3 December Momentum NC votes for properly democratic conference, but not to hold new election for Steering Committee

For a discussion document on the kind of Labour left we need and the future of Momentum which we have just published, by Maria Exall, see here. For another by Lewis Bassett, see here.

For a report of the NC meeting by one of the Momentum NC LGBT reps, Josie Runswick, which explains what was agreed and passed in some detail (including text of motions), see here.

For thoughts on the way forward after the NC by Steering member Michael Chessum, see here.

***

By Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate

Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.

In summary: the left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more moderate or conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected ten months ago (before many events, controversies and issues arose) for a six month term – and the May NC agreed the SC would be subject to new elections in July!

***

At the start of the meeting there was controversy about the new delegates from the regions and equalities groups, elected by online ballot of members, with uncertainty who had the right to vote. Delegates also questioned the representatives from left groups (CPLD, Compass, LRC, Labour Briefing Coop, Open Labour, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Labour CND; it’s not clear if anyone was there this time from the blog Left Futures which previously “delegated” Jon Lansman). These organisations have not chosen to affiliate; Open Labour refused to back Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election – so why are they represented on the Momentum NC?!

There was also concern over delegates elected from the regions in online ballots for those supposedly not covered by local groups, for a number of reasons – because some of those elected actually appear to be in groups, because of the tiny number of votes cast (the lowest was one person elected on nine votes) and in one case a region being given an extra delegate when it seemed they shouldn’t have been.

The big majority of delegates actually representing local groups via the regions were for holding a new election for the Steering Committee, for democratising Momentum, and for a democratic conference deciding policy and the organisation’s direction. Without votes from some online ballot-elected regional delegates, some of which were elected in a dubious manner, and various Labour left organisations of doubtful involvement, the result on everything would have been clear.

As it was, votes throughout were close or faily close, with some recounts; the chair, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack having to consult with staff members to ensure everyone voting was entitled to vote; and difficulty in counting the votes due to the room being packed with poorly identified people including staff and volunteers.

Right at the start of the meeting we lost, by one vote, the proposal to hold new elections for the national Steering Committee. Thus a committee elected seven stormy months ago remains in place, despite the fact it includes three people (Sam Wheeler, Michael Chessum, Marsha Jane Thompson) not re-elected to the NC. Two (Sam and Marsha) were not even present today. I suspect if this vote had been held later in the day it would have gone differently. Certainly without the dubiously elected delegates backing the incumbent SC majority it would have been.

After that, the key votes:

•  The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before confernece; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.

This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.

With such a packed agenda, we didn’t have time to vote on the 16 motions submitted, but we did vote:

• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding program.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions form Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.

We must circulate the text of these motions and start pushing for action on them asap.

Also:

No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.

We agreed each region would be represented on a mapping working group and a member of the SC would take political responsibility to lead the mapping and local groups and data issues, as this is very contentious and clarity and clear decisions are needed.

It was agreed that the SC will meaningfully consult with regional networks on staffing structures, including specifically a discussion about regional organiser posts, before making any decisions on this.

In summary: many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact there were various efforts to pack the NC, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.

Momentum is a major step forward for the Labour and labour movement left, and we must continue to work hard and struggle to maximise the outcome from this potential. It is good that the Momentum NC has once again shown itself to be a democratic body with real life and refused to simply accept what is presented to it.

Please note, this report was written the night of the NC, to get something out fast. It may be wrong on this or that detail. Please check back for more coverage and analysis soon.

Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions: edunison@gmail.com

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22 Comments

  1. This is such a load of rubbish. You have won nothing, you have effectively destroyed Momentum and are on the verge of turning it into another Militant. And by the way we are NOT conservative we are actually pragmatic and up to date. You are the ones going for the same old, same old that had never won anything, anywhere!

    Like

    1. In what way is Momentum destroyed? Last time I looked it was going well. We had a northern region momentum conference well-attended and comradely. A far cry from your picture of non- meeting branches. Maybe you should get out more. Conspiracy theories flourish when you spend too much time on line

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      1. What sort of person are you making assumptions about me and exactly where did I mention anything about non meeting branches. That is the issue with all this, structural traditionalists seem to think it is all one thing or another and it’s not. None of this has ever been about working in isolation or not going to meetings is allowing busy people a balance and a way of doing things that fits in with their lives.

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  2. It is pretty amusing to see people self-describing as a “radical, pro-democracy wing” claim a victory for democracy when they have disenfranchised 20,000 people from having a direct say over Momentum’s future and structures. 20,000 people less whatever delegates emerge from tiny, rarely meeting local groups. It is highly ironic that many of the tactics of disenfranchising the wider membership mirror those of the PLP. What are you so afraid of? Why can’t your ideas win in an open debate with the whole membership involved?

    The reporter here, Ed Whitby is, of course, a member of AWL, a Trotskyite organisation. This whole sequences of events reflects the standard modus operandi of the Trotskyite left. Take an existing organisation that has had some degree of political success, obtain positions of influence by exploiting organisational weaknesses, push out everyone else, especially any formal membership. Remain wedded to a playbook that is nearly 100 years old. Finally hope you end with a read made Leninist party composed of political specialists cos-playing the Russian Revolution with a standing army of members they can e-mail from time to time to fight this or that thing.

    jillyr666 above is correct. You have effectively destroyed Momentum. Unfortunately for the rest of the country who find this internal wranging ridiculous, you’ve also hobbled an organisation that run in an open and participatory way could have helped deliver a much needed socialist victory in the UK. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But David, you’re assuming that the opposite to a delegate conference would be an open and participatory organisation. That’s not actually what Momentum has looked like so far. As far as I can tell, a lot of the decision making has actually been by one individual. Personally I think OMOV is an interesting idea which should be given a try, but if a small unelected group are setting the terms of debate and ignoring decisions the don’t like, there is a bit of a problem, no?

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    2. It seems over-the-top to say Momentum has been effectively destroyed. I don’t personally favour a 100% delegate democracy, but it’s been the Labour movement norm for a century so its adoption is hardly outrageous. I hope the organisation’s democracy will evolve over time.

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  3. I hope to reply in detail later when I have time, but one thing: tiny, infrequent meetings? In Lewisham we meet at least monthly (I mean at least) and the average borough meeting has 60-plus at it, often more. I know of many other groups that meet as frequently and have comparable or not much smaller (in a few cases bigger) meetings. Over the last year a clear majority of Momentum members in Lewisham must have attended at least one meeting.

    Compare that to the tiny turnout in the recent, incredibly poorly organised online balloting the Steering Committee introduced. There is a legitimate debate about online ballots and meetings/delegates, but this kind of attack is just factually nonsense.

    Sacha Ismail

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    1. Sacha Ismail, member of the AWL right? I see.

      A lot of the Momentum groups rarely meet and are very small. London based ones are bigger and meet more, I will grant you. This is a fair comment. But a single example you know well is not a refutation. None of this effects the substance of my commentary.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not a member of the AWL (neither are most people by the way) and our local meeting in Wandsworth is good with between 50-60 people at them – the largest regular left meeting in the borough in years. We discussed and debated the motions and agreed to back a delegate structure (one person voted for online). This myth that the groups are small and rarely meet is simply untrue. Lambeth has split into three groups now because they have more attendance at them on a local level. Leeds Momentum is active and has won important positions in the CLPs for the left. Bristol Momentum by all accounts is large and very active. I could go on.

    The key thing going forward is to resolve this issue over structures in a way that ensures democracy and also accountability for leaders. I don’t agree that 20,000 people have been disenfranchised. Look at the total number of people who *could* have voted in the OMOV top up lists – 3646 people. (Of these, only 500 or something like that voted – less than 15pc.) Out of 20,000 members. That means the majority of our members are in areas with local branches. That means they can have a say and debate the issues. It’s what we do in the trade union movement – why should Momentum have to rely on online voting a la Podemos – a system that hasnt brought in more people and actually saw less than 10% of its membership vote in April for their policies of all things.

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    1. They can only have a say if they choose to attend meetings – which is and always will be a ‘minority sport’. We need to think of creative ways of engaging people who either cannot or have no interest in ‘going to meetings’

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think that ther tired old method of having meetings which few attend is a way of broadening participation. We do need to think of ways of involving those who don’t go to political meetings which doesn’t just rely on making them want to attend political meetings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Actually I think all this bickering is off putting for new members. What we need is a constitution and a good basic structure.

    Let’s talk about important issues and more importantly getting Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour elected.

    All this in house fighting is irrelevant. If there is corruption let there be a proper structure first then we can expose it. Till then let’s not destroy something that hasn’t even matured.

    Momentum’s only been around for over a year right?

    It doesn’t even have a proper website.
    I feel people whoever are in a click know what’s going on and people who are not in any factions know nothing and the entire thing is alienating.

    All I hear is in house fighting.
    Maybe momentum won’t even last another year the way it’s going. who knows? Sort your stuff out. Not fair for new members who are only concentrating on Jeremy Corbyn and a labour government, the injustice within the the Labour Party PLP etc the only subject you all should be focussing on instead of creating more inhouse fighting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So Youth and Student Momentum are attempting to move Momentum to a completely open borders position, how will that go down in areas like Barnsley or Hartlepool? was this all they discussed when deciding on a motion, what about unemployment, ZHC, the crisis in social care, Momentum is not a sect.

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    1. The northern region conference voted in support of migrant workers rights and to counter the Ukip narrative that wage- cutting and unemployment is caused by immigration. So in answer to your question we campaign to win the people affected to see the real cause of their problems (capitalism and tory government) and don’t go in for scapegoating.

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      1. The EU internal market IS capitalism. It was designed to limit national democracy by freeing up all the factors of capitalism – goods, persons, capital, services – for the benefit above all of the transnational corporations..

        In a planned economy, everything should be planned, including the size of the workforce. The EU free movement of persons is a free market in cheap labour. It is also profoundly racist, benefitting only overwhelmingly-white Europeans to the exclusion of non-Europeans. It has skewed British immigration policy in favour of white people for a lengthy period. Shame on the National Committee for approving such a neoliberal and racist policy.

        Like

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