Can Momentum survive after Jeremy Corbyn stands down? – The Guardian,

Can Momentum survive after Jeremy Corbyn stands down? – The Guardian,

T here are two stand-out memories of the winter general election for Charlie Macnamara. First, the – year-old Momentum member’s data sheets melting to illegible shreds in the rain while knocking on doors. Second, the moment the exit poll came through after a 17 -hour campaigning shift in Stevenage.

“Six of us were out all day. Then we walked through the door of candidate Jill Borcherd’s house and it was devastating. To find out the moment you walk through the door … we were shocked, ”he said.

“We didn’t want to bother her so we got back in the car and had a long drive back to London, looking on Twitter as the results came in.”

As a grassroots group set up explicitly to support Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum would always be challenged by an election loss and the ushering in of a new leader. Momentum thrived on “Jezzmania”, Corbyn’s Glastonbury appearances and telegenic outdoor rallies that could be clipped by their savvy tech team to go viral. They have been hugely influential on policy, in effect fast-tracking the Green New Deal to the forefront of the manifesto.

But with a new Labor leader in place in two months, the , 10 – strong organization must decide what its future will be – if it is to survive at all. With its brand of leftwing politics rejected at the ballot box through Labour’s worst electoral defeat since , the group is focusing on how to rebuild itself. So far, its attempt to stay relevant as the continuity Corbyn outfit has got off to a rocky start.

Rebecca Long-Bailey

A close ally of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, the Salford MP and shadow business secretary has been groomed as a potential leftwing contender for the top job.


Promising to champion “progressive patriotism” .

Keir Starmer

Ambitious former director of public prosecutions has led the charge for remain in the shadow cabinet. He was instrumental in shifting labor’s position towards backing a second referendum


Launched his campaign by highlighting how he has stood up for leftwing Causes as a campaigning lawyer, and unveiled the slogan “Another Future is Possible”, arguing “
Labor can win again if we make the moral case for socialism “
Angry exchanges peppered Twitter this month when Momentum hastily organized a members’ ballot to decide who they should endorse for the leadership and deputy leadership. Just 5, members recommended the only choices on the ballot paper – the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey , and shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner.

One furious member who has given hours of their time on the doorstep declared Momentum a “mess”.

“Why wasn’t it an open ballot?” She said. “I’ll probably head back to the anti-war movement now. There’s other things I can do in politics. I’m not going to be as involved any more. People are worried about where it’s all going. ”

Writer and organizer Michael Chessum was among the high-profile Momentum participants who criticized the ballot.

He tweeted: “Ludicrously, we only have one option for each position. This is a joke, and you should vote No on principle. (Even if, like me, you might end up voting for one of the chosen candidates). ”

While Momentum’s website reads “the fight goes on”, it is clear some members have justifiable fatigue, having spent the past two years as election foot soldiers. Even loyalists agree that the members, many of whom trudged through long winter nights in marginal seats, want to see change within the organization.

The fact founder Jon Lansman is part of Long- Bailey’s campaign team is not lost on activists. The centralization of power around Lansman is nuanced and not always as the public see it, some activists say, but he remains an influential figure.

A – year-old Labor veteran who joined the party in 2015 and worked for Labor icon Tony Benn during his deputy leadership campaign in the 2018 s. Lansman served as director of operations for Corbyn’s leadership campaign. After Corbyn was elected as the leader of the

Labor party in , Lansman founded Momentum, a pro-Corbyn campaign group.

Momentum, often described as a ‘party within a party’, has

radically transformed the Labor party over the last four years. Local groups have challenged party orthodoxies and national membership rules, and fought to get their activists selected.

“I don’t want the Labor party to become a faction fight,” Lansman said in a 2018 interview with the Guardian. “What I want is a level playing field. I want the Labor party to be able to have a democratic debate. ”But in recent weeks, Lansman, and Momentum, are back in the news for being key figures behind another Labor party civil war.

Lansman was behind the move to scrap labor’s – year-old student wing last week , arguing the group needs reforming and had not paid its affiliation fees. Critics described the move as a cynical attempt to shut down a “moderate” wing of the party. Lansman also tabled a last-minute motion at the NEC on Friday night calling for Watson’s job to be scrapped. The motion was withdrawn after Corbyn intervened.

) The current structure, which has a National Coordinating Group at the top of the organization that decides on major policy positions, has not always made members feel like it works for them. Activists complain about the “top-down” structure.

Sophie Wilson, – a councillor in Sheffield who stood as the Labor candidate for Rother Valley, which, at the election, went Tory for the first time since – said Momentum was invaluable in livening up the local labor scene but it needed to change.

She said: “A lot of the public think that Jon Lansman controls everything, but he’s not the person pulling the strings, it’s just that the structure is at fault.

“It needs to consult with members more. Be more grassroots. It still is in some ways but it has morphed into this top-down thing which means that one or two people have a lot of power. ”

Setting up community centers in Labor heartlands could be one way of giving Momentum a sense of purpose in the five years of a majority government, she suggests.

She likes the idea of ​​taking over buildings earmarked for regeneration as part of the “meanwhile use” movement. In South Yorkshire the loss of the miners’ welfare clubs has been a huge blow and in coalfield communities Labor struggled to get the vote out . These centers could be a way of re-engaging with people long term.

“There are a lot of lefties and left activism. There’s a strong history of trade unionism, but after the defeat we need to be looking at more community organizing, ”she said.

• The “red wall” was a huge block of Labor-voting constituencies stretching from north Wales to Merseyside, through Greater Manchester along the Midlands and up to the north-east. The origin of the term is unclear but some believe it was first used in .

• Thirty-three Labor leaders spoke to the Guardian and all but three supported Sir Keir Starmer or Lisa Nandy to become the party’s next leader. All of the (local authority areas voted for Brexit in .

• Of those who would disclose their least favorite candidate, all but two said Rebecca Long-Bailey. The other votes were for Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry.

• Labor leaders in six of the 13 longest-held Labor seats that fell to the Tories said they were backing Starmer or Nandy. They are the Labor leaders in Rotherham, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Wigan, Bassetlaw, North East Lincolnshire and Bolsover. The other four leaders had not responded to requests for comment.

(Charlie, a) (trade union campaigner who helped campaigning in Harrow East, Battersea and Putney in the general election, said Momentum’s strength was publishing a public-facing strategy in advance so members knew why they were knocking on doors – mirroring US Democrat Bernie Sanders’ transparency.

“When we got to Putney, for example, people could explain why we were targeting this particular road and people had bothered to go through the data,” he said.

He has no intention of turning away from the movement. “A lot of us went through a politicization through the Corbyn period and I don’t think that’s going to go away.

“One thing I’ve noticed is the Corbyn movement brought people together, different movements and campaigns. The Labor party was a pretty blunt tool coordinating that activity and Momentum hasn’t always done that as well as it could do, but you don’t want to go backwards.

“But the National Coordinating Group isn’t working. There needs to be a place members can come together and plan at a variety of levels. New regional structures perhaps. ”

In a sign there is still enthusiasm, this past weekend dozens of Momentum activists met in Bradford to discuss mini-festivals planned under The World Transformed banner. Its main political, literary and arts festival held at the same time as the Labor party conference has been a huge success. The spin-off events are expected to attract – plus people in locations.

Momentum’s head office naturally remains optimistic about the future, with senior figures reluctant to signal a winding down. They are wedded to Long-Bailey and, like the activists, there is a feeling the organization can do more to embed itself in local communities.

Long-Bailey has likely returned the favor of winning Momentum’s endorsement with her announcement she would

back open selections of MPs . The left see this as the best way of getting MPs in parliament who are most closely aligned with the membership’s view.

A spokesman for the organization said after the election result came through they were hugely disappointed, but “not for a minute” did they think about giving up.

He said: “We always knew there would be no short cuts to socialism and the rise of the nationalist right as well as the huge crises of climate change and inequality only make our mission more urgent. Our movement has transformed Labor. ”

Immediate plans are pushing the Long-Bailey campaign and seeking more “member power” to help organists, councillors and MPs in the future.

Sophie, who quit her job the week before the election, thinks Momentum will keep going and successfully outlive Corbyn’s leadership.

“There’s a place for it now more than ever in terms of where we need to be putting our efforts. Momentum is barking up the right tree. I’m sad to see Corbyn go, but now we can move on to the next thing and it will be even better. ”

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