Independent Momentum NCG candidates: Yorkshire, North East, Cumbria, Scotland and International

Responses from independent candidates for Momentum's NCG. Today: Chlöe Hopkins for Yorkshire, North East, Cumbria, Scotland and International.

With the left still reeling from defeat in the 2019 general election and the leadership campaign which followed, the elections to the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG) represent a major opportunity for a critical appraisal of the last five years – and what the left does next.

Unfortunately, the level of discussion within internal elections has generally been quite low - and this one is no exception. On 31st May, therefore, New Socialist reached out to the two main national slates (Momentum Renewal and Forward Momentum) with a series of questions for candidates in each region. We’ve tried to tease out differences between the slates and pin them down on some of the difficult questions – we’ll leave it to you to determine how well they’ve stepped up. We are also giving independent candidates the opportunity to put forward their arguments for why you should consider voting for them.

We’d encourage you to look at slates’ and responses in other sections, and candidates’ responses to the pledges put together by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights and the Labour Campaign for Free Movement. New Socialist would also note that it’s not enough to sign pledges and then equivocate over supporting them – you either support them or you don’t. In some of the answers we received to our questions, particularly over the tenth LCTR pledge (‘Support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views’), we’re concerned by hints that candidates might be willing to row back. New Socialist believes that it’s necessary to be able to draw lines, and that worries about the possibility of unfair expulsions can be a handy cover for people who’d oppose expulsions in any circumstances. We would also like to reiterate our support for the ninth pledge, which demands organising and fighting ‘against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.’ The transphobia of these groups is well documented and a demand to oppose them is merely a demand to be consistent in our opposition to bigotry and exclusion and to make good on the provisions in the Labour rulebook that ‘No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which… might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on… gender reassignment or identity’.

More information about the NCG elections, which close on Tuesday 30th June, can be found here. The full list of candidates is here – Momentum’s regions, which leave a lot to be desired, are based on European parliamentary constituencies (unless you’re in Cumbria). You can search for yours here.

The interviews with the two main slates were published over the last week, we will now be publishing responses from independents.

Wednesday 17th: London
Thursday 18th: Midlands and East
Friday 19th: North West and Wales
Saturday 20th: Public Office Holders
Sunday 21st: South East and South West
Monday 22nd: Yorkshire, North East, Cumbria, Scotland and International

Chlöe Hopkins

I’m from Beverley, where I am currently a Labour Town Councillor, chair of my branch and women’s officer for the CLP. In 2019 I stood as the parliamentary candidate for the constituency. Right now, I’m involved in our local Mutual Aid Group. I’m also part of a group of Labour members with a podcast - COMRADIO – where we chat about politics.

I’m standing as an independent because I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about policies – between the slates there’s a general agreement about the need for a change in Momentum structures, but it’s also important to ask what policies we support. We should fight to maintain and improve the Green New Deal, with ideas such as free and accessible public transport across the UK. Momentum should defend migrants’ rights unequivocally, not based on economic arguments but the principle of solidarity. At this moment it also seems appropriate to say we should reject pro-police and pro-prison approaches to justice.

I think of myself as an example of a Momentum success – the work done by Momentum made me feel that there was a place for the left in Labour and many people joined via Momentum. There have also been successes in mobilising activists and organising for internal Labour elections.

Momentum’s failures reflect its successes. It defended Corbyn well – but that also meant its work within Labour was focused on protecting the leadership rather than creating and campaigning for socialist policies. It became disconnected from the membership because of a tendency to centralisation. Momentum’s embrace of Labour’s “more police, more border guards” policy was a mistake made because we were more focused on positively promoting all Labour policies than promoting socialism.

My priorities on the Momentum NCG are political education for members, improving internal democracy, building on our trade union links and putting campaigning efforts into all levels of election, not just the high-profile general elections. Political education is particularly important because members’ socialism should drive their campaigning.

Fortunately, all candidates are committed to working constructively to build a united left slate. Ideally this should have grassroots involvement, with members having a say on what principles candidates should sign up to and an opportunity to be consulted on the candidates before formal endorsement. However, it must be made clear that Momentum will thoroughly vet all candidates before endorsing and that anyone who falls short of the highest standards on opposing transphobia and anti-semitism will not receive that endorsement.

I was pleased to sign the LCTR pledges when they were first released during the leadership election and I’m proud to reaffirm my commitment to all twelve pledges. I would urge all members to refrain from voting for anyone who doesn’t support the pledges, although fortunately in our region every candidate is a signatory.

It’s important to remember that although we may have differences, everyone standing for the NCG has much more in common and just like the other candidates I’m committed to working with whoever is elected.

Socialism is emancipatory both individually and collectively. It is built on sharing wealth and power equally through the principles of solidarity and justice, to create a society working for the common good of all. It is a politics of hope and struggle, a fight to bring us closer to that society. For me it can be summed up in two well-known slogans – “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” and “none are free until all are free”.

Councils can be improved by Momentum expanding its support for members putting themselves forward to become councillors. However, as Haringey shows, that is not sufficient. We must make it clear that no candidate is guaranteed continued support and must be responsive to local movements. We should also use the tools within Labour – the rule book says Labour Groups should work with Local Government Committees to develop policy and Momentum should support that and seek to increase the role of Labour members in forming local policy.

There should be democratic liberation groups within Momentum, so policy is informed at every level by the work of BAME, LGBTQ+, Disability and Women’s sections. We should also support the work of groups like Socialists of Colour or the LGBT+ Network, whether by highlighting their events to Momentum members or acting to support their campaigns with our own organising.

In many areas Momentum doesn’t need to take a direct role, from tenants’ organisations to community groups to trade union organising. Instead it should be a network for the Labour left, enabling members to become involved in such groups and campaign with them.

Our region is a bit of an unwieldy mess. Given we only have four NCG places, it’s impossible for every constituent part to be represented, despite each area having different challenges to contend with. We should change the way the NCG is formed and this is one area where some mirroring of Labour structure would be useful – if use the same regions this should facilitate organising within Momentum and within Labour. We need to devolve power to each region and then to local groups so activists on the ground can set the priorities for their area.

Different regional groups are crucial – Scotland, Northern Ireland and International all have different situations to deal with. For each area we should consult with its members about what they want from Momentum and how their perspective will be fed into the work of the national organisation. It’s particularly poor that Northern Ireland seems a complete afterthought in Momentum organising – there may not be Labour candidates there, but there are ways to support left wing politics and Momentum should help members do that.

I’ve always been impressed by the work of Leeds Momentum, their groundwork has been phenomenal. I’m also a fan of the activities of Sheffield Transformed and I’ve been particularly grateful to them during lockdown for some great events and support.