Since the general election, Momentum has grown substantially, and is, reportedly, now approaching 30,000 members. But are Momentum groups revitalising? Are the new structures — the constitution with its promises of online votes and oversight of the National Coordinating Group — producing fruitful results?
A survey across the country would suggest that the functioning of groups is very mixed. A handful of groups have found themselves de-recognised by the national Momentum office for apparently not having an assigned Data Manager, or for retaining their own lists of members and supporters. Others groups hold events discussing the councillor selection process or rallies with multiple speakers but no meetings allowing debate. Active groups with their own campaigns are in a minority.
For a few, activity around the Picturehouse strike and McDonalds has provided a focus on workers’ struggle and fighting for decent wages. new members What are the new members doing? Members have enthusiastically taken part in the various #Unseat initiatives street canvassing against high profile and vulnerable Tory MPs. However, beyond that, as in the Labour Party, many new members of Momentum seem happy with online campaigns such as responding to emails, surveys, sharing online content. Momentum knows how to run elections and is a good mobilising tool for boots on the ground.
Missing, though, is a stronger political perspective for Momentum, particularly as a Corbyn-led Labour government becomes increasingly likely. Experience of Labour Party conference shows that a shutting down of debate is more likely than an opportunity to ask questions. Even the online decision-making we were promised has not been delivered. For instance, there was no ballot, online or otherwise, to choose Momentum’s preferred candidates for the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance slate. The notes from September’s NCG meeting say they are still committed to an online process, but this remains “in the design and development phase of... a platform that fulfills the requirements”.
Where groups are active, an obvious next step would be to organise area and regional meetings.