Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.


Momentum is getting ready to help Labour win the next election – and beyond

The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts

July 10, 2017
6 min read

One of Momentum’s activist training sessions in the run up to the election. Photo: Momentum

Disparaged and smeared for almost two years, Momentum came out fighting during the general election campaign, spurred on by a sense of idealism which ended up bringing us close to sweeping Labour into government on the most transformative manifesto for a generation.

We’ve already achieved a huge amount, from playing an instrumental role in turning Sheffield Hallam, Canterbury and Battersea red, to transforming Labour into the largest left-of-centre party in Europe. But after the dizzying election results the route forward for Momentum was not obviously clear. Some on the Labour right hoped we would fold or be absorbed into the ossified structures of the Labour Party itself, but instead we are opting to gear up for the next fundamental steps.

Permanent campaign

First, it is clear that the Conservatives will seek to trigger another general election and run on a less laughable platform than the farce we’ve just seen. Though they make the mistake of adhering to dated assumptions about campaigning on the centre ground of British politics, they will not repeat the mistake of putting forward flagship policies which are categorically unpopular and taking a complacent approach to campaign infrastructure. There is even talk of a Conservative equivalent of Momentum being set-up, though the prospects for such a project are dubious.

Momentum has already accepted that there will be fewer open goals when there is another snap election. Last week we launched our general election campaign and we already have our sights set on the constituencies of Tory ministers Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd and Iain Duncan Smith. Momentum is aiming to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for any upcoming election and we’ve already begun crowdfunding. Local Momentum groups in safe seats are being encouraged to twin with groups in nearby marginals to expand the size of our grassroots election campaigns in previously unwinnable seats.

The success of Labour in Canterbury also indicates the huge potential of collaboration between the grassroots left and the student movement. If this kind of collaboration came to full fruition Labour could win almost every university town in the country. Nicky Morgan’s seat in Loughborough, for example, could go our way.

Beyond elections

There are of course still key questions which need addressing. Winning elections is not enough to transform British politics and making politics inclusive, participatory and truly democratic is an ambitious project.

Local Momentum groups also have huge potential for increasing civic engagement outside of the realm of electoral politics. We have over 150 local groups but only a relatively small number have taken part in projects such as setting up foodbanks, focusing on political and economic education and other forms of education and community activism. Many of these ideas would also help to deal with concerns that there are still a wealth of pro-Corbyn Labour Party members who have often not engaged with Momentum and frequently have no involvement at the constituency party level either.

Last summer there was discussion within Momentum of setting up organising academies to train new members how to canvass effectively and to set up and run their own grassroots campaigns. Since then activist training has become a focus at Momentum, and during the general election we had some exceptional training input from activists from Bernie Sanders’ campaign, but the prospect of an actual academy is still on the horizon. As Momentum grows there will be massive potential to make this into a reality: we now have 27,000 members, many of whom only have limited experience so far of canvassing and of other forms of grassroots activism. An activism or organising academy could harness this potential and direct it both at the election of Labour MPs and into wider campaigns and the trade union movement.

Union drives

Momentum already has both the firefighters’ Fire Brigades Union and rail workers’ Transport Salaried Staff Association as affiliated trade unions, but our relationship with the trade union movement still has far greater potential. Declining unionisation in Britain is a fundamental cause of Britain’s high inequality and the epidemic of in-work poverty and insecure work.

Just as Momentum has successfully carried out voter-registration drives, it is time for us to use our resources to drive up trade union membership and prove grassroots campaigns can have a real impact on people’s lives. These kinds of efforts could also feed into electoral campaigns, given that the National Union of Teachers’ educations cuts campaigning during the general election showed trade unions can still be a potent electoral force.

A Momentum-trade union axis could be a serious force to be reckoned with, but would have to avoid the old trappings of some parts of the trade union movement, such as top-down methods and failures to adequately engage with workers from under-represented groups. But this is precisely why Momentum’s fresh approach could help, by elevating the emphasis on pluralist, anti-racist and anti-sexist politics within the movement.

New politics

Finally, we must also ask ourselves how we would seek to change the Labour Party and how we can ensure the Labour Party is connected to its grassroots. There is a growing consensus that the MPs’ nominations threshold for Labour leadership elections needs to be lowered from the current 15 per cent, but there more be more to party reform than inclusive leadership contests.

The Labour Party’s ordinary members have been vindicated, from those who endured the days of ‘War on Terror’ jingoism and a shadow cabinet promising not to represent the unemployed, to those like me who joined after Ed Miliband’s resignation.

We argued that there was no binary choice between electability and a Democratic Socialist politics, the result was an unprecedented surge in the left’s popularity. We proved the naysayers wrong and frankly many members now feel they have now earned the right to have a greater say in the direction of the party. If we want a more democratic Britain then it is only logical that people might expect a more democratic Labour Party.

This is a mandate to reform the Labour Party and make the new politics a reality inside Labour. We should be looking at reforming the National Executive Committee so it more adequately represents party members and trade unionists. It is also necessary to debate whether or not Labour’s membership should have a direct say in who takes on the role of general secretary, and how we can ensure decisions made at Labour Party conference actually matter. Momentum has achieved a huge amount in a brief period, but there is still a long road for us to walk.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones