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