If Starmer wants to end Labour’s infighting, then ban Momentum and Progress

by Kevin Meagher

There is something fratricidal about the Labour party. Its innate. Division comes naturally, with tribes of left and right, eyeing each other suspiciously. If they did not have to work together in a first-past-the-post system, they wouldn’t. A loveless arrangement and, alas, as old as the party itself; explaining Labour’s uneven electoral record, governing for just 34 out of the last 100 years.

Bevanites. Gaitskellites. Bennites. Tribunites. Blairites. Corbynistas. The list goes on. And even when one faction or other is in control, there is still an irresistible urge to do down the other side. Indeed, there is often a gleeful intensity to this one-upmanship. ‘It’s not enough that I succeed,’ as Gore Vidal put it, ‘others must fail.’

Thankfully, one of Keir Starmer’s key promises in the leadership contest was to end the feuding. ‘Too often,’ he argued. ‘we find ourselves focusing on our differences rather than the values and principles that brought us together, and that comes at a cost. Our party is divided, and unity requires reconciliation.’

So, in a bid to transcend what are often petty, internecine squabbles, he has woven together a frontbench that unites various strands of opinion in the party and elevated basic competence above sectional loyalty. It is a good start, but he needs to go further to show that factionalism will no longer be tolerated.

The best way he can do that? Banish Momentum – and Progress, too.

Granted, both are independent organisations, but Starmer should use his mandate to make it clear neither is wanted and they have outlasted any purpose they might once have had. Momentum serves as a glorified Jeremy Corbyn fan club, while Progress resembles the Seventh Day Adventist Church, awaiting the Second Coming of Tony Blair.

Both organisations are hyper-partisan. Both have interfered in parliamentary selections. Both have sought to shape policy. Both arouse suspicion and animosity from their rival wing of the party, fuelling the internal warfare that Starmer has rightly committed himself to ending. Both seek to usurp the other, fuelling the party’s left/right psychodrama.

I don’t think that is being too harsh on either organisation.

They are basically two sides of the same coin. Neither is properly affiliated to Labour and each has roots outside it. Until he withdrew funding a few years ago, Progress was funded by Lord Sainsbury, a former leading light of the SDP. Similarly, a big chunk of Momentum activists came from other parties and left-wing sects before cynically sweeping into the party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

The existence of these mutually antagonistic groups matters because Labour’s deep divisions have not magically disappeared with the election of Keir Starmer. For moderates, his victory represents a reclaiming of the party as they see it, and something resembling business as usual.

So far, there has been remarkably little reaction from the left to losing the leadership, but it will come. Party policy is still firmly influenced by the Corbyn-McDonnell years and any changes will be fiercely resisted, all but guaranteeing there are tussles to come. (The protracted efforts in securing a general secretary of Starmer’s choosing, in the shape of David Evans, shows how hard any reform agenda will be to implement).

Meanwhile, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party – and the counter allegations about party staff undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts to tackle it – has the potential to bring many of these simmering tensions into the open, in a destructive way.

Despite this, Keir Starmer’s fundamental task is to ensure all strands of opinion in the party are focused on rebuilding Labour as a broadly-based social democratic/democratic socialist party committed to practical policies that address the core concerns of the voting public.

He needs to create an atmosphere where all are made welcome and the bitterness of recent years is consigned to the past. The very existence of Progress and Momentum makes that task more difficult. So, they should both save Starmer the effort and either disband of their own volition, or affiliate formally to the party, limiting their roles to that of glorified talking shops and staying out of the influence-peddling game.

Labour has already spent a decade in the wilderness and further division will consign it to oblivion. Ensuring a united party has at least a fighting chance in 2024 would be a lot easier without left and right have standing armies ready for the next civil war.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut


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16 Responses to “If Starmer wants to end Labour’s infighting, then ban Momentum and Progress”

  1. Alf says:

    I don’t think it’s right to treat Momentum and Progress in the same way. Progress is a scorched-earth death-cult grouping that cost the party the 2017 election. In contrast, Momentum actually did want Labour to win. So Starmer should act on the leaked Labour report and ban both Progress and Labour First.

  2. John P reid says:

    Alf so who#d fault was it that Laobur lsot in 2019

    by the way even if the leaked inqury proves to be true (and I Don’t think it will) the wing at region who dared think about such as things like that Labour needed to keep marginal seats it had rather than trying to win additional seats (Dagenham and Rainham the majority went down even if the percentage went up)

    for instance
    But the wing at region who yes probably did think if the Tories got a overall majority in 2017 they’d have got rid of Corbyn and got in Yvette Cooper, aren’t BLAIRITE/PROGRESS they’re more the len Mcklusky Tom Watson Brownite wing who were the people who ousted BLAIR.

  3. John P Reid says:

    , progress magazine is irrelevant but unlike momentum it’s full of bullies who broke the rules illegally to have adhoc meetings to pass motions against the parties institutions
    By the way , The idea that had those runnng region, did not really want Corbyn to win, but feel labour could have won the election Is silly, Theresa May Shot herself in the foot that’s why we
    Did
    Better than expected
    Is it Corbyn fault labour lost in 2010

    * Labour were still 750,990 behind and would needed to be that much in Front and could heve never formed a coalition with libdems or SNP who both wanted more devolution and to remain in the EU ,when labour had stood on a manifesto not to remain in the Eu

    We must get Away From the Idea That anyone not a Corbynite was a blairite someone could be soft left old labour Compass style

    But then blairites and Corbynites were both middle class liberal London identity politics remainers so that doesn’t include the whole labour leave thing
    Other factions like labour leave or open labour don’t have recommendations for the NEC

    When the party had its left wing and right wing in the 50s the Gaitskellite and bevan it’s those two buried their differences do there were still more wings Like Michael foot

    The Callaghan/ Castle or Benn/healey or Brown/Blair ,they were quite close and
    This excludes the fact that the parties divisions are all along left/right divides on

    Socialism versus social democracy
    Rather than liberal versus socially conservative
    And the real division is between young City based middle class liberals who feel there’s a mythical minority and student vote that will deliver victory and a older working class vote who feel to win power labour needs to get the working class vote back

  4. I usually look forward to your pieces Kevin, but this one is a bit of a waste of time. The present size of the party is very much due to Corbyn and also Momentum. How small do you think the party should be after expelling the left? Would just 100,000 satisfy you? As for the sects controlling Momentum it was noticeable that Forward Momentum slate being put forward for the Momentum NCG slate did exclude many of the people who would be considered from the sects. It should also be remembered that to be a Momentum member one has to be a Labour Party member. It also a bit lax on your part to brush off the sabotage by party officials during the 2017 election in quite the manner you do.

  5. richard malim says:

    Would it be better to lose 300,000 nutter lefties, and gain 3,000,000 voters? What an impure thought

  6. Linda Vaux says:

    Smarmer is a hypocritical ****. It is him and his ilk who were responsible for division in the party and for making it nigh on impossible for Labour to win an election with a true left wing leader. As if the press weren’t enough, a considerable number of MPs including Smarmer, and of Labour Party staff, worked against the leader and party. And now the new LOTO has the unmitigated gall to pretend he is interested in unity. Give us a break. Anyone would think we hadn’t been around for the last 5 years and the disloyalty evident in the leaked report hasn’t happened. And left wing members are still being persecuted and expelled while right wing quislings remain. Momentum worked to get a Labour government with Corbyn as PM; Progress worked against it. No comparison for all Momentum’s faults (Lansman). If you want to remove any other divisive groups other than Progress, JLM should certainly go.

  7. james says:

    Funny how such a big party can crash and burn at election time.

    What’s the point of all these hundreds of thousands of people when you can’t win elections?

    I was giving Labour a second look but after Keir bent the knee then I am dismissing him out of hand. It means that he doesn’t understand working class culture where you don’t bend the knee and stand equal to others. It was just done to shore up core vote. He’s a fraud.

  8. Anne says:

    The question needs to be asked- what purpose do they serve, and you have answered this Kevin. Progress have produced some good articles, but really has passed its usefulness, while Momentum was Corbyn’s fan club. I was never in favour of a party within a party. So, I agree, both should go, but should their be a replacement of sorts. The Trade Unions have a different role – jobs, workers rights, educational materials – they are needed more now than ever.
    Keir continues to make excellent progress.

  9. Tafia says:

    I would just like to congratulate Marcus Rashford – a young, black, Mancunian of limited education but a self-made millionaire by his own talents none the less. With a few tweets and a phone call he has achieved more for disadvantaged school children in England than the Labour Party and Trades Union movement has managed in over a decade.

  10. John P Reid says:

    When the McPherson report came out the morning star said to police officers who were fed up of being called racist
    If you dont like being called racist then leave the police when the EHEC inquiry comes out and you don’t like being called a anti semite leave the Labour Party

    shami Charkabarti should be expelled from labour if the EHRC inquiry finds Labours Anti semitic

  11. John P Reid says:

    A report has been published into
    Labours analysis why we lost the election
    They need r have bothered just pike to Tarquin, style Owen Jones young labour it was the electorates fault for not voting for us

  12. John p Reid says:

    Momentum are throwing.a Fortune at adverts online, over which faction should be running it some of whom are very anti Jon landsman, due to anti semitism
    I’ve no time for landsman in fact I’m more in the George Galloway side of disliking landsman as he’s a champagne focus mist and loves idenitity politics the fact these momentum faction s are at war over who controls their club
    They must realise from Havering to Ilford theres whole CLPs where no I s is momentum they’re never going to influence the council candidates there
    They should be expelled then go off have their Judean popular front battles with themselves
    Thankfully Johanna and Gidinder won the NEC

  13. @John The Forward Momentum group are not antisemitic that I have seen so far. They are made up in a large part by youngish working class activists, many with health and care sector jobs. Their argument with Lansman isn’t over his religion or ethnicity but over the lack of democracy in the last couple of years. The one sect that tried to get on their slate for the upcoming internal election didn’t do very well at all. The slate was elected at hustings open to all unlike the pro-Lansman slate which was another engineered behind close doors. the Forward Momentum slate seems very much based outside of the Westminster bubble. Maybe you should get the facts before posting your insults, or do you call that banter as well.

    So John once you expel all the Momentum members and lose the new members they brought on board will you let the party membership fall below 100,000? What’s your optimum membership size because it wasn’t looking so good before Corbyn coming along. I go back a long time with you John and I remember on the LabourHome website warning you of a British repeat of the Greek PASOK happening here. Expel enough members and it could easily happen here.

    Baxter and Singh got on the NEC because Lansman split the left vote by not agreeing a common slate as you know full well.

  14. John P reid says:

    Danny i’ve no interest in greek politics but just googled Pasok so thanks for that I know a bit more now
    if the labour party lost members then all it means is many whom got caught in the zietgeist who joined it would still canvass for another faction on the NEC like they did when they were CLPD,

    I know nothing of the forward momentum group, or why there’s a split or why they split the vote on the NEC by-election I do know some people fell out with Jon Lansman dislike him due to anti Semitism I didn’t know t was this faction that didn’t like him just the in fighting some was due to A dislike of him as A jew running momentum like a busniess of which he was in charge

    but yes labour could afford to lose members if it actually felt that trying to win back working class votes outside London was more important than identity politics

  15. @John – Well John if you don’t know what you are talking about you should probably find out before talking more. Good luck winning back the working class voters with no activists.

  16. John P Reid says:

    Dannny, as if the Tarqiuns who all they want to do is sit around young labour meeting eating pizza and champagne discussing the revelution while going On twitter saying all white working class people are racist
    Would actually go into a council estate in a predominately white area and expect their views to go down well on the door step

    The young labour lot cost more money and go more harm than good
    But I dint think I’ll be listened too by them
    Labour haven’t had its year zero moment her
    It’s when council seats follow the red wall and labour loses its few remaining councillors in Essex and Kent it’s got that will mirror this
    I’m just gonna laugh when they run out of money
    And no councillors means councillors can’t put their own money back in

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