A response from a Momentum S.B member to Stella Creasy’s speech to LSE in March 2016.
Over the last few years you have stood out as an exceptional campaigning MP. The work you have done to curb the worst excesses of ‘payday loan’ companies in particular has been hugely inspiring. I voted for you in the deputy leadership contest on that basis alone. So it was with huge sadness that I read your LSE speech. It is highly problematic on many levels, worryingly incoherent and when it finally gets round to making its main points paints a picture that I simply do not think corresponds with reality.
Although pretty lengthy it would be clear to even the meanest intelligence that the section of the speech devoted to criticising Momentum would be seized on by the media, who are looking for anything and everything they can find to throw at Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and most importantly his ideas.
As an experienced MP you must have known this would happen. Indeed, a cynic would argue that the main purpose of the speech was to attack Momentum, with the rest of it acting as leftish-sounding filler. But I digress.
Momentum is a campaigning organisation focussed first and foremost on delivering a Labour government and elected Labour representatives. Since our formation South Birmingham Momentum supporters have mainly been out campaigning for our Labour council candidates in the lead-up to the May elections.
But we are also working on goals that we think compliment the main one. These are democratizing the party and campaigning to ensure that the policies that a future Labour government pursues are the ones that Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership election on in 2015. South Birmingham Momentum sees itself as the continuation of the politics and aims of that campaign. It is with this in mind that we are planning activities in support of the junior doctors strike; surely the type of grassroots, bottom-up initiative that you would celebrate and advocate; and we hope to involve the wider party and labour movement in our solidarity work. We are developing a significant social media presence and are doing our utmost to engage with the young people and returning members who have flocked to the party since September 2015.
All that being said, a Labour Party that responds to changing political realities, holds its elected officials to account and decides from the bottom-up what its priorities are is by necessity a Labour Party that meets and discusses things. How else do we engage with the new members and decide on the form and content of the campaigning work that we all agree is so vitally important? South Birmingham Momentum has encouraged all of its supporters to join and engage with their local CLP precisely to ensure that the party becomes a vibrant, democratic space with a clear campaigning focus. But you accuse us of “draining the very energy from our political process”.
I remain unclear what you mean by this, and also the phrase “righteous bystanding”. Why are you so derisive about ordinary members getting involved in their local party and trying to democratize often hidebound structures? Do you not agree that a rejuvenated, democratic, grassroots Labour Party fits in perfectly with the aims highlighted in your speech?
Are also you unaware of the often suspicious ‘welcome’ that new members often get in the CLPs? It is Momentum supporters who are trying to initiate discussions of radical alternatives to the status quo, which in your speech you (in surprisingly revolutionary language) indicate you want to see: “Time spent trying to reform the current system is time missed out on recognising the need to build from the ground up a completely different type of politics all together.”
The issue of deselection and reselection of MPs, which you think is evidence of Momentum’s “elitism” despite the organisation making it clear it is not one of its aims, seems to animate the right of the party rather more than the left (and to argue that the terms “left” and “right” no longer mean anything is facile in the extreme) and I cannot understand why. Surely, the grassroots, participatory nature of the politics you want to see would surely mean that representatives are easily and frequently replaced and consistently held to account? Why should the views and agenda of a couple of hundred MPs be given more weight than the tens of thousands of activists who put you there (and overwhelmingly voted for Jeremy Corbyn last year)?
There is a danger that in dismissing “old-fashioned” forms of political activism and organisation that the democratic element of democratic socialism gets forgotten. Meetings, however uninspiring they can sometimes be, are an important element of any democratic organisation.
The Labour Party is a broad church of opinion and tradition. Momentum is a healthy, vibrant part of that broad church just as much as the Parliamentary Labour Party. Your attempts to single out Momentum for unjustified criticism are hugely disappointing given your impressive personal record and when we have a shared goal of a Labour government in 2020.
South Birmingham Momentum