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Tag: Momentum

Question Time Ambush

It’s interesting to watch how this battle is developing. To begin with Jeremy Corbyn was taking the brunt of it, now that he’s weathered the storm and has gained the (sometimes grudging) admiration of a lot of non-political people, they are trying to pretend they actually quite like him and make ‘hard left’ Momentum, his ‘extremist, MP threatening antisemitic supporters’, and ‘that nasty piece of work’ John McDonnell, the ‘real problem’.

The strategy was evident in everything Alistair Campbell, Anna Soubry and Quintin Letts said on QT, which had all the appearance of a coordinated ambush. Soubry’s vicious attack on McDonnell, Campbell’s quickly escalating fight with the Shadow Chancellor, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry sniping from the sidelines and Letts’ far from subtle faux affectionate attempt to associate Jeremy with Albert (the dirty old man) Steptoe.

This is a like a piece of theater designed to have a particular effect on the public mind. I hope that by holding it up, examining it, we can use it to the opposite effect.

Supporting Labour Party Democracy

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Yesterday evening I attended a meeting to ‘Support Labour Party Democracy’ held by Newham Momentum at the British Institute of Technology and Ecommerce on Romford Road.

Matt Wrack (pictured at a different event), General Secretary Fire Brigades Union was the main speaker while John Pickard, a Momentum National Committee member, chaired the meeting. At a glance I would say that there were a bit over 100 attendees.

Matt and the meeting were strongly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and condemned the attempt by a majority of Labour MP’s to oust him as leader. Newham MP’s Lynn Brown and Stephen Timms were also condemned for their support of a vote of no confidence in Jeremy. Eleven Newham Councillors who signed a letter calling for Jeremy’s resignation were also condemned.

While robustly refuting the unsubstantiated allegations of ineffectiveness levelled against Jeremy, Matt and others emphasised that we are not just defending Jeremy but also, and primarily, Labour Party democracy against attempts by the PLP to veto the membership’s choice of leader.

It was noted that the structure of the Labour Party discouraged and dis-empowered ordinary members from participating actively in decision making and policy setting. This must change and all members wishing to support Jeremy must do more that attend Momentum meetings and rallies, they must get involved by attending CLP branch meetings, as uninspiring as those tend to be.

I can’t remember the detail of the formal resolutions from the meeting but they essentially expressed support for Jeremy Corbyn and condemnation of those MP’s involved in the attempted coup. There was a call for the institution of a deselection process for those MP’s who refused to work with the leader that the membership has elected.

Are We Losing Momentum?

“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.” ~ Carlos Castaneda.

I attended a meeting of the Newham Momentum group on Wednesday night that was remarkable in two very different respects. First, in the first half of the meeting, there was a very intelligent discussion of the pros and cons of leaving the EU. Both pros and cons were examined from a ‘left’ perspective, which was useful. The strongest arguments for leaving were around the nature of the EU as a ‘capitalist club’ serving corporatism and the global elites. It was argued that the EU was destructive of socialism, as shown by the Greek example, that many European countries were less tolerant of people of non-European heritage and that its buying in to corporate agreements, such as, and notably, TTIP, would make it impossible for us to protect the NHS and to re-nationalise the railways. The arguments for staying in the EU centred around it being a bulwark against the worst excesses of the current Tory government seeming determined to reduce workers’ rights and protections. Also it was argued that socialism would better succeed in the UK if we worked with socialist movements seeking change in other parts of the EU. The arguments from both sides were persuasive but on balance I feel it would be best to stay in the EU because, despite its flaws it provides a common space and a commonality of interest in and around which socialist, progressive, groups can cohere and work together.

Working together was a feature distinctly lacking in the second half of the meeting where there was a reading of previous minutes and reference to a conversation between group members and someone from national Momentum. A paper reporting on that conversation was distributed. Some members said that they thought that it was wrong that the paper had been circulated as it had named a particular individual and, they felt, cast that individual, a group member in an unfavourable light. The paper was withdrawn, but not before some very emotive language and actions, including, extraordinarily, one member tearing up the paper and throwing it to the floor. The meeting ended with the hasty nomination of seven members to a steering committee while some people who disagreed about the progress to nominations were exiting and saying things like ‘this is a farce’. I was not happy with the nomination of a committee under these circumstances but I could understand its necessity. Structures, procedures and meetings exist to achieve particular ends. I would prefer that some structure is set up so that meetings can go beyond discussions about structure and get down to the real business of democracy that is educating and empowering us to support each other and to build and empower effective communities. I will support structures (including the Labour party) that facilitate such ends and challenge or abandon structures and procedures that do not.

I have no wish to ‘take sides’ in disputes about the setting up of the Momentum group in Newham. I wish to be part of a tolerant, compassionate, community and part of an organisation that promotes this. I would like to think that those who maintain a consistently courteous and compassionate intention will steer us towards that end and I am happy to work with those who demonstrate that intention.

Losing Momentum?

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In some ways, that support for Corbyn seems as vehement as ever. The newly formed Labour movement Momentum, which claims to have between 90,000-100,000 supporters, is adamant that it will fend off any challenge to the leadership results in the May elections go badly for Corbyn. The group also swept the board at the party’s youth elections, albeit on a very poor turnout.

But behind the scenes at constituency parties, new supporters seem reluctant to get involved with the new era they’ve created. The drudgery of monthly branch meetings has set in and most of these new members have stopped showing up, if they ever did.
Original article.

This is an interesting article and it confirms my own experience. There were just nine people at my first ward meeting on Thursday with me being the only new member. This despite the claim of 80 plus members on paper, most of whom were new. I think this is a problem but instead of bemoaning it we should be looking at strategies to overcome it.

Having voted for Jeremy to become leader I felt obliged to support him but I understand the factors keeping many people from participating. If people are not participating in a project or part of a project it is because it is not perceived as accessible, it’s not perceived as relevant to their needs, or its goals and direction are not perceived as congruent with their own goals and directions.

How do we address this? I would like to have that conversation but a clue may lie in the reasons that new members were so attracted to Jeremy. Among these reasons are:

1. Authenticity – clear about values, focused on them.

2. Radicalism – going to the root of the issues not just tinkering with them. Jeremy is genuinely challenging the status quo

3. Vision – clarity about direction

4. People Orientation – focussing on inclusion of people rather than systems and structures

5. Moral Autonomy – Jeremy is not a ‘good soldier’. He is more interested in doing the right thing than in doing things right.

It was for these reasons, and because he was seen to have lived them, that young people (and not so young people) were inspired by an old man. If they don’t see these characteristics in the party they will not feel inspired by it or motivated to participate.

Momentum and Ward Meetings

I attended a ‘not Newham Momentum’ meeting on Tuesday evening (8th March) and a meeting of the Wall End Ward branch of the Newham Constituency Labour Party this evening. I refer to the first meeting as ‘not Newham Momentum’ because a Newham Momentum group has not yet been recognised by Momentum nationally. There are however Newham members of Momentum who at a previous East End Momentum meeting said that they wanted a Newham Momentum. I think that this would be a good idea because greater localisation will facilitate more people getting involved and also contribute to community building.

I found both meetings interesting. There were 25 people at the Momentum members meeting held at the Froud Centre. Some people I had seen at previous meeting and some I was seeing for the first time. I was a little disappointed that more people from previous meetings were not there as it is important to solidify connections. The introductions gave us time to say something about ourselves and our views regarding Momentum, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. It was especially interesting to hear Mike and Linda who were members of a ‘disabled people’s group within Momentum’; like most of the people present they have been activists for a long time. The meeting called for people to help at street stalls that Tahir Mizra and Obaid Khan would set up this weekend (Sunday) in support of Sadiq Khan’s mayoral bid. In my introduction and at the end of the meeting I took the opportunity to advocate again for the use of social media in particular the Newham Democracy Facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/newhamdemocracy/.

There were 9 people, including myself, at the ward meeting, which also discussed supporting Sadiq Khan through local campaigning on Saturday. I can’t help as I am heavily committed this weekend. There was some general discussion about the EU referendum that was interesting and Newham councillor Frances Clarke noted that the council was planning or considering extending controlled parking zones to everywhere in the borough. I was not the only one who thought this would be very problematic and I asked if there had been any consultation on this. Frances wasn’t sure about how much consultation there had been but it was clear that for a decision this bid there had not been nearly enough.

Although both meetings were, as I said, interesting, I would have liked to have seen more younger people at both. It is surely worth asking why more people in there 20’s and 30’s are not involved. We need people from all sections of the community involved in community discussions and decision making; not necessarily through these particular meetings/groups but as part of some open forum.

Newham Momentum

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Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of Newham Momentum members or more accurately a meeting of prospective members of a prospective Newham Momentum group. The meeting took place at a ‘pop-up’ pub on Winchelsea Road in Forest Gate. There were six or seven people gathered around a table when I first got there and Rohksana, the local councillor who facilitated the meeting, introduced me saying that it was my intervention at the last meeting that has prompted this informal meeting. I said I felt that I had to be there as I had asked for this. I was very surprised when one of the attendees, Mike, said that he had read my description of the last meeting on my Netstorms blog. He said that he hadn’t been looking me up but had been looking for a report on the meeting. Of course I never expect anyone to read anything I write .. but I’m not going to let that change me or the blog.

A short while after I arrived more people arrived and I would say that there were around 25 attendees. The meeting was mainly social and afforded people time to chat informally with each other. I had envisaged a more formal informality with people expressing and listening to ideas and perspectives, but this informal informality was I think better at this stage. It was good chatting and much of the chat was about the right wing, Blairite, complexion of politics and the Constituency Labour Party in Newham. It is that complexion we need to change as part of our efforts to support Jeremy Corbyn and in order to do this we have to get involved with the local party structure. I’ve never been a party (political) animal and I am not keen on getting involved in arcane structures inhabited and run by probable hostiles but I do understand the necessity for this and accept that I have to venture beyond the comfort zone around my keyboard. I think that if I have any sort of ‘mission’ in regard to all this it must have to do with making the local political environment less hostile and more comprehensible to outsiders.

Rohksana spoke to the group briefly and confirmed that we would have the support of national Momentum in setting up a Newham Momentum group. I exchanged telephone numbers with some people. Rohksana took everyone’s email addresses. We agreed that we should meet again next months. I talked about the importance of using social media and agreed to work with another attendee, Stuart, who also keen on setting up a Facebook group and exploring the use of social media.

I thought it was a good meeting and a good start and as far as I can tell everyone else thought so too.

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