Report of Momentum NC 28 January 2017

by Nick Wrack

Eighteen members of the Momentum National Committee attended its meeting in London on Saturday 28 January 2017. I attended as a delegate from London, elected from the London Regional Committee. There were 13 regional delegates, two from the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), one from Red Labour, one LGBT+ rep and Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU. There were a further 30 observers from around the country.

We met in defiance of the coup carried out by the previous Steering Committee chair Jon Lansman and five allies who, without any discussion or prior notice, purported to impose a new constitution on Momentum, abolishing the existing regional committees/networks, the national committee, the steering committee and cancelling the national conference being planned by the Conference Arrangements Committee which had been elected at the National Committee held on 3 December 2016.

The meeting was called by members of the Steering Committee who opposed the coup.

Much has already been written about the coup. No doubt many Momentum members would like not to discuss it any more. But such a scandalous, undemocratic manoeuvre cannot simply be accepted or ignored – ostrich-like – so that we all just move along as though nothing of any import has occurred.

In forty years activity in the Labour movement I have not experienced anything like it. Can you imagine if a trade union had suffered a similar event? Imagine one morning you wake up and read that the president of your union has decided to cancel the annual conference; abolish the national committee and the regional committees; and to impose a new way of electing a new, different national leadership body. There would be uproar. There would be a revolt from below.

And rightly so. Anti-democratic acts are incompatible with the socialist movement. They will destroy it. Trade unionists and socialists aim for a new form of society – a society in which the limited democracy we now enjoy is extended to full democracy.  Such a society cannot be built unless the movement that aims to achieve it is itself democratic. Any attempts to cut corners, on the argument that the end justifies the means, will inevitably undermine our cause.

The socialist movement requires the mass engagement of the working class. But most people will not tolerate actions that undermine their ability to participate fully, expecting them to do as they are told. We need the Labour Party to be fully democratic, so that its members can argue for change and achieve it without bureaucratic obstacles preventing it. How can Momentum argue, without embarrassment, for the Labour Party to be democratised, if it tolerates what has just occurred?

Those who have organised and carried out this coup deserve no support whatsoever. Those who have welcomed the imposed constitution deserve the same. How can anyone who endorses such undemocratic practice be trusted to act democratically if elected to positions of authority within the Labour Party or trade unions? There is a layer that agrees that the coup was undemocratic but, for the sake of peace, argues that we should now just accept it and move on. I can’t agree with this approach either. Momentum is rotting from the head and it will soon affect every aspect of the organisation. The coup is no small matter, to be brushed to one side. When faced with such outrages people have to take a stand. Democracy is fundamental. Without it our movement cannot succeed.

It has been extremely encouraging to see so many local groups condemn and reject the coup. The LRC and Red Labour have refused to participate in the elections to the newly created National Coordinating Group (NCG).

It should be remembered that the members’ ‘survey’ issued by the national office, which has been used to justify the coup, was not trailed as being anything more than a survey. There had been no discussion over the content or formulation of the questions. There was no prior indication that it was to be used to alter the existing structures overnight. The constitution was imposed, not put to the members in the local groups, at a national conference or in an OMOV vote of all the members. It contains little OMOV. The constitution that I drafted with Matt Wrack contains far more OMOV but has been completely ignored. The new NCG will contain a minority of OMOV elected members’ representatives. It will be virtually impossible to change the new constitution. Those members who have argued for OMOV have been sold a pup.

It was very good that this NC meeting started with a political discussion, addressing national and international developments and the need for clear socialist policies to respond to the rising right-wing ‘populism’. We need more discussions like this at local level, addressing seriously how we deal with Brexit, trade wars, nationalism, racism, free movement, austerity and cuts and, more fundamentally, what sort of society are we striving to achieve.

Two motions were proposed and agreed with some minor amendments. In short form the NC rejected the coup and agreed that it would not dissolve. A new ‘coordinating committee’ was elected comprising Matt Wrack, Jackie Walker, Jill Mountford, Josie Runswick, Alec Price, Delia Mattiss and Michael Chessum.

Most importantly, the NC agreed to support a national meeting of representatives from local groups to take place on 11 March 2017. All local groups should discuss this and agree to send delegates.

There was some discussion about how to approach the current elections to the new NCG. My own view is that these elections should be boycotted. Opponents of the coup should not stand for election, nominate or vote. To do so, in my opinion, will only serve to give some legitimacy to the new constitution, when it deserves none whatsoever. However, some members of the NC had already put their names forward and there are anti-coup candidates standing, so I did not support the NC taking a position on whether to boycott or not. I believe that those who are standing are mistaken to do so; they are naïve to stand and are overestimating their ability to effect change.

I see no way of stopping or reversing the coup. Jon Lansman and his allies have effectively used their control of the database, the office and the means of communication to shut down any meaningful democracy within Momentum. Those who call for compromise should set out the detail of the compromise they believe possible. Every time a compromise has been reached Jon Lansman has acted to undo it. But, as a last-ditch effort to see if any compromise is possible, the NC agreed to my proposal that we invite Jon Lansman and his key supporters to meet with a delegation from the NC, under the auspices of John McDonnell, to see if we can find a way forward.

The crucial struggle to fight for democracy and socialist policies in the Labour Party has suffered a setback with recent developments in Momentum but that struggle will continue. We are not fair-weather friends of Jeremy Corbyn. We will continue to support him, critically when necessary, and we will not join those who voice a desire for a new leader. A new leader at this moment means a victory for the right and we must oppose that.

Much more must now be done to build a network of local groups, so that they can share experience and ideas, develop policy at a national level and coordinate activity. The meeting on 11 March will be a crucial staging post. That meeting must assert its commitment to democracy and socialist policies and develop a way to organise independent of those responsible for the coup. We need to build the activist socialist base in every Constituency Labour Party so that we have the numbers and the ideas to change the Labour Party from bottom to top.

Democracy and Momentum

by Suzanne Gannon

I’ve just finished reading Bill Ayers’ latest provocative book, Demand the Impossible! A Radical ManifestoI’d definitely recommend it to anyone new to socialism or, indeed, anyone who feels they’ve been around the block too many times to even hope for a better world. But, this blog entry isn’t a review of that book. Rather, it’s going to take one paragraph (of the many inspiring paragraphs in this short book) as a starting point to consider a crisis the left faces in the UK at the present moment. That paragraph is from the last chapter:

“That possible other world is a world of socialism with participatory democracy and freedom, a world in which the needs of other people come before profit and active participation is constantly mobilized. Explicitly rejecting capitalism is essential for movement-builders today — capitalism has no answers to the crises we face, and zombie capitalism, casino capitalism, Wizard-of-Oz capitalism is in fact the root of the problem. Insisting that the socialist alternative we fight for is inseparably tied to democracy is also indispensable — we must create a space where workers of every type plan, manage, and control in order to satisfy social needs. Authentic democracy mobilizes the capacities of working folks and the broad masses of people to define the society we want and needs, embracing the revolutionary practice of simultaneously changing circumstances and changing ourselves.”

And that’s why the events of the last month in Momentum have been so very very disappointing to so many of us: they are not democratic. For an organisation whose raison d’etre is to support Jeremy Corbyn in democratising the Labour Party to have drawn on the worst of political hack moves and spins just to get its way is deeply troubling.

I attended the Yorkshire and Humber Regional meeting yesterday with fifteen comrades from eight branches across the region and a staff member from Momentum’s central office in attendance. What I heard expressed from the majority of branches was outrage and condemnation of the undemocratic way in which the existing structures (as imperfect as they were) had been dissolved and a constitution imposed on us by fiat, and with absolutely no consultation. What I heard from the representative from “Team Momentum” and the few branches that supported the actions, was fear mongering. And lest we forget where that gets us, here is Comrade Yoda on the subject: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (George Lucas, Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

From the side supporting the coup at the regional meeting, there were attempts to mollify our hurt with apologetic admissions that the process that had been undertaken “pretty imperfectly” and that it was “unfortunate”. But these acknowledgements of harm or wrongdoing were immediately coupled with imperatives and modal verbs of necessity, claiming that the actions taken by Jon Lansman and the handful of Steering Committee members who agreed with him were “absolutely necessary” and “had to be kept” secret as they were being cooked up because Momentum was “descending into factional warfare” and was, apparently, “on the verge of being proscribed by the Labour Party” (the representative from Momentum HQ said this no less than five times in the meeting — I was counting).

As a result of this impending disaster or worse, apparently, and according to the people who were trying to win us over to accept the outcome, Momentum’s HQ “had no choice” but to act in the way they did; indeed one contributor said that Momentum’s headquarters were “forced into that situation”. The supporters of Jon Lanman’s actions repeatedly used phrases such as “had to”, and resorted to quasi-legalistic scare tactics that claimed without dissolving the old structures and imposing the new constitution on members without consultation, that somehow Momentum itself was “illegal”, or that at least “the National Conference would have been illegal”. It was claimed that the plebiscite posing as a survey was “the only way of consulting on the constitution”. In other words, the ends justified the means.

When pressed for a reason as to why Momentum had suddenly fallen into such a precarious situation that necessitated such drastic and immediate action outside any democratic mandate, the only reason given was that because the national conference intended to put policy decisions before members, and because Momentum allows anyone who is eligible to be a member of the Labour Party and a supporter of its principles to be a member (just as the Socialist Education Association and other affiliated socialist societies do), that “there was a real threat of non-Labour members having influence” over Labour Party policy. When it was pointed out that the Fabian Society, Labour First and Progress all do devise and promote policy within the Labour Party, and that they allow members to be part of their organisation who are not Labour Party members, we were told that somehow Momentum fell into a different category because we were so big.

If indeed, this was a genuine argument, why was it not put before the membership? Why were we not allowed to know about any of these so-called dangers and allowed to debate how to deal with them? Why did one person (or a handful of people) feel that they had the sole responsibility to decide to do away with the existing democratic structures in a matter of minutes, and impose another structure on us without any semblance of democratic debate? No matter why this has been done, and no matter whether this new constitution is better or worse or whatever than any alternative, if members of Momentum do not protest at the undemocratic way it has been imposed (which in reality, is a coup), then we have no place at the table insisting that the Labour Party changes its undemocratic practices, as we are settling for a socialist alternative that has untied itself from democracy.

Although the justifications for the actions from the centre offended many, the debate and discussion during this meeting was civil and temperate on all sides. And in the end, we voted by a majority of 7 to 3 (with 3 abstentions) to not recognise the new constitution and to carry on meeting as “a representative delegate regional committee until a new constitution has been validated through democratic means with consultation with all members.” And, as we do not recognise that the Steering Committee can dissolve the National Committee of which it is a subset, we will be sending delegates to the National Committee meeting on 28th January.

We know that as a region and branches we are not alone in feeling distressed by this turn of events in Momentum. But motions passed condemning the coup (at this point there have been 2 regions and 29 branches doing just that, and two of the associations have refused to take up their offered places on the new governing body of Momentum) and just trying to carry on as if the coup has not happened are not sufficient to undo the harm that has been wrought on the movement by this fiat.

Why we can’t “just put this behind us and get on with fighting the Tories”

Momentum has attracted thousands of socialists back to the Labour Party; it has also attracted thousands of people completely new to politics to socialism and the Labour Party. The staff member at the regional meeting described her journey as having only begun in Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership challenge. I salute these young people who are either volunteering their time or working for low wages in order to further this noble political ideal. At the same time, I worry about what messages the actions of their elders are communicating to these younger people about how politics should be done on the left.

Doing a hatchet job on your enemy and demonising groups that don’t agree with you (calling them “wreckers”, “hypocrites”, “rightwing proxies”, “overpaid middle class”, “militantly hostile to Labour”, “dinosaurs”, “sabateours”, “the Fifth Column”, “entryists”, and of course “Trots” — all terms that have been bandied around on social media) should have no place in discourse amongst socialists. Such actions and language are those of bullies, not comrades. No matter what structure we eventually end up adopting (assuming we can hold together at all!), if bullying and autocratic rule from the centre is not stopped and dealt with, Momentum will have a fatal flaw at its heart. And a generation of new activists will have learnt that stepping on your perceived enemy’s neck is the only way to advance your cause (which of course, because it is your cause, must be righteous and noble and the only way).

There was once another group of young socialists, who during the late 1970s and early 1980s, also strove for ways to bring about the Labour Party’s democratisation and move its policies more to the left. Many of these activists were in the Labour student organisation called NOLS. Here, over several years, a battle raged between the Militant tendency and what might be called the soft-left, who were grouped under the auspices of an organisation ironically called “Clause 4”.

Whatever one might now (or then) think of Militant, what is of note here is that, in order to retain control of NOLS, the Clause 4 organisation, in conjunction with political fixers within the Labour Party officials, adopted rather unethical (nay, even corrupt and definitely undemocratic) practices. This included fixing delegate seats, rigging votes, and even going so far as to create fictitious Labour Clubs. My point is not to paint Militant as necessarily “the good guys”, but to comment on the methods Clause 4 used in this internecine struggle for power and the end result that it had on some of its members, so that it might serve as a warning about how we are teaching new members.

Indeed, clinging to an unholy ethos that the ends justify the means to stop perceived opposition is a morally and politically bankrupt position. We merely have to look at the career projection of some of the individuals involved in the NOLS dirty fighting to see where these people, who were once beacons for the left, have ended up: Charles Clarke, John Mann, Mike Gapes. Their political trajectory led them from fighting to make the Labour Party more socialist, to then join in Kinnock’s push to the right, to becoming full-blown staunch supporters of New Labour and all that that entailed, to becoming witch-hunters of anyone who is remotely left of centre. John Mann is still at it today. We only have to consider how dishonest his public denunciation of Ken Livingstone was to draw a judgment as to his character and moral stance.

Why I bring this to our attention now is that the latest actions from Momentum’s centre has, in my opinion, crossed beyond the Rubicon of what any good socialist would call democracy. It has created the groundwork that I fear will lead some of our members down the very same path those politicians most of us decry have trod. This needs to be recognised and rectified. It is not that those who have carried out this coup need to be publicly castigated (we need to find a way for all sides to make peace and save face); but the younger members need to be informed that the actions that were taken, no matter how critical some want to paint the situation, were ill-advised and undemocratic and should never again be attempted by anyone calling themselves a socialist.

So, while we may get through this current crisis, and we may be able to find a way to heal the rifts that have grown between different factions of the movement around Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, I worry about the younger members, who are, after all, the future. What will they be taking away from all this? I do not doubt their idealism or their motives. (Although I do worry a bit that working for “Team Momentum” may be seen in the future as the new career ladder for aspiring lefties.) What I worry about is that they are being taught by those who should know much much better than this, that “the ends justifies the means” if you are convinced that you are right.

This is not the “new way of doing politics” Momentum promised; it is the oldest, most dirtiest way of doing politics; one that those of us with political histories recognise and despise. And, as Comrade Yoda spelt out for his young disciple: “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

Suzanne Gannon is a member of  Momentum and is a delegate from Yorkshire and Humberside to the Momentum National Committee.

This article is shared from Suzanne’s blog “Creative Pens“.

Motion for 3 December National Committee from London Momentum Regional Committee

The following motion was passed by 27 votes to 1, with 2 abstentions at the meeting of the London Momentum Regional Committee on Saturday 19th November.

“The London Momentum Regional Committee agrees to send the following motion to the National Committee:

The National Committee agrees that:

  1. Local groups are the basic unit of Momentum. All members of Momentum should be encouraged to join and get involved in their local group. For those members where groups don’t presently exist the Momentum office and the regional committees/networks should encourage and support the establishment of new local groups. We should use FaceBook and e.groups as tools to bring members together to establish new groups. All unnecessary impediments to setting up local groups should be removed.
  2. In between National Annual Conferences, the National Committee (NC) is the highest elected body. The Steering Committee is a sub-committee of the NC elected from the NC.
  3. This meeting of the National Committee (3 December 2016) agrees to elect a new Steering Committee to hold office until the national conference, unless removed by the National Committee beforehand. The new SC will comprise of a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer elected directly by the NC by exhaustive ballot for each post, along with 8 other members to be elected by the NC by Single Transferable Vote, plus one representative from each affiliated Trade Union.
  4. In the interests of good communications and transparency, there will be a page on the national website that sets out and explains what the structures are in Momentum and who serves on the various committees (giving, with permission, contact details for our elected representatives). Minutes and decisions from all SC and NC meetings will be posted on the national website.
  5. This NC agrees to elect a sub-committee of three members from the NC to conduct a review of the current Momentum companies’ structure, with administrative support from a staff member. This sub-committee will make proposals to the next NC.
  6. This NC believes that Momentum needs a simple Rule book. This NC agrees to set up a working group made up of 5 members from the NC, with support from a staff member, to produce an initial draft for consideration at the next NC with a view to it being presented for adoption by the national conference.”

Report: Momentum South East Region meeting 30.10.16

Minutes for South East regional meeting –

In attendance –

Holly Peacock – Southampton

Angela George – Swanley Branch, Sevenoaks CLP

Will Baker – Brighton and Hove

Sarah Pickett – Brighton and Hove

Hannah Minns – Milton Keynes

Dave Isaacson – Milton Keynes

Jim Moody – Isle of White

Andy Forse – Oxford, observer

Alec Price – Medway

Fola Brady – Medway

Christine Tongue – Thanet

Norma Thomas – Thanet

Leah Levane – Hastings

Dan Iley-Williams – Oxford

David Carr – Swanley

Apologies, Mel Melvin, Lottie, Maya Evans, Tariq, Jackie Walker, Roxana Fraser, Ashley Kelly

LOCAL GROUPS REPORT

Medway Momentum – Medway Momentum covers three different CLPs, Momentum supported delegates have been elected into positions across the three CLPs including a trade union officer in one CLP and Momentum supporters holding the majority of positions in another. Normally have 30 people to meetings and have been doing local campaigns including on the NHS campaign.

Isle of White Momentum –  established in September with 45 people at initial meeting. IoW is currently the largest CLP in the country and is considered to be left wing. There are 40 seats for the county council, only 25 to be contested, with 6 full-blown contests. 7 fold increase in Labour party membership, with roughly 1400 members. Momentum meetings have a good age range. For context Isle of White has a ward that is in the 10 most disenfranchised wards in the region. Haven’t yet been given data of Momentum members. ACTION: Beth investigate data situation.

Milton Keynes Momentum – 2 constituencies with Tory MPs, historically CLPs dominated by progress. At last AGM filled officers with Momentum members. Momentum active during local elections. Have hosted discussions about Anti Semitism with Jackie Walker. Organise for biggest ever political meeting in MK with 2000 people. Trying to have stalls on Jeremy’s policies.

Brighton and Hove – Labour party AGM, organised hundreds of people to attend, all candidates elected to LP exec. NEC annulled results of AGM and reinstated previous exec due to alleged bulling in the meeting. On going battle in the CLP. 3 CLPs, 8,200 members. NEC wants it to split into three. Want to use it to brush over accusations on the AGM.  Active local Momentum group, have meetings that relate to things going on like trade union action and refugee crisis.

Swanley – majority Momentum supporters on Sevenoaks CLP exec, promote eco housing for all in CLPs. Eco housing motion (to be discussed in meeting) adopted by Sevenoaks CLP and Kent Momentum. Swanley Momentum held session on eco housing at TWT with an amazing response.

Southampton – Have successful organised for Jeremy supporters to get seats on CLP exec. Political education initiative – training up a series of people in how to deliver political education workshops and understand how to talk about policies.

ACTION – Holly and Beth talk about initiative and linking up with other local groups who are doing similar. Holly to see if booklet and other resources including workshop plans once written can be circulated.

Oxford – Organising for local elections including winning biggest council swing in the city. Oxford has 2 CLPs, interesting local dynamics as NEC members Ann Black, Luke Akehurst, and Pete Willsman all live in Oxford.

Hastings – Have had many public meetings with core group of 10 people driving things. Have been active locally on issues such as RMT dispute with common rail. For work done regarding this dispute Momentum group/CLP (was unsure) received commendation. Labour party relations are good, have representative on trade council, chair and secretary of Hastings CLP.

Momentum group do a lot of work to transform local CLPs and help them campaign. There are 900 people in CLP. Momentum put a lot of political motions to CLP to generally politicise and push it left. Momentum local action included survey monkey on top issues, education and academisation and mental health. Other local actions include collection for food bank and refugees with lots of LP members present.

Thanet – 3 CLPs covered by Momentum group. Membership of Momentum grew out of campaign to stop UKIP and the local anti fascist movement. Specifically successfully ensuing Nigel Farage did not win election. There are hundreds of people engaged in Momentum locally but problems with contact list. ACTION: Beth investigate data situation.

This context mean that lots of people who would never normally touch the Labour Party are drifting in because of the campaigns against the fascist movement. Local activity is fire fighting and street fighting. Campaigns range from street stalls to events such as continental breakfast, music and organising in the streets.

Momentum Thanet was launched with meeting with John McDonnell to launch Another Thanet is Possible, the idea being to come up with left wing solutions to problems in local area including meeting with economists. Kent for Corbyn – organised music festival with Jeremy – 3000 attended open air rally. Also involved in Kent anti racism network – all events for which have been filmed and can be watched online. Have held counter rallies to the fascist movement such as the white lives matter rally. Margate rocks against racism.

Local activity de-railed with Jackie getting suspended and arguments about anti-Semitism

Didn’t think they would have to fight this when real fascism on the doorstep.

Jackie twice suspended from LP and action of national Momentum suspending her as vice chair. No-one in Thanet who doesn’t support her.

Hearing of motions – hour to discuss motions – equal numbers of speakers on each side, Need at least proposer and seconder, 3 min speeches

Motion from Swanley Momentum

Amendment passed:  For all Momentum groups to promote the policy in their momentum and labour party branches

Unanimous acceptance of motion

“Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing where all properties have solar panels and other green technologies”

Meeting decides to read updated motion in replacement for above motion.

“Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing. Eco council houses should  have solar panels and other green technologies. 

Labour should also commit to providing eco refurbishment for all forms of existing social housing and privately owned properties, at no cost for the associations and/or householder(s). 

The aim of Eco housing would be to provide homes, skilled and well paid jobs, tackle fuel poverty and enable all to enjoy clean, renewable energy at little or no cost. 

Eco Housing would play a central role in tackling climate change and pollution and enable sustainable economic growth, stimulating a green industrial revolution.”

Conversation on motion:

Labour committed to propose austerity and promote growth. If we continue with growth we must ensure our growth is eco friendly in order to not be destructive. Devastations reaped on environment has many consequences across the board, health, housing and homelessness.

Point of process: Motion goes to NC to see whether it will be adopted as Momentum policy if passed Momentum will lobby the Labour Party on this issue?

Motion from Momentum Medway

“In order to make the Parliamentary Labour Party more accountable [name of group] supports the right of each Constituency Labour Party to 

(1) Select its electoral candidate before each parliamentary election for that constituency

(2) Recall its MP at any point upon a members vote upon a majority to be determined.

In response to the proposed boundary review, all seats with a sitting Labour MP – regardless of the impact of the change on the constituency – should  undergo a selection meeting to determine the CLP’s choice of MP”

Amendment to motions suggested:

Motion with amendments passed

“In order to make the Parliamentary Labour Party more accountable [name of group] supports the right of each Constituency Labour Party to 

(1) Select its electoral candidate before each parliamentary election for that constituency

(2) withdraw the whip of its MP at any point upon a members vote upon a majority to be determined.

In response to the proposed boundary review, all seats with a sitting Labour MP – whether or not there is an impact on the constituency – should  undergo a selection meeting to determine the CLP’s choice of MP”

vote for deletion of (2)

for 2

against 10

abstention 1

Vote on entire motion with amendments

For 14 unanimously passed

Discussion on motion:

  • Essentially mandatory reselection.
  • It is our democratic right to decide the candidate that will represent our views as candidate is always accountable to Labour Party as well as constituents. This was Labour Party rules but removed in 1993.
  • Part of campaign to re-democratise the party. Means you can recall MP at any point not just at election time. This motion means at point of boundary review all MPs be re-selected.
  • ‘Accountable to members, be loud and clear about what we want from our representatives. Mainstream media will have a field day but we should stand on principles’
  • ‘agree with motion, suspended from LP for calling for deselection of Hove MP, energy cannot be harnessed in local CLP because opposition to MP’
  • ‘General Secretaries have to re-stand every year’

Point of clarification: does re-selection always trigger by-election. Clarification offered  Majority vote to be able to re-call MP at any point, CLP could withdraw the whip, means they are no longer LABOUR MP

Request for comment from Jon Lansman about why this was previously rejected by NC, Jon provides explanation via text.

Emergency motion from Brighton and Hove

We note that on the evening of Friday 28 October the national Steering Committee, called at 21 hour’s notice late on Thursday night, voted to cancel the 5 November National Committee by 6 votes to 3 with 1 abstention. The stated motivation was the clash with the NW Regional Labour Party conference, but the date of the NC has been out for over five weeks! Moreover, the idea the NW region could not provide three delegates on that date makes no sense. This will have unnecessarily caused inconvenience to many groups, regions and delegates, but as we note below that is the least of the problem. It is clear that some on the Steering Committee did not want the NC to meet at all, on any date.

We further note that the same meeting voted to call a new NC meeting on 3 December – 6 votes for, 4 abstentions.

Assuming it meets in December, NC will not have met for seven months – after repeated cancellations, votes against holding it and delays. And what months! This looks like not a matter of the technical advantages of different dates and of moving things around, but a systematic attempt to prevent Momentum’s leading democratic body from functioning. Moreover this power has been exercised, over a broad National Committee elected and re-elected by local groups, by a small Steering Committee that was last elected in February.

We call for the decision for the NC to meet in December to be promptly and properly carried out. We deplore the fact that the NC will not have met for seven months and call for it to meet at least every three months in future. We call for new elections to the Steering Committee to be held at the December NC meeting.

We call for manipulative practices like the way the Steering Committee was called and used yesterday to come to an end. This is not an isolated incident but part of a wider problem about democracy in Momentum.

Agreement in the room to replace this motion with London motion below:

“This meeting of the South East 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.”

Discussion:

  • Burocratic decision made, self appointed leaders of the organisation, executives of the organisation make decisions
  • Andy – support emergency motion, procedure of which decision was made cannot be recognised as legitimate, 13 members, called for less than 24 hours to attend, lack of procedure, reasons where not given properly. Proposal for amendment – Matt Wrack proposed that unofficial NC go ahead on the 5th November
  • Leah – Hastings – one of the groups that complained about the lack of notice, 12th October, ludicrously short notice, pleased it has been delayed, major decision about methodology without consultation, democratic structures have been imposed
  • Hannah –one member one vote creates division of grassroots movements.

Amendment in red suggested:

Motion passed by meeting

“This meeting of the South East 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 and in the event that the steering committee does not rescind its decision we support Matt Wracks call for an unofficial NC to take place on 5th November

Vote on addition of amendment:

For 10

Against 1

Abstentions 3

Vote on whole motion with amendment:

for 10

against 2

abstentions 2

Motion to Call a National Conference ( to Steering Committee) from Brighton and Hove:

Unanimous decision to pass motion

“Momentum Brighton and Hove, at its AGM of 5th October 2016, called on the National Organisers to plan for a National Conference without delay. This conference should be held by no later than the 1st March 2017. Momentum Brighton and Hove further mandates its South East Regional Network Delegates to submit a motion calling for a National Conference.”

Emergency resolution on the removal of Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum from Brighton and Hove Momentum:

This annual general meeting of Momentum – Brighton and Hove condemns the decision to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum nationally made at the Steering Group meeting held on Monday October 3rd. We call for her immediate reinstatement.

The background to this decision was a video, circulated on social media, of a contribution Jackie made in a fringe event at Labour Party conference. The event was an ‘educational meeting on fighting anti-Semitism’ organised by the Jewish Labour Movement and, as such, ran counter to the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The filming was done in secret and the only part of the meeting to be circulated was Jackie’s contribution from the floor; which is difficult to hear due to the poor quality of the tape.

As such it is completely unacceptable for either the Labour Party or Momentum to use it as evidence or respond to it. Moreover, whatever one’s views of Jackie’s decision to attend the meeting or her comments at it, there is no evidence of anti-Semitism in anything she said and the suggestion that it is is both ludicrous and offensive.

It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s election, together with the unprecedented growth in membership this has generated, is seen as a threat by the establishment and mass media, together with some within the movement. They will stop at nothing in their efforts to undermine, demoralise, confuse and divide this movement and remove him from office. Accusations of anti-Semitism, like those of misogyny and bullying, are just one aspect of this ‘guerrilla warfare’. 

Removing Jackie from her position will not appease these people rather it will embolden them to continue their attacks.

Further, we do not believe that a decision of this magnitude should have been made by a hastily called Steering Group but by a more democratic body and after wider consultation. We look forward to the inaugural national conference of Momentum in February and the establishment of a democratic constitution, structures and procedures.

Motion after amendments:

This annual general meeting of Momentum – Brighton and Hove condemns the decision to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum nationally made at the Steering Group meeting held on Monday October 3rd. We call for her immediate reinstatement.

The background to this decision was a video, circulated on social media, of a contribution Jackie made in a fringe event at Labour Party conference. The event was an ‘educational meeting on fighting anti-Semitism’ organised by the Jewish Labour Movement and, as such, ran counter to the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The filming was done in secret and the only part of the meeting to be circulated was Jackie’s contribution from the floor; which is difficult to hear due to the poor quality of the tape.

As such it is completely unacceptable for either the Labour Party or Momentum to use it as evidence or respond to it. Moreover, whatever one’s views of Jackie’s decision to attend the meeting or her comments at it, there is no evidence of anti-Semitism in anything she said and the suggestion that it is is both ludicrous and offensive.

It is clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s election, together with the unprecedented growth in membership this has generated, is seen as a threat by the establishment and mass media, together with some within the movement. They will stop at nothing in their efforts to undermine, demoralise, confuse and divide this movement and remove him from office. Accusations of anti-Semitism, like those of misogyny and bullying, are just one aspect of this ‘guerrilla warfare’. 

Removing Jackie from her position will not appease these people rather it will embolden them to continue their attacks.

Further, we do not believe that a decision of this magnitude should have been made by a hastily called Steering Group without due process, but by a more democratic body with evidence being produced, due regard to national justice and after wider consultation. We look forward to the inaugural national conference of Momentum in February and the establishment of a democratic constitution, structures and procedures.

Discussion on call for reinstatement of Jackie Walker as vice chair of Momentum:

  • No evidence was taken at the steering committee, which made this decision. They based their decision on what was reported in the media.
  • Steering committee elected Jackie as vice chair and have the right to take vote on this decision
  • There was no due process and media leaking story from staff member
  • More critical things were said at the meeting in question but those who said them where not attacked, it was a personal attack because of Jackie public profile, weaponisation of anti-Semitism
  • Many people have been suspended from the labour party without being informed or given an explanation  – Momentum can not do the same
  • Jackie was not suspended although was demoted
  • People who have positions of authority have the responsibility to be careful about what they say. Jackie was ill advised in her comments and behaved irresponsibly in giving weapons to the right

Amendments accepted by Brighton and Hove:

Vote on entire motion

For  – 13

Against – 0

Abstention  – 1

Discussion on structure proposals based on proposal from Jon Lansman and proposal from Matt Wrack and Jill Mountford

Proposal from Jon Lansman

  • NC will decide, papers that will be fed into the national committee
  • Motions with highest numbers, priority ballot, rather than with votes
  • Have not been formally proposed, need to take it back to local groups, can not make decision
  • Technology cannot work  – Paul Mason could not be live streamed from one building to another at TWT
  • Attend in person or can watch online, makes it more accessible, broadening the democratic process
  • Organisational issues, things caught up in stringent process that will be counter productive
  • Having to learn new bits of technology
  • Smaller branch might not be listened too
  • Nothing like meeting people face to face
  • Fairly considerable amounts of people cannot be involved – debate on this point
  • Great mistake to take away from digital democracy
  • Learnings from Podemos and Iceland
  • Bringing in lots of young people
  • Compromise between two proposals preferable

Proposal from Jill Mountford and Matt Wrack

  • Labour movement democracy
  • Conference you can hear peoples opinions and debate them
  • Jon’s proposal is a popularity contest
  • What’s the point of having liberation groups, why are we duplicating the labour party structures with affiliated unions
  • Suspicions for what this might be used for, do we trust proposal? are they going to manipulate it to further their own interests?
  • Simple system needs to be presented but delay in solidifying these things after we know what we are doing better, work on them as experiments with very simple structures
  • Concerns about digital democracy, combination between the two might be better, not give more weight to local groups who are the backbone of the organisation
  • Call for combination of the two, a significant element of digital democracy
  • Concern on numbers and some elements of process
  • Digital democracy should be used
  • Numbers involved – big numbers – momentum people would be spending ages persuading people
  • Maybe accept proposals from local group or 10 members
  • 33% totally excluded
  • Would more people be excluded by online or delegate system?
  • Construct system, which allows those not represented to be able to take part
  • Only controlled by one person who can rig the system
  • Culture of politics
  • The data is a red hearing
  • Leadership election for momentum by OMOV
  • Conference arrangements committee – who’s on it?
  • Representative democracy over new fangled measures

Vote on whether meeting should support no proposal

for 13

Against – 0

Abstention -2

NC vote for delegates –

Will Baker – 11

Angela George – 12

Jackie Walker – 10

Alec Price – 11

Where next for the South East?

Circulation of contact details – (At top of page)

South East labour conference –  Jim Moody IoW CLP, David Wanguse Milton Keynes CLP, Sarah Pickett (possibly depending on Brighton LP), David Carr and Cherly Johnson Sevenoaks CLP

Next meeting – Lottie – arrange next regional meeting to be in January, London, catering <email>. On Agenda of next meeting organisation of festival. South East regional conference/festivals/party.

AOB – all come to ‘Another Thanet is Possible’  – circulate information

TWT feedback – Please fill in this form for feedback on TWT <link>

Momentum Northern Region urges recall of national Steering Committee

The following motion of censure was passed by a meeting of delegates from across Momentum Northern region, with 14 votes in favour and none against.


Momentum Northern Regional Network 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. The Steering Committee was elected by the National Committee on an interim basis for a now expired term and it has no right to usurp the authority of Momentum’s sovereign decision-making body.

The Steering Committee’s decision to impose online referenda on the organisation regardless of the feedback from local branches goes against all traditions of democratic good practice in the labour movement; it is disrespectful to the many members who have worked hard to develop local branches and regional networks; it undermines our efforts to promote meaningful participation in the Labour Party; and it will turn Momentum into a top-down, officer-led organisation.

We call for the Steering Committee’s decision regarding the format of the conference to be rescinded. We support the National Committee proceeding as originally scheduled on 5 November with full authority to decide how a conference should be organised.

We also call for the National Committee to recall the current Steering Committee and elect a new line-up to take Momentum’s work forward until the national conference.

Report on Momentum Eastern Region Conference 29.10.16

There were about 80 present, including delegates from 13 Momentum groups. The agenda and procedure was agreed by a short ‘pre-meeting’ so that delegates had ownership of the whole process. The meeting elected myself and Dr Sue Eason (Bedford) as NC members for the Momentum Eastern region until next year’s conference. This means that Marshajane Thompson is no longer on the NC and should not be on the Steering Committee either.

We passed a resolution, moved by Ian Ilett, on the following lines:

“This conference believes that the National Committee is at present the highest democratically-elected body of Momentum and should have control over the organisation of the forthcoming national conference”.

I can’t remember the wording exactly.

The conference also condemned the postponement of the NC on November 5th.

Feedback we’ve had from delegates and visitors who were there (via Loomio) has been extremely positive. They enjoyed the conference, the discussion, the comradely mood and the general atmosphere. We were trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot and we made a fairly good job of it. We’ll do a better job next year.

John Pickard

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 statement from the Labour Party Socialist Network on Jackie Walker and Momentum

The Labour Party Socialist Network is opposed to the suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party and is opposed to the moves from sections of the Momentum leadership to remove her from her position as Vice-Chair of Momentum.

The calls for her removal clearly originated with those who have their own anti-Corbyn, anti-Momentum agenda. It is pushed by those who want to stop any critical discussion about the role of the Israeli government in its treatment of the Palestinians.

Supporters of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians want to curtail any such criticism by equating it with anti-Semitism, by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Such criticism does not equate.

It should not be forgotten that the issue arose because someone has released a film of the discussion at what everyone present thought would be a private meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in which there could be open and honest engagement on potentially controversial subjects. Those responsible have deliberately manipulated their recording to manufacture maximum embarrassment for Momentum and Corbyn and hostility towards Jackie Walker.

A careful viewing of the film clip shared on the Huffington Post reveals that there is no basis for the accusation that Jackie said anything at the meeting that was anti-Semitic. We do not believe that she is anti-Semitic.

We cannot agree with those on the left who have rushed to condemn her comments as being anti-Semitic and have called for her to be removed as Vice-Chair of Momentum on that basis, instead of confronting these unfounded allegations.

Initially, some in the leadership of Momentum, without first notifying Jackie of their intentions, went to the press to call for her removal as Vice Chair. There has still been no formal notification to the Steering Committee that it will meet this coming Monday to discuss the issue.

Now, apparently, those seeking to remove Jackie have said that there is to be no disciplinary action taken against her within Momentum.

Presumably this is because it is accepted that she did not say anything that could be considered anti-Semitic. If this is so, then why is there a continued determination to remove her as Vice-Chair? It can only be to appease her accusers. But they will not be appeased. They will want more.

Why has she been suspended (again) by the Labour Party? The Labour Party’s right-wing Compliance Unit has clearly been encouraged by the stance taken by sections of Momentum’s leadership.

Do those calling for Jackie’s removal not understand that this is a political attack on the left; an attempt to undermine Momentum? If Jackie is removed today those who have initiated this attack will be back for another target tomorrow, and another the day after.

Whatever one’s views on Jackie’s comments at the JLM event, she should be defended against these attacks. We must protect free speech and the right to be critical. There is no place for hatred or hostility towards Jews within the Labour Party or anywhere else. But honest criticism of political positions or clumsy questioning do not constitute such.

The controversial issues of Israeli policy, of Zionism, of Israeli-Palestinian relations and of the rights of the Palestinian people are extremely contested in society and especially in the Labour movement. If we are to make any headway on these or any other subjects we must ensure that we protect open, honest, rational and critical but comradely discussion.