SKIP TO MAIN CONTENT

Interview with Momentum NCG candidates: South East and South West

by The Editors / June 21, 2020

Momentum NCG 2020  }
The fifth of our interviews with Momentum NCG candidates from the two main slates. Today: South East and South West. 7041 words / 27 min read

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 asked for named responses from candidates, but in some cases answers were submitted on behalf of the whole section, or generically across the entire slate. As well as the answers below, we’d encourage you to look at slates’ 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’.

We’ve decided to interview the two main slates because we think that they’re the ones that most need to be interrogated – in most regions, it would be impossible to use all your votes without voting for a candidate from one of these two slates. However, we recognise that there are independents running in these elections too, and we want to give them a right to reply. We invite independents to submit responses of no more than 1000 words to [email protected], outlining their responses to the questions we’ve raised and highlighting the differences between themselves and the interviews that we’ve published.

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.

Our publishing schedule for these interviews is as follows:
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

NS

Can you introduce yourselves? Who are the members of your slate?

Forward Momentum

All candidates (FM): We are the Forward Momentum candidates for the South East and South West:

Darran McLaughlin - climate activist, candidate for Bristol City Council, and one of the founders of Bristol Transformed.

Jennifer Forbes - trade unionist and climate campaigner, who stood for Labour in Truro and Falmouth in the 2019 General Election.

Shona Jemphrey - activist with Acorn, Labour for a Green New Deal, Rebecca Long-Bailey’s leadership campaign, and a political education organiser.

Phil Clarke - teacher and branch secretary of East Sussex NEU, who led a strike campaign and won thousands of teachers a pay rise. A local organiser in the Brighton and Hove Labour Party.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We are a group of activists from across the country who want to renew Momentum by uniting the left to win the battle for socialism in our party. Our campaign is backing candidates from Matt Brown, the pioneer of the Preston Model, LGBTQ+ activist Chardine Taylor Stone to the left-backed candidate for Deputy Leadership in Scotland, Matt Kerr and Labour’s NEC member Huda Elmi.

We understand how disheartening the last six months have been. First the general election, then the leadership and NEC by-elections. For the Labour-left to stay relevant, we need to remember what we’re for: our priority is building the local institutions that create vibrant socialist cultures and ensure the voting in of socialist MPs. The candidates we are backing have ensured socialist victories at local, regional and national levels. That is the kind of experience that Momentum needs to unite the left and build for the future.

(Editors’ note: The Momentum Renewal candidates in this section are Max Shanly, Jabu Nala-Hartley, Martin Menear, and Sarah Cundy)

NS

How did your slate come about? What were the processes that got you on?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We reflected upon the failure of the NEC by-election in April and understood that the most important political priority needed to be the sustaining of the fragile coalition that constituted the Labour Left over the Corbyn era. We therefore made it our priority that any candidates we choose to support must reflect the political diversity of the coalition of support that we’ve received and not be dominated by a particular point of view. Another imperative is that the slate, while respecting the need for breadth, must share a basic vision for the future of Momentum in order to be coherent and accountable for delivering on our full list of pledges. Furthermore, it’s extremely important to ensure the desired balance and diversity on a slate in terms of politics, skills, geography, age, background and BAME representation.

As a result, Momentum Renewal’s key decisions were taken by a Strategy Panel with a remit to reach out to people across the Labour Left to try and reach the greatest possible degree of unity and consensus before deciding on candidates or policies. This didn’t just mean liaising with established groups or well-known figures, it also meant providing ways for every Momentum member who has an idea about the future of Momentum or who is interested in standing for the NCG to get involved. We certainly don’t have all the answers, and utilising all the talent that’s out there in our movement will be vital to unlocking our potential in the future.

Forward Momentum

Shona Jemphrey (FM): We went through the open primaries process that Forward Momentum ran. We had to collect nominations from fellow activists, and then the four final candidates were elected through a STV system, where every person in the South East & South West who was signed up as a Forward Momentum supporter got to vote. We were all really impressed by the transparency with which Forward Momentum ran this system, including the huge online hustings where each candidate got to speak and faced questioning.

Jenny Forbes (FM): It’s exactly this sort of democratic exercise we need to rebuild investment in Momentum, and there’s no reason why we cannot engage Momentum’s mass membership outside of elections using the digital tools on offer.

NS

What has Momentum done right in the last few years?

Forward Momentum

Shona (FM): Momentum has proven very skilled at organising activists when it comes to big events like canvassing for general elections, and sending campaigners to the constituencies that need them, even when Labour HQ refused to do so.

For example, in 2017 Momentum activists focused heavily on the constituency of Bristol North West, and won it from the Tories; despite Labour HQ refusing to prioritise it, and playing a very defensive game. Momentum also pioneered the Persuasive Conversations training that upskilled thousands of keen activists.

Momentum has, above all, provided a home for the Left in the Labour Party, and a space for activists to gather, discuss problems, and share tactics. It’s also given birth to fantastic initiatives like The World Transformed and reached out to a whole new generation of campaigners.

Phil Clarke (FM): A similar story could be told for Brighton, where Kemptown was won from the Tories in 2017, and through Momentum the local party there has been transformed from a bastion of the right-wing to one where the left is in the ascendancy. Great campaigns, like defending Moulsecoomb Primary School, have been made possible by Momentum-supported councillors working with the unions and wider community.

Jenny (FM): When I stood as the Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in Truro and Falmouth, I saw first-hand the energy, enthusiasm, and skill that Momentum members brought to the table. The growth in Labour’s vote share here, and in many other constituencies, cannot be explained without Momentum’s role.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Whilst it is of great importance for NCG candidates to understand Momentum’s limitations over the last 5 years, its successes perhaps don’t get the praise they deserve. It is easy to forget quite how disoriented and unprepared the left was as it assumed the leadership of the party in 2015. In the context of this, Momentum should be praised for its immense electoral mobilisations, its (until recently) near-perfect record in internal party elections, and its amplification of demands around the Green Industrial Revolution, abolition of detention centres, the shorter working week and others – many of which found their way into the 2017 and 2019 manifestoes.

The enlargement of the SCG – despite the PLP decreasing in size overall since 2015 – has in good part to do with mobilisation organised by Momentum in local selections. This will surely be invaluable over the coming years both in helping regain the leadership for the left as well as emboldening the demands of the extra-parliamentary left.

This was all made possible by Momentum’s 40,000+ strong membership. The enormity of this achievement cannot be understated – for a left organisation within The Labour Party to have a membership of this size would have been unimaginable 5 years ago. This success is also arguably Momentum’s greatest downfall – the failure to mobilise such a large membership in communities as well as conferences is well understood by Renewal candidates; rectifying this, building on those successes of the Corbyn era, should be of great urgency to any successful NCG candidates.

NS

And where did it go wrong? What or who was to blame?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Momentum’s problems arose at the dawn of its creation. It was an organisation formed without a structure, strategy or clear political orientation and thus became all things to all people. This meant that its entire development was fuelled by short term demands and not a long-term vision. Subsequently, the organisation developed in an overly hierarchical and bureaucratic fashion. No one person was to blame for this happening, these errors occurred due to the conditions surrounding Momentum’s birth and initial development. Now the Labour left is no longer preoccupied with the defence of the party leadership there is now time to re-evaluate Momentum’s role, its structure and strategy moving forward.

Forward Momentum

Shona (FM): The situation has been extremely difficult in that we have effectively been on election footing for several years, which has taken up a huge amount of time and energy. We had to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership from attacks within our own party, fight the 2017 election, and then be ready for another snap election at any moment.

I also think the top-down nature of some of the decisions Momentum has made also frustrated a lot of members, some of whom then left. It felt very hard to have your voice heard, and the NCG seemed a remote, inaccessible group. Most people couldn’t name any of their NCG representatives. This has led to a feeling of disempowerment and frustration amongst members, and when there isn’t that buy-in from rank and file members, an organisation will slowly start to wither.

Phil (FM): Local members have often experienced socialist candidates for key positions in their areas not being supported by Momentum, and they have been used as foot soldiers and little else. Members are the lifeblood of the organisation and it must be run by and accountable to them.

Jenny (FM): We have experienced the Momentum leadership using unity as a buzzword rather than a practice. Instead their actions have been deeply factional and caused lasting divides. We can’t go on like this.

NS

What will be your priorities on the NCG?

Forward Momentum

Jenny (FM): We have five key priorities, which all Forward Momentum candidates are committed to: to unite the socialist left and transform the Labour Party; to refound Momentum and put members in charge; to build power in our workplaces and communities; to give more control to local groups, the regions and the nations; and to fight for a just and green response to the Covid crisis.

We encourage everyone to check out our plans around these five areas. We feel the time and effort that has been put into developing these, by the whole of the Forward Momentum campaign and hundreds of Momentum supporters, is one of the things that separates us from other slates.

Shona (FM): We need members to feel empowered and energised; we need to demonstrate how their voices can make an impact and shape Momentum’s future. A big priority for Forward Momentum will be improving the internal democracy of Momentum, starting with a series of discussions and consultations with members, including a refounding convention, to hammer out the details of what members want to change. We also need to empower local groups, and give them the access to funding and mailing lists they need to do things on the ground. We should be focusing on supporting their grassroots organising, campaigns and projects, so that people across the country can see socialism and solidarity in action.

Jenny (FM): On the question of funding, we’ve pledged in our plan to give members control over resources, by creating regional and national funding pots through which local groups can bid for projects and campaigns, with decisions on funding made transparently by all local groups in the same region or nation (Scotland and Wales). Funding pots should be weighted towards where Momentum is least present, rather than where it is strongest.

Shona (FM): We also need to seriously look at re-drawing the regional groupings to better reflect our regions. For example, at the moment the North East, Scotland, Yorkshire, and International are all grouped together. It is ridiculous to suggest that all these areas are the same and can just band together and represent one another. Regions need better recognition and need their voices heard, and we need to recognise activist networks outside of London. As part of a plan to tackle this, Forward Momentum will scale down the London offices and plans to open Momentum offices across the UK, with the first one of these in the North of England.

Jenny (FM): It’s important to highlight - and I know all Forward Momentum candidates agree - that unless accompanied by substantial democratic reform, opening new offices won’t fully decentralise Momentum (especially if there aren’t any in the South West, which often gets left out of these conversations!). What will help is introducing concrete reforms that give local groups and members a real say in decision-making, and control over resources and strategy.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We have to rebuild and grow the socialist left in the Labour Party and try to re-capture the energy and enthusiasm which defined our movement between 2015 and 2017.

There are 3 areas we will concentrate on delivering to achieve this if we’re elected:

  1. Supporting moving offices away from London, improving the support available to local groups and giving Momentum members a meaningful, democratic voice over policy making, strategy and the direction of our campaigns

  2. Bolstering the political education which is available to activists on campaigning, party rules and structures and the trade union movement, so when people join Momentum there is a pathway available to train and support them in making a contribution to our movement.

  3. Strengthening the links between Momentum and the trade union movement. As Lawrence Dunne outlined in his recent article on LabourList, we view the task of building the socialist left within unions as key to our chances of successfully moving on from the Corbyn era and ensuring our politics are relevant to people. Being active in a union, helping to face capitalism down at its source, should be seen as a key aspect of every member’s contribution to what we do. Momentum is in an ideal position to help with this through our political education programme and through ensuring we dedicate staff and resources to developing local links with trade unions and the socialist factions within them.

Ultimately, our aim should be to once more inextricably link the struggle in the workplace and the fight to transform wider society.

NS

Many people have identified the upcoming the NEC elections as a crucial battle for Momentum, with failure in the last set seen as down to a disunited left slate. What were the reasons for this? How should such a slate be formed? And how do appeals to unity interact with concerns around backing, for example, candidates who are transphobic or who equivocate over condemning antisemitism?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Our priority is to bring about a united left slate ahead of the NEC elections, whenever that may be. The lack of consensus on a united slate in April cost us the NEC elections and has led to many of the victories won over the course of the last 5 years being undone in a matter of months. We cannot let this happen again. We need to be frank, though: coming to a consensus on nine candidates is far more achievable than on two. We would therefore get round the negotiating table at the CLGA and try and come to a consensus on the kind of reforms in the Party that we are strategically well-placed to win, and subsequently draw up a collective slate that supports those priorities. During negotiations, if we are elected, we will continue to strive for a slate of candidates who embody all of our values as socialists and people who believe in equality. This includes arguing strongly against candidates who fall short of that standard, be it in regards to antisemitism, transphobia or any other form of bigotry. Individuals on that slate should be held to the highest of standards as potential representatives on the ruling body of our Party.

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Left candidates for the NEC elections need to be selected in as open and democratic way as possible, with the candidates’ politics and not who they know being the key criteria. Momentum should look at doing this for its candidates using primaries, and then look to get unity around key political priorities with other groups on the left. Too much before has been behind closed doors.

We have every confidence that Momentum members would democratically select candidates that stand for trans-rights and oppose all forms of racism. Openness and transparency makes records clearer, and allows people to be held to account in the fairest possible way. We absolutely should not have bigots running on left slates.

NS

Have you all signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights founding statement?

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Yes, we all have. All the candidates support the key principles of trans men being men, trans women being women and that there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights. We all also support reform of the gender recognition act to support self-identification. We have all supported these positions in the past when they have voted on these matters in the Labour Party and in their unions.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): The majority of the candidates we are backing have now signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights founding statement. We are pleased that there is such a consensus across both slates on this.

(Editors’ note: at the time of publication, Momentum Renewal’s Martin Menear has not signed the LCTR pledges)

NS

How do you expect to work with other members of the NCG? Will the organisation that’s supporting you continue to exist after the NCG elections?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Momentum Renewal is not an organisation, but a new strategic direction for Momentum moving forward. All of our candidates would work with those elected across the NCG to unite the left. Our aim is twofold: to bring about a united left NEC slate and to rebuild in communities up and down the country. We would work with anyone who agreed that both of those things are the priority for the Labour Left moving forward.

Forward Momentum

Shona (FM): Obviously we hope that all the Forward Momentum candidates get elected, as we are very impressed with the quality of our fellow candidates and the transparency of the open primaries process that brought us here. We believe voting for Forward Momentum candidates is the best way to secure long-term change in Momentum.

If some Forward Momentum candidates are elected and others not, we will of course work alongside those. Forward Momentum itself will dissolve after the NCG elections; Forward Momentum is to be a tool to bring pressure for Momentum to change, not to become a faction within a faction.

NS

Each slate has expressed a commitment to ‘socialism’ – but what does socialism mean for you?

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Socialism is a society where decisions are democratically taken on the basis of what is good for people and the planet, not as now on the basis of what is most profitable. Capitalism needs to be replaced by socialism and this should be our goal. The labour movement and its political wing, the Labour Party, are key in organising for socialist change. Socialism is international, anti-imperialist and democratic. It supports liberation struggles of the oppressed to achieve maximum unity of the working class to bring about genuine freedom for all.

Darran McLaughlin (FM): Socialism means the democratisation of society, including the workplace, because true democracy is a fiction without democratic control of the economy. Socialists recognise that our society is divided (more or less) into two classes; those who own the means of production, and those who sell their labour as a commodity and are exploited by them.

The working class is heterogeneous. The old stereotype of white men working in heavy industry and manufacturing is no longer an accurate portrait of the working class in the UK today. Most of the working class today are working in service sector jobs, and a large proportion of them are BAME, women and migrants. Despite the various differences, of metropolitan vs rural or small town, male and female, black and white and so on, socialism says that all of the working class face the same fundamental exploitation within our economic system - though any socialist movement that is serious must acknowledge discrimination and exploitation based on intersecting aspects or our identities such as race, gender, sexuality.

We must recognise our shared interests and that we can overcome our exploitation through solidarity and collective action. I grew up in a predominantly black council estate in London, but my Dad lives in a council estate in Coatbridge, a former steel working and coal mining town just outside Glasgow, which suffers from deprivation, unemployment and lots of social problems. It’s the same issues.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): At its core, socialism refers to the democratisation of life itself. A post-capitalist mode of production in which wealth, power and ownership are in the hands of the working class - the social majority of Britain and the world - diametrically opposed to current order. To put it simply, socialism is a movement to abolish the present state of things in pursuit of a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people and their families.

NS

Councillors bring valuable experience to Momentum and the NCG, but many social movements face local councils as their immediate antagonists – see, for example, the struggles over the Latin Village in Haringey. How can this contradiction be resolved?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): We have a lot of trust that we need to rebuild with our communities. When we talk about the 2019 general election result, there is a narrative of winning back labour heartlands. It is socialist councillors that have a responsibility to empower labour heartlands and their local authorities.

The buzzwords around labour councils should not just be ways to describe different economic models. They should present opportunities for local people to actively participate in the economic decisions that affect their lives and the future of their city. Injecting our socialist values into a local authority means transforming the stale and sterile managerialist model of local government.

It needs to be acknowledged that the principles of the Corbyn project, which reintroduced dreams of municipal socialism, will end up playing out in hyper localised areas. This means for example, that no workers co-op or community bank would work with a one size fits all approach. A community land trust in London will be very different to one in Liverpool - and that is why it is vital to put residents at the heart of any transformative planning.

If we take the idea ‘the worker knows the workplace the best’, and embed this ethos within neighbourhoods and communities. Then local people should be supported in becoming active citizens who can change the social landscape of their towns and cities. Rebuilding trust between elected representatives and local people means demonstrating that you have the same aims.

Partnering with private companies that have little knowledge about how an area functions will only result in resident alienation and much needed funds being milked out of the council budgets and used to top up investors piggy banks.

Any notion of reinvigorating an area should be a discussion that is led by local people and is for local people. The role of a socialist councillor is to bring these people together. A group of neighbours will know what is best for their local area better than any developer ever could.

Whilst representative democracy provides individuals with some power, it is the responsibility of those individuals to empower the communities which they represent. The power of our movement cannot be mobilised by any one individual and will not reach the potential that we dream of if those elected individuals do not function to empower the many.

So often, it is Labour Councils that have implemented cuts. It is true that cuts to councils disproportionately affect Labour councils but this does not excuse them from subsequently making further cuts. What is needed now more than ever is an anti-cuts fightback across local government to protect our communities, which is why we support extended and providing extra resources for the Momentum Councillor Network.

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Labour councillors should be accountable to the local party structures and should not be seen as separate from or above local members. Mechanisms of accountability for all public office holders in the Labour Party need to be beefed up, and Momentum should also look to hold Left councillors, new and old, to account. Councillors should be shop stewards for their local communities. It is their job to speak up for those they represent and not just carry out central government policy.

Darran (FM): The realities of exercising power, with all the constraints and pressures that comes with it, is not so easy. This applies especially to local government, which ultimately does not wield the full powers of the state, and which has to operate under the financial restrictions, laws and regulations imposed by the national government. Sometimes grassroots movement can make strong demands, often without having to consider the practicalities of implementing the changes they seek.

But these factors should not be used as cover for socialist councillors to impose unpopular policies that damage working class communities. Examples like the Preston Model show that Labour councils can do excellent work within constraints, supporting insourcing, local business and co-ops without an increased budget.

But this often requires a strong socialist movement, with the widespread support of the organised working class. We need to embolden Labour councils to provide serious resistance, and alternative strategies, and Momentum can play a role in this. There are radical councils in our history we can draw inspiration from, such as Clay Cross Council in the 70s, Militant in Liverpool or the Greater London Council in the 80s, which saw people like John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone pushing really excellent local policies.

NS

What role do you see for ‘autonomous’ or ‘liberation’ campaigns within Momentum? How should Momentum relate to groups like Socialists of Colour?

Forward Momentum

Darran (FM): I’m engaged with the liberation campaigns within Momentum, and Forward Momentum has a policy that calls for Momentum to encourage and support BAME self- organising within the membership, alongside a commitment to foster joined-up self-organisation in BAME, LGBTQ+, Women’s and Disability Momentum sections.

From my experience with BAME people that I know who are left leaning, anti-capitalist or active in social movements, many are not attracted to the Labour Party or Momentum, and that’s something we have to try to overcome.

I also know a lot of the people in Socialists of Colour and I am now engaged in working with Labour Against Racism and Fascism. I would like to see Momentum, and particularly our BAME members, working and organising in collaboration with groups like Socialists of Colour, non-aligned or non-party political social movements like Black Lives Matter, as well as with Black sections within the Trade Union movement. Ultimately, it’s about collaborating with and supporting these groups and the good work they do, not looking to dominate.

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): In light of the racism in the leaked report and the fact that Keir Starmer is supporting aggressive prosecutions to protesters within the BLM movement, it’s an incredibly difficult time for BAME members to be in the Labour Party right now. Within that context, it is really exciting to see so many people, like Socialists of Colour, coming out to self-organise. What we really need to do is funnel this activity into channels inside the Labour Party. We do not need to replicate this in Momentum, and anyone proposing an internal structure of BAME representation within Momentum doesn’t understand the nature of how we best use our resources and create these spaces. The principle of self-organisation stands that anyone who wants to organise absolutely should do, but it’s important we recognise where these spaces are most needed. BAME socialists need to be organising in the Labour Party because that is where the power is. Because of the work of BAME organisers within Momentum, we now have the opportunity to set up local Ethnic Minority Forums that have clear democratic lines to their CLP. We have the opportunity to elect BAME officers who can represent BAME members on the EC and self-organise their BAME caucuses both inside and outside their CLPs. Through these we can exert our influence on CLPs and Labour Groups as well as the NEC and leadership. As a movement we really need to understand the power of these internal party mechanisms more and use them. And as Momentum we should be educating our membership and having these discussions of how we self-organise within the party with groups such as Socialists of Colour.

NS

Is there anything that Momentum shouldn’t be doing? Is there anything which would be better to be done by other groups on the left?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): It’s difficult to identify anything which Momentum shouldn’t at least be attempting to influence within the socialist left of the Labour Party.

However, one thing we are passionate about is that we don’t believe we should be aiming for Momentum to become a mini-political party with bureaucratic structures and procedures which mirror those in place in the party. Our main task is organising, educating and mobilising people to transform the Labour Party and help win wider society to socialist politics, so everything we do has to be checked against those priorities.

Forward Momentum

Darran (FM): Tenants’ unions like ACORN (of which I’m a member), London Renters Union and Living Rent in Scotland are doing really excellent work, encouraging the self organisation of the working class and demonstrating solidarity and socialist principles in action. Momentum members should be active members of these groups, and local groups should offer any support and solidarity that we can. But I don’t think Momentum should try to take on this work itself as an organisation.

What Momentum should do is link people up, give them resources and help them develop the skills to run their own campaigns when needed, and to support existing social movement struggles, and tenants and trade union campaigns. Momentum should be amplifying capacity and helping to build power.

Phil (FM): Momentum needs to put workplace organising and union building at the centre of what it does. This does not mean, however, we should look to organise Momentum factions or groups in unions. The work building democratic militant unions should be encouraged by giving members the confidence to make their own decisions to align with groups in the unions already doing this work.

To facilitate this, we are proposing establishing a Momentum trade unionists’ network, which will also have a focus on developing and sharing organising skills, working with unions. This network will have an elected full-time officer tasked with its growth and coordinating with unions at both local and national levels.

Darran (FM): What Momentum can also do in support of trade unions, is organise in the Labour Party to push for pro-worker policies, and to repeal anti-trade union laws - helping build trade union struggle through other fronts.

NS

The South East and South West aren’t seen as regions with a lot of ‘natural’ support for Labour, but there’s been a lot of victories there in recent years even whilst electoral success has been harder to come by elsewhere. What do you think are the implications of this, going forward?

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): As the world of work and peoples living conditions change, how people relate to the Labour Party and the movement will change. Growing votes in many parts of our region reflects the fact basic necessities like housing are so expensive and that inequalities in wealth are very stark. This means Labour must show that wherever you live, then socialist policies will improve your life and the labour movement will organise for your interests.

Clearly the Labour Party and labour movement has to think about declining support in post-industrial areas in the North, but this shouldn’t be pitched as antagonistic with the support we have built in other areas of the country. Labour’s electoral coalition has to represent different sections of the working class, new and old.

Momentum Renewal

Jabu Nala-Hartley (MR): Labour and Momentum is entering a new era. We have many lessons to learn both from our recent major defeats and from our successes in the Corbyn era about where we go next.

In 2017, we won 4 extra seats in the SE, doubling our total to 8. We came within a whisker of winning Hastings and kicking out Amber Rudd - responsible for the Windrush crisis. We won mainly university towns, where the youth and student vote turned out to canvass and vote, and they did so because of our radical manifesto.

In 2019, we saw the reversal of those gains and the loss of many seats all over the country. In the South East, despite the winter weather, we managed to replicate the incredible mobilisation of 2017 with a coordinated push of activists out from safe seats into twinned target seats. In Oxford, we sent out several carloads of canvassers every week to Reading, Swindon, Milton Keynes and even up to Wolverhampton, Rugby and Coventry.

We can draw clear lessons from 2017 that with radical policies that advance the interests of the working class, no Tory seat is a safe seat. There are large working-class communities all over the South East who can be mobilised if we put the work in, and who are already organising to fight major job losses in aviation and manufacturing in the region. Momentum must fight to defend and extend our 2017 manifesto, and only then will we be able to replicate and improve on the gains of 2017.

In response to the defeat of 2019, we must do what we can in the coming years through local government and community organising to implement socialist policies and organise communities to fight back against the worst of Tory rule. This is especially important as we organise our communities and workplaces against the measures taken for coronavirus, including the massive expected job losses in the region, and as we face the coming financial crisis.

NS

Should Momentum have an organised youth section?

Momentum Renewal

All candidates (MR): Young members of Momentum are already taking a leading role in fighting for socialism within the Party. Organising a youth section within Momentum would undoubtedly distract from the real opportunity to build upon the work that is already being done by Momentum members in Young Labour locally, regionally and nationally. If elected, we would therefore support and resource young activists to participate within Young Labour at a national level, providing support for socialist candidates, as well as at a local level.

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Forward Momentum has pledged to host a democratic re-founding conference by May 2021, which will give members the chance to deliberate - locally, nationally and online - and vote on a new constitution and decide our organisation’s long-term future. These sorts of questions will be central.

I think there is a strong case for a new youth section, that can coordinate within Young Labour - which we have also pledged to campaign to properly resource, as part of our strategy for the Labour Party.

They key with any new structures in Momentum is that they enhance democratic accountability and facilitate effective action. We don’t want a repeat of what happened last time, when Momentum’s official youth section got caught up in sectarian squabbles.

NS

Everyone seems to agree that more power should be given to local groups. What are some successful groups in your region?

Forward Momentum

Phil (FM): Many local Momentum groups have had successes over the last few years. Brighton and Bristol have already been mentioned and these groups helped to take seats from the Tories, which we should celebrate. But would we have won a seat in Canterbury without Momentum there? Would Truro and Falmouth have seen such growth in the Labour vote without its local Momentum group? Clearly not. All these examples show the potential of Momentum, but all these local groups are now struggling because they have not been prioritised and given the resources and support they need. That is why we need to re-found Momentum so it can survive and thrive.

Momentum Renewal

Jabu (MR): I co-chair Oxford Momentum, a vibrant local group that has successfully organised to win a majority of the Executive Committee in our CLP, conference delegates, and councillor selections.

We’ve worked closely with fantastic trade unionists in the local BMW Unite and health branches, the private hire GMB branch, the Unison health branch, the NEU branch, the CWU branch and the FBU to bring organise support for their disputes in the Party and to push policy through the council to support their struggles.

We work closely with a number of community campaigns, including the Oxford Living Wage campaign and the local branches of the Socialist Health Association and the Socialist Education Association. We regularly support local marches and demonstrations, including in solidarity with the revolutions in Sudan and Rojava and with the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

Through this work, we’ve made broad links into different working class communities in Oxford, and representatives often attend our meetings and have joined the Party and taken up roles.

We also work closely with the left councillor group to work on democratising the local Party and policy making processes. We set up a successful Oxford Transformed event with a variety of panels and speakers, and last year our activists put on a summer political school through the local Party.

For the elections, our Momentum group built links with target seats across the region and sent hundreds of activists out to campaign in crucial areas. I want to strengthen these links between groups in the region, to ensure the bonds that were built during the last two elections are increased, experience and best practice are shared and we are able to strengthen our activities and build support for Labour and the left ahead of the next elections. I think this is especially important for smaller groups in areas where the Labour vote is weak, to make sure everyone who is keen to get active and campaign for Labour and the left has the opportunity and support they need.

We have massive local elections next year, and groups will need the ability to easily contact and mobilise their members to face up to the challenge. I also want to strengthen the Momentum councillor network to make sure our new intake in local government is able to draw on the experience and ideas of socialists across the country. Momentum will play a major role in rebuilding support in the seats we lost in 2019 through implementing radical policies at a local level, and the NCG needs to make sure members on the ground have all the support possible to win every seat we can in 2021 and again in 2024.


Author:

The Editors (@newsocialistuk)

The New Socialist editorial collective.