London Momentum censures national steering committee

The London Regional Committee of Momentum, having heard about the business and decisions taken by the national steering committee last night, discussed the issues extensively this morning. We heard that the Steering Committee (SC) meeting had been convened at just 19 hours’ notice and that items were added to the agenda in the course of the meeting that had not been notified in advance. Decisions were made by the Steering Committee which should have been taken by the National Committee.

The SC voted to cancel a planned meeting of the NC due to take place on 5 November. It also voted on a method of organising the conference that pre-empted the discussion that has only just begun in the local and regional Momentum groups and which should have been taken to the NC.

There was a wide-ranging discussion including contributions from Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum who are London members of the Steering Committee who had voted against the decisions, as well as from Jon Lansman, the chair of the national Steering Committee who defended the decision, and from FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, who is also a member of the SC and who had refused to attend the meeting because of its lack of legitimacy.

The motion dealt exclusively with the undemocratic process involved and did not comment on the merits or otherwise of the substantive decision to held a conference based on all members voting online.

The meeting passed the resolution below by 31 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions.

“This meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee censures the national Steering Committee for cancelling the meeting of the National Committee that was scheduled for 5 November and for agreeing a method of organising the national conference without waiting for the National Committee to discuss it.

We do not recognise the legitimacy of the Steering Committee to make those decisions.

We call for these decisions of the national Steering Committee on the conference and the National Committee to be rescinded and for the NC to proceed as originally scheduled on 5 November.”

What’s going on with Momentum’s Steering Committee?

From reports of last night’s hastily called Momentum National Steering Committee (a sub-committee, it should be remembered, of the National Committee) it is clear that an anti-democratic stitch-up has taken place.

Momentum was due to hold a National Committee next Saturday 5 November, with new people elected from the Regions. The present NC was put together on the basis of an opaque and dubious democracy in February and was supposed to sit for six months only. We are now two months past its sell-by date.

Recently the SC has begun (very belatedly) to consult the local groups and members on what structures we should have for the national conference which is scheduled for February. Only yesterday two papers were circulated from HQ for consultation. One was from Jon Lansman and the other was co-authored by Matt Wrack and Jill Mountford.

At 9:45pm on Thursday a notice went out calling a meeting of the SC for the following night (i.e. last night, Friday) – that is, with less than 24 hours notice. Matt Wrack was unable to attend.

At that meeting of the SC it decided by 7 votes to 2, as far as I can gather, to cancel the NC meeting on 5 November!

It then proceeded, on a motion from Jon Lansman, to vote for his proposal for a streamed conference with voting by all members via an online connection. i.e. no delegates, no branch representation. Now, whatever the merits of this (and I don’t think it has many) this was simply steam-rolling through Lansman’s own preferred option, in the absence of Matt (the General Secretary of the FBU, a major left union) and without waiting for the consultation with the local groups. And without waiting for next week’s scheduled NC.

It should be stated again: the SC is a sub-committee of the NC. How on earth can the sub-committee remove the rights of the NC, which is the very body that gives the SC any legitimacy?

The members of the SC who took these decisions are there well past their period of office.

Please read Jill Mountford’s report;

as well as Michael Chessum’s Facebook post;

and my own two FB comments: [1] [2]

I will post further updates when I get time.

Nick Wrack

A report of Momentum London Regional Committee meeting 15 October 2016

The London Regional Committee of Momentum met on 15 October 2016. It was the first meeting since April, which is a very long time to go without a meeting. This can only be partly explained by the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn and the ensuing leadership election campaign.

There were representatives from 21 local groups. Each group is entitled to two delegates, of whom at least one must be a woman.

The local groups represented were:

Hammersmith & Fulham
Richmond & Twickenham
City of London
Waltham Forest
Tower Hamlets

There were also representatives from London Momentum groups for LGBT, disabled, women and Youth and Student members.

Around 45-50 were present.

Momentum nationally has a system of registering and then verifying groups before they become entitled to have reps and voting entitlements. It appears that some local groups and liberation groups may not yet be verified.

There was a packed agenda (due partly to the long time gap since the previous meeting) and it had also been proposed that no motions be taken. This caused some controversy as the meeting then voted to take three motions on the issue of suspensions, expulsions and the issue of Jackie Walker’s removal as Vice-Chair of the Momentum national steering committee.

The first session was a three minute report from each group. It took much longer than anticipated but was very interesting and encouraging. Groups are at different stages of development but all seem to be actively engaging positively with local campaigns and setting up democratic structures. It showed that Momentum is growing at local level and is involved in both outward campaigning as well as getting involved in serious Labour Party activity at ward and constituency level. Pascale reported from Southwark.

The next session was an introduction by Seema Chandwani, secretary of Tottenham CLP, on how the Labour Party functions, some of the problems that can be faced when running local wards and constituencies, and how to be better organised. She stressed the importance of standing people for officers’ positions who are capable of doing a very good job. Seema also dealt with how the London Labour Left slate for London conference came about. In the discussion there were observations about the need for the left to be better organised at national Labour Party Conference.

A report was given on The World Transformed, the event sponsored by Momentum on the conference fringe. It included politics, culture and music. Over 4,000 attended and it received positive press coverage. There was some concern raised that while the event was successful and positive, Momentum was less present in the conference itself. For example, it produced no daily bulletin giving reports and guidance for the sessions to come.

There was then a fairly controversial session on the suspensions and expulsions, and the Jackie Walker issue.

Firstly, following what seemed like endless amendments, the following resolution was eventually passed:

“Momentum will, in line with previously agreed commitments, start seriously and publicly campaigning against unjust expulsions and suspensions of individuals and local parties from the Labour Party – and for reform of the party’s structure and processes to stop such factional abuse of the party machine. It will also include calling on Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and other left-wing Labour Party leaders to be bold on these issues.”

Secondly, Haringey motivated support for a very long resolution on anti-Semitism and related issues, which they had submitted four months ago when Jackie Walker was first suspended from the Labour Party. It became obvious that there was no time to do justice to the many issues raised in the motion and Haringey agreed to withdraw it and return with a more succinct and contemporary motion.

Thirdly, the meeting also discussed a petition supporting Jackie Walker, criticising the decision of the Steering Committee to remove her as chair and calling for her reinstatement.  After many amendments the following statement was agreed:

London Region Momentum

  1. Condemns the unjust suspension of Labour Party members, many of whom are Black, Muslim, committed anti-racists and/or Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights.
  2. Calls for Momentum to campaign against the purge of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters in the run up to the Leadership election, some of which were targeted for spurious reasons such as tweeting about other political parties. Free speech is a right that should be respected by the Labour Party Compliance Unit.
  3. Calls for Jackie Walker, a Jewish Black woman and anti-racist campaigner, to be reinstated into the Labour Party.
  4. Calls for discussion on democratic structures and procedures, suspensions and elections at the national conference in February.

By now it was 4:00pm and we had run out of time. We had still not discussed the issue of Momentum’s structures and other constitutional issues such as the election of the National Committee. There is to be a national Momentum conference in February 2017 and it is imperative that local groups discuss these issues. There is also a National Committee meeting on 5 November and regional groups can elect new representation. London is entitled to four NC members, of whom two must be women.

As a result, it was agreed to re-convene the Regional Committee on Saturday 29 October to discuss structures and to elect the new NC members.

Volunteers for an ad hoc steering committee were requested and we both did so.

At the end the meeting organised a collection for the Picturehouses living wage strike.

Some observations:

We do need to have regular monthly meetings of the Regional Committee to share experiences, give assistance to local groups by offering support and by learning from one another, and to give political and organisational direction on the basis of open debate and discussion. The Regional Committee could be an extremely useful body to pass on information and to co-ordinate campaigns (where relevant) across London. It should also be the body to co-ordinate Momentum’s intervention into events like the London Labour Party regional conference and similar events.

There needs to be better preparation for the Regional Committee and better communication with the local groups.  There should be a set of Standing Orders or rules for the conduct of business such as the submission of motions and voting rights.

Despite some frustrating aspects the meeting really showed the potential strength of the socialist left in the Labour Party in London and how, if we organise around democracy and socialism, we can really make an impact over the next year.

Momentum is here to stay. We just need to make it democratically accountable, socialist and outward looking. There were really encouraging local group reports, showing how campaigning on local issues is being taken up. This is so important.

Despite some differences, everyone is committed to building Momentum and building a socialist Labour Party.

We need to build Momentum as an active, campaigning, socialist group that turns outwards to the working class and also acts to effect socialist and democratic change within the Labour Party.

Pascale Mitchell
Nick Wrack

Momentum Structures Discussion Paper

The following document has been circulated to some members of Momentum on 12 October 2016. It should be noted that this document was agreed only by the two officers of the Momentum Steering Committee, Jon Lansman and Michael Chessum. The third officer, Jackie Walker, had been removed from her post at the previous meeting on 3 October.

The document has not been discussed or agreed by the Momentum Steering Committee.

We note also that the document deals mainly with how policy proposals may be put to the national conference in February 2017, and does not cover the composition of the National Committee and how it is to be elected – something which we think is a crucial question.

The LPSN will publish a written response to these proposals in the near future.

Discussion papers from the Officers of the National Steering Committee

  1. Process for deciding Momentum’s new structures

Rather than attempting to decide Momentum’s structures at the National Committee, a body which is now technically running beyond its mandate and is not fully elected, the Steering Committee is proposing that Momentum’s permanent structures be debated at a national conference, and voted on either by delegates at that conference or by all members. This conference will take place in February (there is a separate paper on its composition).

The proposals we need to generate to go to that conference are not just about structures – they are also about what Momentum stands for and how we conduct ourselves. So there are 3 kinds of documents that can be submitted:

Momentum’s core politics and guiding principles – what we stand for

Momentum’s ethics and code of conduct – how we behave

Momentum’s democratic structures – how we make decisions

The process that the Steering Committee is proposing is designed to be as open as possible – proposals can come directly from members, unmediated by the National Committee or any other parts of Momentum’s ‘centre’.

Phase 1
Begins: November 12th
Drafts to be submitted to HQ for circulation: November 19th
Comments must be received at HQ by: December 9th
Revised documents submitted: January 9th

(dates assume an early Feb conference. A later conference should involve an extension of phase 1)
All members of Momentum will have the right to formulate and propose documents on the above areas. Members’ proposals attracting the support of 50 individual members will be circulated in a document (the “initial proposers”). All members and local groups will be able to submit comments or suggested amendments which will be considered by the initial proposers who may accept or reject them, and revise their documents prior to the next stage. They may also composite their documents with others

In order to progress to Phase 2, proposals will then need the support of:

200 individual members of Momentum.

Phase 2
Documents circulated: week commencing January 9th
Ends: One week before conference
This stage is an opportunity for local groups to discuss the final documents in advance of the conference and for people to declare their support, in order for favoured documents to get over the final hurdle. The numbers required to reach Phase 3 are:

1000 individual members; or

20 local groups; or

400 members and 10 local groups

Phase 3
The vote
The vote will take place between all proposals that make it to conference by Preferential Vote. The question of who gets to vote, and how conference is composed, is in section 2.
Questions which you should discuss:

  1. Do you agree with the broad process outlined, and if not, what should be used?
  2. Do you agree with the 3 categories of paper outlined above?
  3. Do you agree with the numbers needed to reach each stage, or are they too high or low?
  4. Do you agree with the dates and timescales outlined above?
  5. Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

Paper 2 – Momentum’s conference
The National Committee has already resolved (at its last meeting in May) that Momentum will hold a democratic conference in February 2017 in order to settle the permanent structures of the organisation. The text of the motion passed at the National Committee is as follows:
“We need a widely representative Momentum conference in order to empower the membership, push forward the development of our policy and activities, and allow groups to coordinate, network and become part of a national Momentum culture. We therefore agree to convene a democratic conference [in February 2017], representing local groups directly.”
We currently do not have an agreed delegate entitlement for the conference, or a firm idea of who can vote at it, other than that it will “represent local groups directly”.

The Steering Committee has commissioned a mapping exercise of Momentum’s local groups in order to determine the size of membership and health of local organisation, and to enable us to assist in supporting local activity. This process is underway, and will feed into the delegate

On the Steering Committee, there are different opinions as to how the conference should be composed. These include:

  • Delegates from local groups (according to their size)
  • A mixed delegate system: delegates from local groups (according to their size) and regional ‘top up’ lists elected by OMOV in order to represent people who live in areas not covered by local groups
  • No delegate system – the conference should be live-streamed and all Momentum members should be allowed to vote online

Questions which you should discuss:

  1. Should voting at conference be by delegates, or by an online ballot of Momentum members?
  2. If voting is by delegates, how should the delegate entitlement be calculated, and who should calculate it?  
  3. Apart from Momentum’s core documents (Politics, Ethics, Structure), what else should Momentum conference vote on, if anything?
  4. What kinds of sessions should the conference include? What should the agenda look like?
  5. Do you have any additional ideas and proposals for the composition of conference?