tabled plans to update the way the NEC's BAME representative is chosen, with a one member, one vote election replacing the current system where a small party group decides the post. Under the group's plans, all black or minority ethnic members of the party would automatically become part of BAME Labour and have one member, one vote rights in electing their NEC representative. BAME Labour would also have an independent organisation, with its committee having direct access to its own membership list and centrally-funded finances, and the ability to organise its own campaigns and events independently.
Internal tensions (2018)Edit
In June 2018 several former Momentum figures, as well as trade union leaders, backed by more than 60 constituency Labour parties (CLPs) launched a grassroots Labour for a People's Vote group, to try to force a vote at the party conference to change Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit policy. The group's launch statement was signed by the general secretary of the TSSA union, Manuel Cortes, the economist Ann Pettifor, the former Momentum steering group member Michael Chessum and the former CWU general secretary Billy Hayes. Cortes, had previously called for the removal of Jackie Walker as Momentum's vice-chair.
Since the Anti-Semitism allegation scandal in July 2018, Momentum took the decision to dismiss Peter Willsman from the party executive candidature list. Willsman had been recorded describing some British Jewish people in the IT Industry as "...Trump fanatics".
As of January 2018, Momentum had 35,000 members With 15% membership increase since the start of 2018, by April the organisation had 40,000. Momentum has said that 95 per cent of its current funding comes from membership fees and small donations, with the average fee standing at £3 a year. In July 2018 it was reported that Momentum had 42,000 members with 92% (38,700) in England, 4% in Wales (2,000) and 3% in Scotland (1,300).
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(Manuel Cortes) I am asking Jackie that in the interests of unity she resigns at once from our Party and also as vice-chair of Momentum. If she doesn't, both the Labour Party and Momentum need to act to get rid of her at once. Furthermore, TSSA will reconsider our union’s support for Momentum if she is still in post by this time next week
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