Is Momentum in the midst of orchestrating an ideological coup? │ Tionenji Lishomwa

The grassroots movement associated with the Labour Party, Momentum, is about the launch a new campaign. It shall be a nationwide campaign, to affect all constituencies, and all branches of the Labour Party. Its aim: the push all MPs for reselection. A spokesperson for Momentum claims that the movement has taken lessons from the Conservative Party leadership race, and the membership-CCHQ divide it has served to further expose. The group has advocated raising up “a new generation of young, BAME, working-class leaders” that are supposed to be a stark contrast from the Conservatives’ “overwhelmingly white [and] wealthy” membership. But this sudden push, combined with its scale, may raise the alarm for some, especially during the era of ideological turbulence and conflict that has arisen under Corbyn’s leadership. The question is this: is such alarm warranted?

There may indeed be merit in pushing for reselection for candidates who have held their seat for years. It is important that the constituency party organisations that saw they elected think that they are still representative of them, and their vision for improving the local community.

But are Momentum’s criteria truly representative of the people that Labour MPs serve? The majority of the Labour Party’s vote is white working class; a vast proportion of the country is of this demographic also. The race point is, in my view, an exceptionally boring point to make, but it wins favour in metropolitan political circles. What is more interesting about Momentum’s criteria for pushing forward a new generation of politicos is that it seems – at least now – to be sudden, rather than a gradual process. Is there concern that, if not done quickly, it will simply become one of those tasks that is never done? Is there an ideological motive? Generally, the sentiment in parties other than Labour is a positive one towards the people who win the seats – that is usually enough cause to keep them. Votes are not something to be complacent over now.

Although Momentum is known for deselecting dissenting councillors nationwide, there may not be apt cause for concern over this reselection campaign push; September reforms to the reselection process saw a rule that more than a third of affiliate branches and local party branches need to be content to proceed with the full reselection process before it can go ahead. This includes student societies officially tied to Labour Students, or trade unions. It would surely be a great task for Momentum to somehow penetrate all of these civilian institutions that have ties to the Party, and use them at will – this is especially true for trade unions. Moreover, the sheer variety of what counts as an affiliated branch, and the variety in local party branches also, should be enough of a buffer between the cosmopolitan politicos of Momentum and any sort of takeover.

All in all, it may seem that Momentum has enormous sway over the jobs of Labour MPs nationwide. This may itself perhaps be troubling to the moderates of the Labour Party, and to others who find themselves at odds with the movement’s politics, should Labour come to power again in the near future. The reselection campaign, however sudden, does not seem to suggest that Momentum has an autocratic hold on the Labour Party.

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