|Motto||A new kind of politics|
|Formation||8 October 2015|
(Campaign for Socialism in Scotland)
|Affiliations||Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance|
Momentum is a British political organisation, founded in 2015 by Jon Lansman, Adam Klug, Emma Rees and James Schneider. It has been described as a grassroots movement supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.
The organisation has polarised Labour politicians and journalists since its inception. Some have negatively compared it to the Militant tendency within the Labour party; however, others have praised its grassroots engagement and successful campaigns such as the Unseat campaign in Conservative marginal seats, as well as effective and virally spread but low budget information videos, such as those used in the 2017 general election campaign.
Momentum was founded in 2015 by Jon Lansman along with the original national organisers, Adam Klug, Emma Rees and James Schneider, four weeks after Jeremy Corbyn's successful campaign for the Labour Party leadership.
With its formation, Momentum drew inspiration from Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, both of which were fed by practical, grassroots organising to counter the effects of austerity cuts. As the movement has evolved, it has also benefited from ideas from other campaigns that operate on a left-wing or progressive platform such as in the United States, with the Bernie Sanders campaign to become presidential candidate for the Democratic party, or Beto O'Rourke's campaign to become the Democratic Senator for Texas.
In late October 2016, a short-notice meeting voted to change to One-Member-One-Vote (OMOV) using information technology instead of a delegate system at the founding principles conference. The meeting also opted to cancel a national committee meeting at which Lansman's opponents had intended to temper his position in the organisation. One connected group, Labour Party Marxists, commented on its website: "This is worse than anything Tony Blair managed to foist on the Labour Party". It ended asserting: "This is an anti-democratic coup". However, an early December 2016 national committee meeting did take place at which OMOV was rejected.
There were concerns within the group of other left-wing groups attempting to sabotage it. Momentum's women's officer Laura Murray blogged about her fears the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL) might be attempting to take over the organisation. An AWL member on the steering committee, Jill Mountford, had written of a potential split, accusing Lansman of threatening to walk away if his own views were not supported. In an AWL pamphlet published in October, the group described Momentum as being "politically conservative" and claimed the group's leadership were "avoiding any criticism of or going beyond what party leadership has said and done". According to Owen Jones in The Guardian, the sectarians and the Trotskyists opposed to the Labour Party were seeking to destroy Momentum, perhaps aiming to create a new party. During a BBC interview, Mountford denied such intentions. Meanwhile, Corbyn urged Momentum to unify at a pre-Christmas rally.
The introduction of a new constitution was announced on 11 January 2017. New members of Momentum were now required to also be members of the Labour Party, with existing Momentum members being given until July to join. Lansman initiated changes via an email. After managing to convince the steering committee, he abolished the national committee and replaced it with a Labour-only national coordinating group (NCG). A new online model of organisation without a regional structure was created with the specific intention of preventing Trotskyists dominating delegated meetings. Lansman resigned as a director of Momentum on 12 January, being replaced by Christine Shawcroft, in order to stand for election to the steering committee, it was reported.
Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) had raised concerns that groups including the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Left Unity, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL) might attach themselves to Momentum as a means to join the Labour Party. In November 2015, Left Unity was looking into the possibility of cooperation with Momentum and the Labour Party because it shares Corbyn's values. The SWP and the Socialist Party have denied having any intention to be involved. Momentum stated that it would resist entryism by the SWP and other groups. In October 2015, James Schneider, a leading organiser of Momentum, said that he had voted for the Green Party in the May general election, saying it was only because "I'm in a safe Labour seat". The movement has drawn comparisons to the Militant Tendency, or Militant, a group that was expelled by Labour under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s. Labour MP Owen Smith accused Momentum of using the same tactics as Militant such as threatening to deselect Labour MPs. These concerns were echoed by former deputy Labour leader Roy Hattersley. Oliver Kamm of The Times wrote in October 2015: "Like the Trotskyists of a generation ago Momentum is an entrist organisation that's parasitic on the Labour host. This time, though, the far left has managed to gain control of the party structures and is intent on making life tough for Labour MPs". A Labour councillor in Liverpool in 2019 had commented about the presence of Momentum in the city by saying: "I think Momentum in Liverpool is a mask for Militant. There are decent Momentum people and then there are the others who have their own agenda".
Momentum itself and a number of political commentators characterise their supposed relationship with other groups as unfair. Author and journalist Michael Crick opposes the comparison to Militant, stating that "the rise of Jeremy Corbyn can be attributed more to the phenomenon of 'Corbynmania' than to hard-left entrism". Former Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, who had acted as enforcer for the Labour leadership against Militant on Merseyside in the 1980s as the party's North West Regional Organiser, also rejected the comparison, instead describing Momentum as fulfilling the same kind of role on the left of the party as Progress did on the right. In December 2015, Labour's then deputy leader Tom Watson made a cynical commentary on the Today programme about the group: "They look like a bit of a rabble to me, but I don't think they are a problem for the Labour Party". Schneider commented in response to this accusation as such: "The purpose of Momentum is not to have internal factional battles, it's to look outside".
In December 2015, Momentum announced that it would be setting up a code of conduct to exclude members of other parties from voting or taking part in meetings about the Labour Party. This was intended to restrict the influence of the Socialist Party and others, but members of those groups were to be permitted to attend meetings on non-Labour Party issues such as the campaign on Syria. In January 2017, Momentum's new constitution imposed a new requirement for Momentum members to be members of the Labour Party. However, journalists at The Guardian have argued that this code has not been followed strictly and non-Labour members allegedly are in the organisation.
Momentum has built ties with other political organisations across North America and Europe. They have collaborated with the Canadian Leap movement, the Social Democratic Party of Germany's Young Socialists, the Democratic Socialists of America and similar organisations in Greece. In 2018, Rees and Klug went on a ten-week lecture tour of the United States to educate progressive activists and members of the National Nurses United union on political campaigning techniques as well as advising Real Justice.
Momentum undertook a campaign called Democracy SOS to address the problem of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government implementing the changes to the electoral register to a Individual Electoral Registration system. The Electoral Commission recommended that the program be implemented a year later than it was. The EC believed, based on 2015 records, that there were eight million people eligible for registration but not registered and 1.9 million people previously registered who have been dropped off by the changes. Momentum utilized their network to campaign in towns and university campuses to encourage people to register.
After the Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland by-elections were called, Momentum mobilised its large activist base to campaign for both. Momentum launched two pieces of technology to help this, a Phone Banking web application called Grassroots Now (previously used in Corbyn's Labour leadership election campaigns in 2015 and 2016) and a carpooling web application to help activists travel to the campaign days from across the country. Ultimately, Labour Party candidate in Stoke-on-trent Gareth Snell won while in the traditional Labour stronghold of Copeland the Labour candidate Gillian Troughton lost to her Conservative opponent.
In the run-up to the general election on 8 June 2017, Momentum worked to mobilise voters and encourage volunteers to canvass on behalf of Labour. As part of the campaign, MyNearestMarginal.com, a website which allows voters to search for campaigning events in marginal constituencies closest to them; and ElectionDayPledge.com, where voters can pledge to volunteer on Polling Day, were created. Momentum also worked with organisers from Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign to hold training sessions for volunteers. It drafted in senior figures from Sanders' campaign, including Erika Uyterhoeven, formerly a national director for outer-state organising, Grayson Lookner, Jeremy Parkin and Kim McMurray.
Membership of the organisation increased by 1,500 within four days of the general election and by another 3,000 within two months. The organisation's Facebook page reached 23.7 million views and videos were watched by 12.7 million unique users. In total, Momentum spent less than £2,000 advertising on the social media platform. In May 2017, Noam Chomsky claimed the future of the party must lie with the left of the party and Momentum, saying: "The constituency of the Labour Party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on, [...] if there is to be a serious future for the Labour Party that is where it is in my opinion".
After the general election, Giles Kenningham, former Conservative Party director of communications, said in July 2017: "Labour have used Momentum to devastating effect". Later in the month, Michael Gove, Conservative MP said: "The Conservative Party can learn a lot from Momentum". In August, it was announced that the Communications Workers Union will formally affiliate to Momentum after its ruling executive voted unanimously in favour to join the organisation. A former critic of the Labour left and Corbyn, John McTernan, joined Momentum in summer 2017. In summer 2017, Adam Klug resigned as national co-ordinator following the snap general election. In October 2017, Emma Rees, a co-founder of the group, stood down as national co-ordinator. Laura Parker who left her role as Jeremy Corbyn's political secretary before the national conference replaced Rees as national co-ordinator.
In March 2019, the Electoral Commission (EC) announced that Momentum had been fined £16,700 for multiple breaches of electoral law, including failing to accurately report donations during the general election period. The fine for not submitting an accurate spending return was the biggest issued to a non-party campaign. Though the group was initially investigated by the EC with the concern that they had overspent, the EC found this was not the case.[failed verification] Momentum's then national treasurer Puru Miah, a councilor in Tower Hamlets, commented "we have put in place comprehensive systems so we can fully adhere to regulations".
In aftermath of the 2017 general election, Momentum mobilised the Unseat campaign with prominent partners such as Owen Jones, targeting constituencies where prominent Conservative MPs have a small majority and could be susceptible to a Labour win at the next general election. Thousands have attended Unseat events in seats held by then Education Secretary Justine Greening (Putney), former DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip). The campaign motivated Duncan Smith to contact local Conservative associations to organise activists to run counter campaigns.
Because the Labour Party believed another snap general election was likely, the party ran the selection procedure to have a slate of parliamentary candidates in place for the 96 marginal constituencies- Momentum backed several candidates. By January 2019, it was recorded that over half of their 67 selections were successful in becoming candidates. Additionally, Momentum wished to influence the new manifesto by promising to introduce a four-day working week and a Green New Deal- an idea of mass state investment to address climate change.
Momentum established a candidate network in which they provide support to new councilors, encourage women to stand, give them spaces to discuss policy and also training on the success of Labour controlled councils like Salford and Preston. Notable Momentum-backed selections from the 2018 local elections was Rokhsana Fiaz for Mayor of Newham, who successfully became mayor on an increased majority. Trafford Labour party's leader cited Momentum as a key reason for why Labour gained seats in borough. A Momentum-supported councillor Joseph Ejiofor became the leader of Haringey London Borough Council after the elections in London, although this was controversial as the Labour Party members in the borough did not vote on this move. James Driscoll was selected as Labour candidate for the first North of Tyne mayoral election became a notable Momentum-backed selection during the 2019 local elections. In addition, Brighton and Hove City Council's 2019 election has become a key focal point for Momentum, having backed 12 Labour candidates.
In February 2019, following the resignation of 9 Labour members of parliament, with 8 becoming members of the centrist Independent Group with resigning Conservatives, Momentum began to organise resources and activists to campaign in these seats. They wished to initiate public pressure from their constituents to trigger by-elections. The group raised £15,000 from their activists in the hours after their split to contribute to funding this campaign. On 19 March, the group organized 100 activists in Streatham, Chuka Umunna's constituency, with Owen Jones, Diane Abbott and Ash Sarkar speaking to the activists at a rally.
Leading to the 2020 local elections, the London Labour Party changed its selection process for assembly members so that party members select new candidates. Four assembly members were standing down leading up to the election. This was believed to be an opportunity for Momentum, who have gained influence in the regional party in 2018 regional conference elections, to put up candidates so they can push Sadiq Khan's election manifesto to the left.
Momentum criticised the economic policies of the Chancellor George Osborne which had resulted in the United Kingdom government austerity programme. In particular, Momentum criticised Osborne's proposal to cut tax credit payments for working families.
In 2016, local Momentum groups started to collect and volunteer for food banks.
Momentum called for its membership to lobby Labour MPs "to support Corbyn, not Cameron, over Syria" on Twitter, linking to the Stop the War Coalition's Don't Bomb Syria campaign which opposed the Conservative government's proposal to extend its bombing sorties against Daesh (also known as ISIS) from Daesh-held territory in Iraq to also cover Daesh-held territory in Syria. Corbyn had argued that Cameron's government lacked a credible plan for defeating Daesh and that the bombing in Syria would not increase the United Kingdom's national security. Corbyn has also stated his view that military action should always be a last resort. Some Labour MPs criticised Momentum's move to lobby on party political grounds before the Labour party's official position on military action had been decided, with Gavin Shuker asking: "Who decided this was your position on Syria, and to lobby MPs in this way?".
In March 2019, Momentum started a campaign called Bankrupt Climate Change, a direct action campaign protesting outside of Barclays' banks in 40 different local groups. The campaign's objective is to raise awareness for Barclays bank investing in fossil fuel companies. They reference a report says that Barclays as the largest financer in Europe and sixth in the world for financing the fossil fuel companies.
Since 2015, there have been a series of allegations of Anti-Semitism against Labour Party members. Many leading figures in Momentum were Jewish or of Jewish heritage, such as Joshua Garfield (a former branch officer in London), Klug, Lansman, Schneider, and Jackie Walker. Walker, Momentum's vice-chair, was suspended from Labour Party membership, then cleared, in spring 2016 for private comments on Facebook about Jewish involvement in the Atlantic slave trade. Lansman defended her on this occasion. At an antisemitism training event during the 2016 Labour Party Conference, Walker asked why Holocaust Memorial Day did not commemorate earlier genocides. This led to calls for her expulsion and TSSA union general secretary Manuel Cortes said their funding of Momentum would be reconsidered if Walker remained in post. She was suspended from Labour Party membership; shortly afterwards, Momentum removed her as vice-chair, but allowed her to remain on its steering committee. Lansman wrote that they considered her comments "to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive, though not anti-semitic".
Momentum itself has also had issues with individual members and have accepted that some Labour members have expressed anti-Semitism, with Lansman attributing this to "conspiracy theorists" joining. Such anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have been challenged by Momentum through viral videos. In the 2018 NEC elections, Momentum withdrew their support for Peter Willsman after an NEC meeting in which he described some of those "lecturing" the party about antisemitism as "Trump fanatics" who were "making up duff information without any evidence at all".
Initially, Momentum officially maintained a neutral position of the European Union and the prospect of a second referendum, instead supporting the party's position.
However several members of Momentum have supported a second referendum with remain and the government's deal as options. In June 2018, the People's Vote campaign group was launched and included several former Momentum figures as well as trade union leaders. The group's launch statement was signed by TSSA union general secretary Manuel Cortes, economist Ann Pettifor, former Momentum steering group member Michael Chessum and former CWU general secretary Billy Hayes. Polling of Momentum members in November 2018 found a majority supporting such a refurendum The left-wing, pro-European pressure group "Another Europe Is Possible" features Momentum members, such as former steering committee member Michael Chessum. In March 2019 188 Momentum activists sent an open letter to Lansman to support a second referendum.
Critics of Corbyn within the Parliamentary Labour Party have raised a concern that Momentum may encourage the deselection of MPs and councillors who disagree with it, in a process called mandatory reselection, in which all Labour politicians would be subject to internal elections. In 2015 Momentum denied this claim, saying "we will not campaign for the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so". The organization is however supportive of open selections, in which all members have equal influence on the selection process and are more democratically accountable rather than just socialist societies and trade unions having a strong say.
In July 2018 Momentum's national coordinator Laura Parker advocated that four Labour MPs who voted down an opposition amendment to the EU withdrawal bill to feature a Customs Union, in line with the government, should be deselected. At the 2018 Labour Conference, Momentum's reselection reforms were supported by Corbyn. In July 2019, Momentum announced they would support Labour and Momentum members wishing to challenge sitting Labour MPs. The aim has been to encourage a younger, more working class and ethnically diverse selection of Labour MPs.
From 2017, the Labour Party consulted on a democracy review that would see the membership gain greater voting capabilities. Momentum has been an advocate of both greater membership involvement in party decision making and in their view "bolder reforms". Momentum has pushed is for lowering of nominations required for a candidate in Labour leadership elections. This is so a left-wing successor to Corbyn could contest any future election easily. The Group also supports member election council leaders.
Momentum tabled plans to update the way the NEC's BAME representative is chosen, with a one member, one vote election replacing the current system where a small party group decides the post. Under the group's plans, all black or minority ethnic members of the party would automatically become part of BAME Labour and have one member, one vote rights in electing their NEC representative. BAME Labour would also have an independent organisation, with its committee having direct access to its own membership list and centrally-funded finances and the ability to organise its own campaigns and events independently.
Crucial votes regarding the Democracy Review took place during the 2017 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Momentum launched M.app, a smartphone app to alert delegates to timings of key votes on the national conference floor as well as send real-time information about events and rallies. The compromise motion of lowering the threshold required of local branches and local union branches to express dissatisfaction in an MP's performance from 50% to 33% passed. However it was announced that the democracy review was being shelved.
In the 2016 elections for the National Executive Committee, it emerged that Momentum, alongside the centre-left Grassroots Alliance and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, were jointly backing six representatives for the National Executive Committee (NEC), namely Rhea Wolfson, the former chair of the Jewish Society who replaced Ken Livingstone, Christine Shawcroft, a senior figure in Momentum who had been a member of the NEC for fifteen years and had been briefly suspended from the party after defending Lutfur Rahman, gaining media attention after jocular comments about dialogue with Daesh instead of air strikes, Peter Willsman, Claudia Webbe, Ann Black, and Darren Williams. All six of the candidates were elected to the six available places.
At the 2017 labour conference, it was announced that Labour would add three more member-elected spaces on the NEC, in response to the significant rise in membership. During the ballot period, Peter Willsman was removed from Momentum's list of recommended candidates following an allegation of anti-Semitism. Willsman had been recorded as describing some Jewish critics of Labour as "Trump fanatics". Three other Momentum-backed candidates were elected onto the Labour Party's NEC, namely Jon Lansman, Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham.
Momentum participates in a four-day festival called The World Transformed alongside the Labour Party conference featuring art, music and culture alongside political discussions. This started with the Liverpool conference in 2016. One event featured a debate between Caroline Lucas co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Compass chair Neal Lawson and Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson of Momentum. In The Times, Tony Blair's former speech writer Philip Collins was positive about the event, compared to the Labour conference, "harnessed and embraced, Momentum could be a force for good", but wrote "the only thing wrong with their slogan 'Jez We Can' is the first word".
The World Transformed spanned nine venues across Brighton, where the Labour Party 2017 Conference was held. Many MPs attended, including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry and Ed Miliband.
The 2018 festival at the Liverpool conference had the capacity for 10,000 people to attend. Speakers include 2017 French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a key-note speaker, as well as Jeremy Corbyn, Katja Kipping (leader of Die Linke), Ralf Stegner (SPD), Zitto Kabwe (leader of Alliance for Change and Transparency) and Ash Sarkar.
In 2015, the year of the group's formation, Momentum originally had 60,000 supporters who paid no subscription and 50 local groups organised. By September 2017 the organisation had grown to have 31,000 members across 170 local groups, with 15 members of staff. As of January 2018, the group had 35,000 members With 15% membership increase since the start of 2018, by April the organisation had 40,000. Momentum has said that 95 per cent of its current funding comes from membership fees and small donations, with the average fee standing at £3 a year. In July 2018, it was reported that Momentum had 42,000 members with 92% (38,700) in England, 4% in Wales (2,000) and 3% in Scotland (1,300).
Following a January 2017 survey by Momentum to which over 40% of members responded, the organisation's steering committee voted by majority to introduce a new constitution. Eight Members' Representatives were elected: four for London and the South East; two for the Midlands, the East, the West and Wales; two for the North, Scotland and International; and four public office holders. 7,500 members took part in the election, or 34% of the membership. In April 2018 a new set of elections took place with all four regional coordinating offices having four spaces. Over 13,000 votes were cast (35% of eligible members).
The current composition is:
|London and the South East||Midlands, the East, the West and Wales|
|North, Scotland and International||Public office holders|
(Manuel Cortes) I am asking Jackie that in the interests of unity she resigns at once from our Party and also as vice-chair of Momentum. If she doesn't, both the Labour Party and Momentum need to act to get rid of her at once. Furthermore, TSSA will reconsider our union’s support for Momentum if she is still in post by this time next week