Posts Tagged ‘Momentum’

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

16/06/2020, 10:37:02 PM

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.

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Why did the hard left fail?

10/04/2020, 09:30:02 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The central assumption governing Labour politics for the past five years was that the shift leftwards under Jeremy Corbyn was unassailable. So overwhelming were the numbers of new members, encouraged, enthused and loyal to their man, following his unexpected election as leader in 2015, that control of the party had irrevocably decamped to the left.

Indeed, something had changed at the molecular level.

The creation of Momentum – a left-wing standing army within the party, numbered in the hundreds of thousands and solely dedicated to preserving the Corbyn insurgency – terrified moderate MPs who feared mandatory reselection was coming and with it the invitation to walk the plank, with hard-left activists jeering them on to a watery grave.

Party decision-making and policy formulation would fall into the clutches of a cabal of activists and far left trade unionists, who would then foist a shopping list of doctrinaire policies on the party. Unilateral nuclear disarmament – which had been the pivotal issue in party splits both in the 1950s and 1980s – would again incinerate Labour’s credibility as a party of government.

But the real story of the past five years is that barely a fraction of this supposed horror story ever came true.

Like Gordon Brown in 2007, Jeremy Corbyn had no real idea what he wanted to do with power. Yes, he had a few causes that drove him. Plenty of rhetoric, too. But there was no burning ambition. Still less a grand plan.

Rather than force through mandatory reselection and use his grassroots shock troops to unseat his opponents in the parliamentary party, the reselection process before the last election resulted in few victims.

Yes, Chuka and a few other disgruntled Blairite MPs who had fallen out with their local parties flounced off, but nothing like as serious as the 28 who fled to set up the SDP in 1981. And Corbyn was perfectly within his rights to try and bring some of his own supporters through. All leaders do it.

Whiny Labour MPs who simply didn’t respect his mandate and would never serve on his frontbench, just made a difficult situation worse. Credit therefore goes to the Jon Ashworth’s and John Healey’s and Andrew Gwynne’s for rolling-up their sleeves and serving the party’s broader interest.

Nor did policy drift too far to the fringes.

The cause of nuclear disarmament – once so totemic – seemed to just fall by the wayside. While the manifesto put forward at the 2017 election was merely a dialled-up version of Labour’s position from the early 1990s. A bit of nationalisation here. A bit more spending there. It was a dose of the old religion, but still recognisably social democratic stuff.

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Mandatory reselection will kill Labour. It’s that simple

04/09/2018, 08:36:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Not many people will remember David Young, I suspect. He was the Labour MP for Bolton East and subsequently Bolton South East between 1974 and 1997. A rotund Scot with oratorical flair, his conversational style was to adopt the manner and volume appropriate for a public meeting hall. He was my local MP when I joined the party 25 years ago.

As the constituency’s youth officer, I only ever met him on two occasions. The first, at an AGM in one of his infrequent forays north. The second time was at the meeting when we deselected him.

Not to speak ill of the dead, David was a less than assiduous attendee at party meetings and no-one in the constituency even had contact details for him. He was the classic absentee landlord with a job for life. The local party had taken enough. Reluctantly, they withdrew their support.

So I find myself not entirely unsympathetic to calls from Momentum for the mandatory reselection of sitting MPs. I accept that personal contact with some of our elected representatives can be a long way short of overwhelming. Public service is an honour and a duty and there will always be those who coast along and add little value to proceedings.

But let’s face it: this is not about giving a gee-up to a few indolent MPs. It’s about ideologically-cleansing the party. A Momentum spokeswoman, quoted yesterday confirmed as much:

“Recognising the groundswell of support from ordinary Labour members Momentum would like to affirm its commitment to the creation of a more open, inclusive, selection process which would open the door to a new generation of Labour MPs.

“Labour has to nurture the talent of its half a million members and we cannot let an outdated rule book hold back a new generation of MPs.”

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Labour’s complacency is incredible

08/05/2018, 10:44:51 AM

by Andrew Apostolou

The Labour Party is incredible. We lost the general election, but feel like we won because we were not crushed. Our painstakingly obscure position on Brexit looks like the diplomacy of Castlereagh when put beside the failures of David Davis. Our slogan of “For the many not the few” is appealing when compared to the Tories’ mishandling of the Grenfell tower fire and universal credit. Unlike New Labour, which worked diligently to earn power, today’s Labour Party gives the impression that it need only wait for the keys to Downing Street to fall into its lap.

Except that the electorate is unconvinced. Labour’s performance in the May 2018 local elections was mediocre, and we have failed to establish a commanding lead in national opinion polls. The voters do not trust us with the future of the country, a wariness that has sent our party to the opposition benches three elections in a row. After the financial crisis of 2008, the country has preferred laughably bad Tory leaders and their worthless promises. In 2010, Britain chose David Cameron and his “Big Society” over Gordon Brown. In 2015, Britain voted for Cameron’s promise of “stability and strong Government” over Ed Miliband–but received the instability of Brexit. In 2017, the electorate refused to give Theresa May the parliamentary majority with which to “make a success of Brexit” through “strong and stable leadership in the national interest.” Instead, the country delivered the hung parliament the prime minister warned against, but shunned Labour.

Britain remains sceptical because Labour is claiming that it can do for the country what it cannot do for itself: protect the vulnerable. The mood of the country favours more social democracy, which is why even the Tories reject “untrammelled free markets.” Still the country will not trust our party, which has a social conscience in its bones, because we have failed three groups miserably: women, minority women, and Jews.

Labour’s record on women is unimpressive. A senior party official sought to cover up a rape. The party has yet to take action against either the rapist or the official who discouraged the rape complaint. The party is still not learning. Labour initially allowed Kelvin Hopkins MP to question one of the women who has accused him of harassment, a decision only overturned after it appeared in the Evening Standard. Why should Labour women have to go to the media to obtain fair treatment?

The Labour Party’s record on minority women is similarly poor. They have complained about misogyny in the party. The most prominent recent case is Amina Lone, who claims that she cannot stand again as a councillor in Manchester because she is too opinionated about female equality. Others have said that Labour does not protect minority women. According to the Muslim Women’s Network UK “It appears that over decades senior Labour politicians have deliberately turned a blind eye to the treatment of Muslim women because votes have been more important to them than women’s rights.”

Despite the party’s denial, Labour has made it clear that it will accommodate attitudes to women that are inconsistent with its proclaimed feminism. Labour held a campaign event in Birmingham in May 2015 at which there was separate seating for men and women. The party’s defence was that “Everyone was together in one room and all were treated equally and respectfully.” The problem with this evasion is that separate is not equal. Neither the state nor a political party should interfere in the internal beliefs of religious communities. We can respect the desire for segregated seating at private religious and cultural events, but refuse it for public meetings. A Labour election rally is a gathering of a democratic socialist party- all are welcome and all sit where they please.

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Labour’s Vietnam

14/03/2018, 10:04:18 PM

by John Wall

There are parallels between what’s happened to Labour since 2015 and the Americans in Vietnam.

It comes down to underestimating or not understanding the opposition and forgetting that sometimes you need to do unto others what they would do unto you – but do it first!

Vietnam is controversial, although it’s difficult to argue that it wasn’t worth trying to prevent what happened after the Communist victory.

The Americans expended a lot of blood and treasure and won most of the battles, but when they left and were preoccupied with domestic issues, the North Vietnamese conquered the south.

The North Vietnamese were frequently down, but never out, and only had one objective, to reunite the country under their rule – and were prepared to play a long game.

Unless the Americans had reunited the country under South Vietnamese rule or maintained a permanent military presence the outcome was probably inevitable. That’s very simplistic as the memory of Korea was strong, particularly the Chinese intervening to prevent UN forces occupying the whole peninsula.

Hindsight is wonderful, and infallible!

I see Labour as having, basically, two creeds; social democrats (pragmatists) and socialists (dogmatists).

The former recognise that appropriately regulated markets and competition create wealth which can then be taxed. They see how innovation driven by the survival instincts of the private sector can be used to deliver public services. Politically, they consider the western democracies as a force for good.

The latter hate markets and competition and despise the private sector. To them America is the “Great Satan,” and Russia – whether Communist or under Putin – is an ally. Their mantra is inevitability, communism (where Corbyn and McDonnell fit), probably preceded by socialism, is the inevitable, and final, form of society.

After the early 1980s the hard left were – particularly during New Labour – little more than lost sheep.

It’s instructive to see the intolerant vitriol now directed at those who aren’t disciples of the bearded messiah, and the worst seems to be reserved for non-believers on the left.

The homophobic abuse (in a party that practices identity politics) against a heretical lesbian Labour MP is just one example.

The Labour leader of Harlow is leaving because of:

“…an active campaign against my leadership by a local Momentum organiser, being called a neo-Nazi by some Corbyn t-shirt wearing person outside the Labour Party Conference, and events at a national level targeting Labour Councillors and Labour Councils that do not conform to the particular form of ideological purity that seems to have taken a grip of the party…”

Previously, the Labour leader of Haringey quit saying:

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Turning on Labour councils, not Tory ones: the next step in the Momentum plan

15/02/2018, 10:40:36 PM

by Rob Marchant

If the shenanigans which have led to widespread resignations and deselections in Labour-run Haringey council were not enough, for the hard left, this seems to be just the beginning.

Of course, the Tories must be delighted to see the spectacle of Labour eating itself, rather than them.

Enter Sir Robin Wales, leader of Newham council and whose tenure must, under any reasonable analysis, be seen as a pretty much runaway success. Four consecutive terms in office means you must have done something right with your local electorate. Indeed, Newham under Wales is exactly the kind of council that Labour should be promoting as a beacon to others across the country.

However, the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not one which seems to have ever occurred to the doyennes of Momentum.

After weeks of pressure to force Wales’ reselection in an open contest, they finally got their way and there will now be a selection process which may or may not result in his continuing as Labour’s candidate in May. Unsurprisingly, Corbynites were quick to point out that BAME and women were under-represented in directly-elected mayors (subtext: we don’t care how good you are, Robin, you’re a white bloke). This is a particularly idiotic comment when one considers that there are only a handful of such mayors in the country anyway.

The “canary in the coalmine” at national level of all this plotting was, of course, the Canary a couple of weeks back: the hard-left’s favourite conspiracy site decided that it was bored attacking the Tories and decided that laying into a successful Labour council was much more fun. “Labour council lurching from crisis to crisis” and “rotten borough” screamed the headline of the Wales/Newham hatchet job. (Special mention should go, by the way, to the wonderfully theatrical audio propaganda which accompanies the piece: with actors, the Canary has cleverly mocked up a “Radio 4” style news clip to sound “official”, with the difference that, of course, Radio 4 does generally objective and responsible journalism, rather than simply making things up.)

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A fortune cookie for 2018

03/01/2018, 08:48:22 PM

by John Wall

After David Cameron secured a small majority in 2015 only to be replaced by Theresa May a year later on losing the referendum promised to get the kipper vote, many expected 2017 to be relatively uneventful. The triggering of Article 50 started the Brexit countdown and Corbyn was a long way behind.

One tumultuous year on, May’s failed gamble of a snap general election left her leading a minority government dependent upon the DUP, whereas a better than expected performance means that Corbyn looks like leading Labour for the foreseeable future.

It looks like UKIP were a one man band and a one trick pony although it’s unlikely there would have been a referendum in 2016 without them. They’ve subsequently haemorrhaged support and change leaders – the latest rose without trace – more frequently than some change their socks. Farage’s outrage” at May’s deal to end Brexit Phase 1 was little more than an attempt to stay relevant.

Their local government presence seems to be in terminal decline and could be extinct by the early 2020s. Unless something happens they’ll soon be like Monty Python’s parrot.

The LibDems are the only overwhelmingly pro-EU, anti-Brexit national party but their 48% strategy failed. The 2010-15 coalition did a lot of damage but they started to recover after the referendum. In 2017 they gained MPs, but on a reduced share. They are winning council by-elections but their national poll ratings are static.

They’re a victim of the squeeze between 2015 when the two main parties achieved 67.2% of the vote and 2017 when they got 82.4%. Many see them as primarily a party of protest and some of the ill-conceived things – fox hunting!!! – in the Conservative manifesto may have driven their support to a lifelong protestor in Corbyn. The 2015 Conservative pitch to kippers was that only a vote in the blue corner would deliver a referendum, in 2017 only a vote in the red corner could prevent a Conservative landslide.

As Brexit happens they will need to reinvent themselves.

The Conservatives are shell shocked and May deserves the “Survivor of the Year” award after her – self inflicted – annus horribilus. The Conservative party is remarkably lacking in sentiment and the lack of a serious alternative is a major reason for her continued presence in No. 10.

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It is indeed Labour’s greatest crisis. This man should know

07/12/2017, 09:58:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

On Saturday, Labour’s Deputy Leader during the terrible 1980s, published a piece entitled “Labour’s greatest crisis. Time to fight back”. It is not a bad summary of Labour’s current troubles.

The trigger for the article was the Militant-style takeover of the Haringey party this week, providing uncomfortable echoes for those of a certain age of what happened in Liverpool and many London boroughs in the 1980s.

It is fair to judge that Hattersley, like his old colleague Kinnock – although, as he writes in his autobiography, “we were never soul-mates”, one traditional right, one soft-left – might have erred a little in their eagerness to embrace the Miliband years. Perhaps because both of them instinctively reacted against the New Labour years as evidence that the pendulum of Labour policy had swung too far towards the Tories for either to bear, they did not seem to see the creeping rise of the far left he facilitated as a real threat, more as a natural correction back to a world they understood.

They surely do now. And, as someone at the top table during the rise of Militant, it is instructive to read the former Deputy Leader’s practical comparisons of Militant and Momentum. That is, Hattersley – and no Blairite he – should surely know.

  1. In the 1980s, moderate MPs fought back. The central pillar of Hattersley’s argument is that, during those years, there was an organised resistance to Militant among the PLP. It was there on Corbyn’s election, but seems to have all but evaporated two years later.
  2. Militant “commanded less support and was active in fewer constituencies”. In the activist base at large, that is certainly true; Momentum now has a national penetration where Militant’s was in pockets, such as the London and Liverpool parties.
  3. Militant had no trade union backing. Momentum has the backing of Britain’s largest union, Unite, with the second and third, GMB and Unison, being actively organised within to achieve the same support. Within the union movement, only a few, smaller and traditionally right-wing unions such as Usdaw and Community, are resisting.

We might add to this perhaps the most obvious point: Militant did not have a leader sympathetic to them – indeed, in the end, what is Momentum, other than a fan club for Labour’s leader? – nor a Leader’s Office happy to work the voting arithmetic in the NEC towards that organisation’s goals.

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Momentum’s loyalty test is the first step on the road to mandatory reselection

26/11/2017, 10:42:38 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Who hasn’t been asked to sign a personal loyalty test by a workplace clique? C’mon. It happens to everyone, right?

You get the e-mail about upholding the values of the company, building on collective success, moving forward together yadda yadda yadda and oh, some other stuff about doing what the faction wants. No biggie. Just need to sign the bit of paper and have it scanned in to be held on file. It’s all about unity and helping, who could think otherwise?

Guys? Guys?

Within many firms there are groups that organise to steer aspects of organisational policy or practice. But Momentum’s loyalty test for prospective Labour party candidates is very different for three reasons: the personal nature of the commitment, who runs Momentum and what Momentum is currently doing in the Labour party.

Here’s the text that candidates are expected to endorse:

“Political Accord for Momentum-Back Candidates

Section 1. Commit to the following political objectives, as set out in Momentum’s Constitution

  • To work for the election of a Labour government;
  • To revitalise the Labour Party by building on the values, energy and enthusiasm of the Jeremy for Leader campaign so that Labour will become an effective, open, inclusive, participatory, democratic and member-led party of and in Government;
  • To broaden support for a transformative, socialist programme;
  • To unite people in their communities and workplaces to win victories on the issues that matter to them; To make politics more accessible to more people;
  • To ensure a wide and diverse membership of Labour who are in and heard at every level of the party;
  • To demonstrate how collective action and Labour values can transform our society for the better and improve the lives of ordinary people;
  • To achieve a society that is more democratic, fair and equal.

Section 2. Commit to the following actions, which follow on from Momentum’s political aims

  • Work to ensure that Labour’s manifesto (subject to future policy development) ) is fully implemented once Labour are in Government;
  • Work to support and sustain a socialist leadership of the Labour Party;
  • Avoid any actions which undermine the political objectives outlined in Section 1;

Section 3. Commit to the following standards, which follow on from Momentum’s Code of Ethics

  • Work to ensure the safety and self ­expression of everyone as a priority, especially of those who are often marginalised on the basis of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, religion, class, disability and educational or economic status.
  • Promote the values that Jeremy Corbyn popularised during his two leadership campaigns of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment.
  • Divulge any past actions or comments which breach Momentum’s Code of Ethics, as well as anything which could bring Momentum into disrepute, before signing this document.

Name:

Electronic signature:

Email:

Phone:

Seat: “

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The Monday column: When will Momentum strike?

13/11/2017, 10:00:44 PM

There was a good reason why the Roman Senate forbade the army from entering the city. Armies have a single purpose: to dominate and control. That’s what armies do: They march forward and vanquish enemies. Or there’s not really much point in having one.

From the grand events of antiquity to the humdrum affairs of Labour’s internal politics.

Momentum, Jeremy Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, was created out of the remarkable insurgency that propelled him to the Labour leadership back in 2015.

It made sense for the Corbnyintes to try and bottle that enthusiasm and organisation, but Momentum was, from the very beginning, created as a standing army outside of the party’s control.

A back-up plan. If Corbyn was usurped by his internal opponents, Momentum could rely on hundreds of thousands of members and graduate into a new left-wing political party.

But June’s general election result has made Corbyn unassailable. His critics have withered. There is no realistic threat to his position, which begs the question: What is Momentum now for? Does it find itself without a purpose, or is it preparing the cross the Rubicon and seize control of Labour’s internal workings?

There have been skirmishes over the past few months, with local branches and constituencies across the country falling under the hard left’s influence. Meanwhile, Momentum’s founder, Jon Lansman, is currently running for a seat on the party’s National Executive Committee.

And while it’s likely that a swathe of moderate councillors will be replaced by Momentum supporters next year, robust local government regulations will prevent the hard left from being able to force through illegal budgets and the like.

But Momentum has bigger ambitions and the mandatory reselection of MPs remains the Holy Grail.

So far, Jeremy Corbyn has been incredibly cautious about triggering a full-on civil war with his MPs over this, but if Theresa May presses ahead with the parliamentary boundary changes for the next election, Labour MPs will, de facto, face mandatory reselection.

Indeed, if she wants to bequeath a once-in-a-generation advantage to her party on the way out of Number Ten, Theresa May will allow the Boundary Commission to proceed with its work of cutting the number of constituencies from 650 to 600.

A full-on offensive to replace moderates with true-believing Corbynites will be too great for Momentum to resist. The resulting schism with the party’s moderate wing will cripple the British centre-left for a generation.

Can Momentum resist the urge to dominate and control?

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