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Supporting Labour policy in national elections

When national Momentum campaigned in the media during the European Parliament Elections for alternative policies to Labour’s, it aided Labour’s electoral opponents and undermined support for Labour’s genuinely radical transformative agenda.

This must not happen in the forthcoming general election and Momentum needs to elect an NCG that is determined to prevent a repeat of such public campaigning in any future national election.

Contrary to Momentum’s agreed policy on paper, in the 2019 European Parliament Election campaign national Momentum publicly campaigned through the media, including the anti-Labour press, for alternative policies to those the Labour Party was promoting through its official election campaign.

In March 2019, prior to the launch of Labour’s election campaign, Momentum’s NCG agreed to support the leadership’s transformative agenda. However during the European Parliamentary Election campaign Momentum failed to respect this decision and publicly put forward a series of different policies to those which Labour was setting out in its election campaign. This undermined the Labour campaign.

As would be expected, Labour’s opponents in the press welcomed Momentum’s public intervention into the European election campaign. Articles in the media appeared that were mostly supportive of Momentum’s attacks on Labour policy, for example with such headlines as:

At the time, Labour was engaged in a difficult campaign to win support for its candidates in the European Parliament Elections. Momentum’s efforts should have exclusively gone into maximising the Labour vote – not into undermining the Labour message.

In July, following the European Parliament Election, Momentum’s NCG agreed the following policy:

‘This NCG meeting agrees:

‘1) Momentum will in future adhere to its constitutional aim “to work for the election of a Labour government” and will refrain from promoting different policies to those of the Labour Party during national election campaigns.

‘2) Momentum will in future uphold the policy agreed by the NCG in March, and actively campaign in the party in support of, not for alternatives to, the policies set out in the “2017 election manifesto” and “the leadership’s transformative policy agenda”’.

However, as with the NCG policy agreed in March 2019, the above decision in July is just a paper policy. Given how the previous paper policy (from March) was ignored, the only way to guarantee that the July NCG policy (that Momentum back Labour policy) is implemented in all future national elections is to elect NCG members who will ensure it is carried out.

The change needed in Momentum

To ensure Momentum publicly campaigns in support of official Labour policies in all national elections, Momentum’s members need to elect an NCG that is determined to deliver this change in orientation.

Click here to sign up in support of Momentum4Corbyn.

Supporting the leadership within Labour

The leadership’s policy agenda is currently being challenged, within the Labour Party, by a pincer movement of attacks, orchestrated from both the right and from Momentum.

Since May 2019 Momentum has promoted a series of alternative policies to those of the party leadership. They superficially appear to be radical, but are mostly unworkable policies that no government could deliver, so would never become manifesto commitments of a party seriously seeking to form a government.

Momentum’s alternative policies divide the supporters of the leadership in the party and are seized on by the right wing. The right wing is prepared to aid any attacks on the leadership’s policy agenda, even attacks, like Momentum’s, that pose as attacks from the left.

Momentum was founded in 2015 to continue the promotion of Jeremy’s leadership and policies. He is advancing a truly radical agenda for government, which is why he and his policies face a constant right wing offensive, from both outside and inside the Labour Party. The barrage of attacks are aimed at preventing the election of a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government.

Unhelpfully, since May 2019 Momentum has also been publicly challenging the leadership’s radical policies, seeking to change some of them at the September 2019 Annual Labour Conference to policies that Labour would not be able to deliver, and in the process encouraging attacks on the leadership’s transformative agenda.

In effect, as noted already, the Party leadership’s radical policy agenda is now facing a pincer movement of attacks – both from the right and from Momentum, posing as the left.

The alternative policies that Momentum’s NCG agreed in May 2019 are largely a series of unworkable proposals that it wants Labour Conference to agree for inclusion in the next General Election manifesto.

Fortunately, Labour Conference delegates, particularly in the compositing meetings, were mostly successful in removing the unworkable demands that Momentum’s NCG are campaigning for. On the policy subjects of the ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘Working Hours’ composite motions were agreed by Conference that back up the leadership’s approach, as set out below.

Green New Deal

On the ‘Green New Deal’, Momentum’s NCG is seeking the following, currently unachievable, demand in the next manifesto:

‘A commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030.’

Conference instead agreed two composites supportive of the leadership’s approach, both making similarly progressive commitments:

Composite 17, which was agreed, stated:

‘In power Labour will:

‘In collaboration with the trade unions and the scientific community, work towards a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, guaranteeing an increase in good unionised jobs in the UK, and the cost of which would be borne by the wealthiest not the majority; and implementing this target into law if it achieves a just-transition for workers.

‘Introduce a complete ban on fracking.’

Composite 16, which was agreed, stated:

‘In power Labour will:

‘Have a comprehensive plan that leads the world in bold climate targets to the latest IPCC expert advice to keep global average temperature below 1.5c.

‘In collaboration with the trade union movement and the scientific community, work towards a path of net zero carbon emissions within keeping of the IPCC advice including to keep global average temperature rises below 1.5C by reinstating subsidies for renewable energy industries and rapidly phasing out fossil fuels in keeping with the Labour manifesto pledge of a complete and immediate ban on fracking.’

Conference in effect decided that a Labour government should be highly ambitious, as has been the case with the Labour leadership’s plans on tackling climate change for several years now. The Conference decisions confirm that a Labour government will pursue the fastest possible approach to decarbonise the economy, working with scientists and trade unions. Conference, wisely, agreed that a Labour government should ‘work towards a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030’, rather than committing the Party to the currently unachievable demand of: ‘zero carbon emissions by 2030’, that Momentum is seeking.

Working Hours

On Working Hours, Momentum’s NCG is seeking the following, currently unachievable, demand in the next manifesto:

‘…a commitment to introduce a four day week with no loss of pay for all those who want it by the end of the next Labour government’s first full Parliamentary term.’

Conference instead agreed a composite making the following commitment, again supportive of the leadership’s approach:

‘Conference believes Labour should support the aims of Labour for a 4 day week campaign, go beyond the pledge to introduce four new public holidays and commit in the next manifesto to set out a plan to achieve a standard four day or 32 hour gross week with no loss of pay within a decade through sectoral collective bargaining and a new ‘UK Shorter Working Time Directive.’

Conference, wisely, adopted a policy that Labour set out ‘a plan to achieve a standard four day or 32 hour… within a decade through sectoral collective bargaining.’ Conference did not adopt Momentum’s unachievable demand of a four day week ‘by the end of the next Labour government’s first full Parliamentary term’.

Brexit

Annual Conference agreed to support an NEC statement on Brexit and a composite motion (Composite 14), both supportive of the Labour leadership’s Brexit strategy.

Prior to the debate, Momentum’s Officers agreed to back the Labour Party NEC statement.

The anti-Labour press attacked the decision of the Conference to support the Labour leadership’s approach and were unfortunately joined by an Officer of Momentum attacking the NEC’s decision making.

The change needed in Momentum

To ensure Momentum supports the leadership’s policies within Labour and campaigns to unite the Labour Party behind Jeremy’s agenda, Momentum’s members need to elect an NCG that will deliver this change in orientation.

Click here to sign up in support of Momentum4Corbyn.

Defending the leadership against false allegations

The failure of national Momentum to consistently defend the leadership from false attacks has contributed to the inaccurate public perceptions of bigotry in Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn is frequently accused of being, amongst other things: a threat to national security; ‘soft’ on terrorism; a Brexit voter; and an antisemite. These allegations are entirely false.

In relation to that last area of allegations against Jeremy, this includes false claims that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose an existential threat to Jewish life in the UK, that he is a racist and antisemite and that he has made Labour unsafe for Jews.

The truth is that Jeremy Corbyn is a resolute opponent of antisemitism; a Labour government led by him would be a staunch defender of Jewish life and a powerful ally in the fight against antisemitism; plus the Labour Party is entirely safe and also genuinely welcomes Jewish members. Jewish Voice for Labour, in its submission to the EHRC, gave evidence of the satisfaction and security many Jews experience as members of the Labour Party led by Jeremy.

Antisemitism and Labour

Antisemitism is a vile ideology, with a long, despicable and extensive history, which in its most extreme form underpinned what is considered to be greatest crime in history – the Holocaust.

Everyone should unite to fight against antisemitism so that it is rooted out and defeated wherever it exists, including in political parties, and that includes Labour. Every instance of antisemitism within Labour needs to be dealt with in a robust manner.

In contrast to any other party the leadership commissioned an enquiry into the extent and scale of antisemitism in the Party (the Chakrabarti report) and set up and trained a unit to investigate allegations of antisemitism.

To deal appropriately with such a vile ideology there needs to be an objective assessment of the scale of the problem, which neither understates, nor overstates, what needs to be tackled.

According to the 2016 House of Home Affairs Committee Report on ‘Antisemitism in the UK’: ‘there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party’ (pg 46).

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (IJPR) reports that antisemitic ideas are highest on the far-right, not on the left.

As Barry Gardiner MP set out earlier this year, the number of antisemitism cases being dealt with by the Labour Party is tiny relative to the size of Labour’s membership.

There is significant evidence that some of the allegations made against Labour are wildly exaggerated or based on misinformation. See for example this article ‘Journalists check your evidence’ and this report on the disinformation taking place. Plus there are some Liberal Democrat members voicing criticisms of the exaggerated allegations made against the Labour Party.

Jeremy is a supporter of international social justice, including Palestinian human rights. There is nothing remotely antisemitic in his opposition to the violence inflicted on the Palestinians.

Momentum

The false allegations against Jeremy are refuted by significant numbers of Jewish people, for example here, here and here, but unfortunately these Jewish views of the party and its leadership are not publicised by Momentum. Apart from opposing some of the wild distortions in July’s Panorama documentary, Momentum appears to give credence to the exaggerated claims made by Labour’s political opponents, conveying a distorted picture of the real situation.

The change needed in Momentum

To ensure Momentum consistently defends the leadership against the false allegations thrown at it, Momentum’s members need to elect an NCG that will change the orientation of Momentum.

Click here to sign up in support of Momentum4Corbyn.

Promoting unity in internal elections

It is important that supporters of the party leadership are properly represented on Labour’s national committees (NEC, NPF, CAC, NCC), so that these bodies reflect the support that the leadership has amongst the party membership.

That requires the diverse organisations of leadership supporters to work together in internal elections and reach agreements around common sets of candidates.

Unfortunately, since 2018, national Momentum has been playing a divisive role in some of these elections. This objectively aids the right wing against the supporters of the leadership in the party.

Momentum needs an NCG that promotes unity not division.

The task for the left in Labour’s internal elections is to achieve agreement amongst its different components on a single set of candidates. This is normally achieved through the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) which is the alliance within which the different left organisations discuss and agree a common slate. Such discussions require compromises across the left, including by Momentum.

The current Momentum leadership is part of a diverse Labour left that supports Jeremy. It has become clear over this past year that on some issues the factional views of Momentum’s leadership do not represent the majority of Labour members, and that it just represents a minority. But even when Momentum’s views on an issue reflect the majority view of members, it is still not appropriate for it to try to impose its views. The priority in internal elections is to achieve unity and aid the party leadership – that requires discussion and compromise across the left, including from Momentum.

2018 NEC election

In August 2018, Momentum withdrew support from a leadership supporting candidate who was running as part of a joint NEC slate of a number of Labour left organisations. Momentum then went on to make social media attacks on that candidate and proceeded to campaign for the election of only eight, not nine, supporters of the party leadership onto an NEC where the political balance can be decisive. The other organisations on the Labour left took responsibility for maximising the election of leadership supporters and were successful.

2018 NCC election

In October 2018, there were attempts by the Momentum leadership to block a Jewish supporter of the party leadership from standing as a CLGA candidate for the National Constitutional Committee (NCC). Momentum even temporarily launched its own alternative slate (to the rest of the Labour left) for a few days, and again Momentum publicly attacked others on the left (not the opponents on the right), before it eventually backed down and a united CLGA slate was agreed.

Attack on Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL)

To achieve unity, all the Labour left organisations, including Momentum need to reach out positively and work with the rest of the left and centre in a constructive manner. It is unhelpful to have any public attack on Jewish Voice for Labour, an organisation of Jewish people within Labour.

2019 Disabled Members’ Representative on CAC election

At 2019 Labour Conference, in the election of the Disabled Members’ Representative to the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC), Momentum refused to join with the rest of the left and back the strongest left candidate against the right wing.

Other left organisations in the CLGA decided to back the candidate who had secured 50 nominations prior to the Conference. In the past Labour left organisations have been largely practical about putting forward the strongest candidates. However on this occasion Momentum would not compromise with the rest of the left and instead backed a candidate who had only secured 31 nominations.

In the Conference vote, across both the CLPs and affiliates, the left’s strongest candidate achieved 19.3% and the Momentum backed candidate only 12.0%. This unnecessary division, for which Momentum was clearly responsible, does not bode well for future internal elections.

The change needed in Momentum

To ensure Momentum promotes unity amongst the leadership’s supporters in internal elections, and does not attempt to divide those supporters, Momentum’s members need to elect an NCG that will change the approach Momentum takes to the other parts of the Labour left. In many cases (such as at the 2019 Labour Conference) the other parts of the Labour left have greater political support amongst the membership than Momentum does. But even on issues where Momentum’s views coincide with the majority, it still should be seeking unity through collaboration with others.

Click here to sign up in support of Momentum4Corbyn.

Internal democracy for Momentum

Momentum needs to develop some genuine internal democracy for its members and local groups.

It recruits its membership on the basis that it is the continuation of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns. So fundamentally, to be democratic, it needs to return to consistently support Jeremy and not act against his policies and leadership.

Momentum’s membership and local groups have had:

  • no say in Momentum’s orientation away from the party leadership;
  • no say in the alternative policy positions Momentum put forward in the media in the European Parliamentary elections;
  • no say in the policies Momentum tried to get adopted at Labour Party Conference; and
  • no say over the divisive role Momentum has played in recent in elections to Labour’s national committees.

The NCG needs to introduce some basic democracy into Momentum so that it:

  • consistently backs the party leadership that Momentum was set up to support; and
  • empowers its local groups and membership so they can more effectively play their part in the campaign for a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government.

Momentum is cutting its internal democracy not increasing it

The recent proposal, put forward in August in a ballot of Momentum members, to change from annual NCG elections to biennial elections, is a device that will further reduce the internal democracy within Momentum. It will reduce the accountability of NCG members, who are barely held to account at all at present for the change in orientation of Momentum.

The conduct of the ballot itself raises questions about democracy in Momentum, as only an argument in favour of this measure to reduce democracy was presented to members, and the proposal was falsely dressed up as a ‘democratising’ proposal. No alternative view was circulated to Momentum members by the NCG.

In September it was announced that the proposal to move to elections every two years had been agreed in the ballot. Only a small part of Momentum’s membership had participated in the ballot.

The change needed in Momentum

To ensure Momentum starts introducing genuine internal democracy Momentum’s members need to elect an NCG that: respects the original purpose Momentum was set up for; is open to uniting the broad coalition within Labour that supports the leadership; and will introduce changes to the Momentum constitution to give Momentum’s membership and local groups a say within the organisation.

Click here to sign up in support of Momentum4Corbyn.