An Interview with Your Momentum

Ahead of the ballots opening in Momentum's 2022 NCG elections, New Socialist interviewed both slates. Here, Your Momentum respond to our questions.

30 min read


Today, as the ballot for Momentum’s National Co-ordinating Group election opens, we are very happy to be publishing our interviews with the two main slates. The ballot closes on July 6th, so if you’re not a member of Momentum and feel inspired by the campaign, there’s still time to join and vote. Below, you’ll find our interview with Your Momentum; our interview with Momentum Organisers is available here.

In our view, the campaign has so far been characterised by a degree of bitterness, and has relied on endorsements and what could loosely be termed ‘vibes’, rather than political arguments. We hope that these interviews will serve as a counter to that. We have tried not only to allow space for detailed arguments and plans to be presented, but also to push candidates on those elements of their proposals and assessments of the situation which have thus far gone unchallenged.

Both interviews follow the same pattern. They are divided into two parts. The first part features general questions that are broadly applicable; these questions were put to both slates. In the second part, we have tried to probe particular aspects of both the proposals and record of the two slates. While these questions are necessarily more specific, being tailored to each slate, they do refer to the same themes and challenges. By doing things this way, we hope to give a rounded sense of each slate’s proposed approach to the task ahead.

Despite the attrition of the last two and a half years, Momentum remains, as Your Momentum argue, “the most important socialist organisation” in Britain, meaning that “what is decided here, will be crucial for the future of our movement.” We hope that comrades find the interviews useful in deciding whether and how to vote.

1. General questions.

NSWhat’s the point of Momentum? Why should socialists get involved in the NCG election?

YMMomentum is the most important socialist organisation in the UK. Not only do we have tens of thousands of members across the whole country, we also have significant financial resources, paid staff, name recognition, social media presence, and a wealth of organising and campaigning experience.

Momentum has a unique and essential role to play in the years ahead. Through the collective action of our members we can shift the balance of power within the Labour Party and in the country at large.

Momentum’s role is to organise the left in the Labour Party, to support struggles in our trade unions and to help build a mass socialist movement. And just as importantly, we must continue to build an organisation which is open, democratic, and pluralistic so that it is capable of engaging all of us as members and forging broad alliances across the left.

This is one of the ways in which we will resist the lurch to the right in UK politics and can contest for power over the coming years. We all know that will not be easy. There are no quick fixes. Ultimately, only our patient, steady and determined organising can turn the tide in UK politics.

Momentum’s NCG elections happen every two years and are an important moment for reflection and debate over the strategy and progress of the organisation. They are also an opportunity for existing and new members to become more engaged and to plug into the organisation. Last election Momentum’s membership grew by hundreds, hopefully the same will happen this time.

There are several slates running in this election with different ideas for the future of Momentum. At stake is the direction of Momentum at the national level over the next two years.

Your Momentum has a serious plan to build left power. The main rival slate, Momentum Organisers, has offered their own plan, which contains a lot of fighting talk and promises to “organise better”, but in terms of actual detail seems to mainly propose plans that are already being delivered by the organisation or small tweaks to the running of the organisation.

There has also been a disagreement over the value of democracy within Momentum. Momentum Organisers has argued that the process of democratisation of Momentum carried out by the last NCG, several members of whom are standing on the Your Momentum slate, was a waste of time. We believe that democracy isn’t a distraction, it’s fundamental to effective organising.

We encourage socialists to get involved in this election as what is decided here will be crucial for the future of our movement. If you’re not already a member, we encourage you to join and get involved in the debate.

NS(If your answer to Q1 involves having effects on and through the Labour Party:) What is the point of the Labour Party, and why should socialists care about it?

YMUnder a First Past The Post electoral system and with the affiliation of major trade unions, the Labour Party is the only way for socialists to meaningfully influence national elections and take state power.

Historically, the Labour Party has never been a purely socialist Party, but has always had socialists in it and has in government at times passed socialist policy that has not only improved the lives of millions but has created a collectivist common sense in society—like the right to free healthcare, for example—which should be built on and defended. This is not to erase the tensions or problems in the Labour Party—including how it has often been on the wrong side of history on issues like racism and empire—but it is the task of socialists to organise to transform the Party so we are able to win elections on a socialist platform.

Right now, the Labour Party feels hugely inhospitable to many socialists, but it remains a key terrain of struggle for the socialist movement. To give up the struggle in the Labour Party would be to concede the electoral terrain to our opponents, and we have seen that doing so makes it far harder for socialists to win lasting gains for working people.

NSFeminist concerns seem to have been relatively marginalised from the everyday world of the contemporary left—but feminist struggles, and feminist analyses of the organising and gendered functioning of institutions, surely remain crucial. What are your feminist commitments, and what will you do to put them into practice?

YMAs a slate, we commit to amplifying and supporting the organising of our women, non-binary and trans comrades in the Party and on the streets—whether against police violence or for reproductive rights or against other forms of gendered oppression and violence. Momentum has a role to play in helping to build the capacity of these struggles, whether through our communications channels, by mobilising our members to attend vital protests or through educational programmes. We also have to make sure that Momentum uses structures like the National Labour Party Women’s Committee (on which the left now holds a majority), or the NEC to advance feminist agendas, especially as it relates to pushing back against the growing transhopbia that seems to have taken hold in parts of the Party. This is concerning and must be challenged.

Our feminist commitments and organising are rooted in:

  • Supporting feminist struggles. Over the last two years we have mobilised for actions organised by the Women’s Strike and for actions following the murder of Sarah Everard. We will continue to support and mobilise for similar struggles.
  • Political education. We have organised political education programmes on socialist feminism and on trans rights. This work is vital to build capacity for feminist struggles.
  • Defending trans rights in the Labour Party. We have organised actively to defend trans rights in the Party, for instance through our slate for the Labour Women’s Committee.

Our feminist organising is also grounded in organising we have done in our communities, as well as the organising we do in Momentum. We want to include this from our candidate Leila Erin-Jenkins, standing in the South East, about her organising and campaigning:

My local Surestart Centre was a lifeline for me as a single mum of a soon-to-be diagnosed autistic toddler so when they came under threat from cuts, I was at the front leading the fight to successfully defend them. For those who don’t know, Surestart Centres are a 1998 Labour Government initiative, where parents can go for free to ‘stay and play’ with their children, socialise with other parents and staff can signpost to any required support. The fact they are already paid for by our taxes, means working class parents can get vital support for themselves and their children without spending more money.

Since it is women who are still most likely to be primary caregivers, cuts to these services directly affect these women and make their lives harder. It’s the same for the most recent campaign I led and won which involved proposals to decrease the Pupil Admission Number (PAN) at 7 schools in deprived neighbourhoods, which teach a disproportionately high number of children with special educational needs. This would have meant, amongst other things, larger class sizes and travelling further to the nearest school.

It’s disproportionately mothers who would be forced to travel further to drop off and pick up, and working-class mothers who don’t have the luxury of hopping in a car to make such a trip. It’s mothers who are going to experience the fall-out from the effect of larger class sizes on children with special needs. The overall school budget at these schools would have been slashed, schools where children already don’t have access to the same opportunities as pupils in richer parts of the city. My feminist commitments are to continue to defend services women and children need, and to call-out the unjust impact of cuts on women.

NSA constant issue on the left is the indulgence of known bullies and abusers—often, but not always men—because they are friends, political allies, powerful people, and/or people who draw in audiences for events. Not only does this harm individuals, it also harms the movement. How do you think Momentum can challenge this dynamic?

YMMomentum has to make sure it upholds a culture where there is proper accountability when people engage in abusive behaviour, and where we can rely on each other for vital solidarity in the face of abuse and attacks, whether from people who should be our allies, or the Party leadership or the state. This is always an ongoing process, and goes beyond having robust procedures. It has to be rooted in a shared belief that our organising must be founded on principles of collective care and justice. We also believe that our commitment to practices of open, democratic organising which empower grassroots members rather than closed door negotiations can help to disrupt some of the mechanisms which bullies and abusers exploit to avoid accountability and maintain their access to power.

NSWhat will you do to redistribute power and resources across the movement?

YMAll of us on the Your Momentum slate are committed to continuing the work of the current NCG to democratise Momentum, by making sure members have the decisive say on key issues, such as our Labour Conference platform and the candidates we back for Parliament. This democracy and redistribution of power is essential not only to allow the collective knowledge and experience of our membership to exert itself in the organisation and the Party, but also because it generates the participation and energy we need to build the capacity we need to win.

The Policy Primary introduced by the last NCG is a great example of this. This year and last Local Momentum Groups met to debate and submit policy motions, and thousands of members voted. The resulting platform was then taken into CLPs across the country and submitted to Conference, where we got a raft of policy passed - even if we accept that passing policy at Conference isn’t enough by itself to shape the Party’s policy agenda. The Policy Primary enabled Momentum to engage and energise many more members than would have otherwise been possible and gave us a key database of enthusiastic members to get involved in our organising for conference. The idea that democracy is a distraction—as argued by Momentum Organisers—just doesn’t hold. Democracy is fundamental to effective organising.

We’d also add that all of us on the Your Momentum campaign are committed to the cast iron guarantee that Momentum members will decide on who we back for Leader and Deputy, which was voted on and agreed during ‘Refounding Momentum’—the recent process of member-led democratisation of Momentum. These are major improvements we must keep.

In terms of resources, in the last year Momentum has created a dedicated Local Groups and Activist Development Officer to ensure local groups get the proper staff support they need, and the current NCG also launched a Local Group Funding Pot, which has seen local groups receive cash funding for key projects, and this has been used for summer schools for political education and for campaign materials. This needs to continue, and in the long-term the organisation needs to find a way to channel member subs to the local level. At the moment this is difficult, due to how much of Momentum’s expenditure is centralised and cannot be easily cut, but there will be ways we can do this over time. For example, we should look into allocating a portion of new member subs to the local level, which will allow us to redistribute funding without threatening the organisation’s financial stability.

NSThis has already been quite a bitter campaign. As this time the NCG is being elected by STV, it is unlikely either slate will get an overwhelming majority. How will you make sure to work effectively with members of the opposing slate?

YMThe election hustings that were run on Sunday were fantastic and they illustrated the level of respect candidates on both slates have for each other, and ultimately we are all socialists committed to broadly the same agenda, even if there are some key differences in our election campaigns.

We think it will be essential that after the election the NCG comes together collectively to agree on a common programme of work—with some compromises on all sides, depending on who has the majority - which we can all get behind and work together to deliver. After the election, the membership won’t want an ongoing factional battle, and considering how difficult things are in the Labour Party, there will be a need for unity and cooperation. Bonds and a sense of collective identity will develop just through the shared experience all candidates will have by being on the NCG. We have no doubt that the bitterness you describe can be put behind. There’s too much at stake.

2. Questions specific to Your Momentum.

NSIn the interviews we did in advance of the 2020 NCG elections, the vast majority of Forward Momentum candidates rightly expressed a strong and absolute commitment to trans rights. However, one of the first decisions of the new NCG was to allow at least two candidates over whom there were major concerns over transphobia onto the CLGA slate for the NEC elections. How did this happen? What have you done since then to make up for it? Is defending trans rights more important than preserving “left unity”—including in internal elections, where the current state of the left means maintaining that unity is important?

YMThere are a number of current NCG members on the Your Momentum slate, and all signed the campaign statement referred to, but the vast majority of candidates are standing for the first time, and the campaign launch statement was signed by an extremely broad range of people, with a high number of local group role-holders who have bought into what Momentum has done in the last two years. So it’s important to note that while there is some continuity, there are a lot of fresh ideas and new faces in our campaign, and it’s not appropriate for these candidates to be held accountable for decisions they didn’t have any input into.

However, ultimately, we believe the decision that the outgoing NCG made on this matter was the wrong one and was made as a result of a combination of time pressure (being thrown into negotiations the day after the NCG results), the strong expectation of left unity and the insistence from other organisations that candidates did not have to sign strong statements on equalities, including a commitment to self-ID. It was Momentum that pushed hard for this and received very little support from the rest of the organised Labour left. Nonetheless it was the wrong decision and there is no getting away from that. It also points to the difficulty of Momentum—which is 5 times the size of the organisations of the CLGA combined—being just one equal voice among 10 or 11 organisations and being bound by confidentiality. Structurally, it’s difficult for Momentum to assert itself and to be transparent about what decisions get made and how.

Since then we worked with our allies across the movement to run a national trans political education programme, and in the Women’s Committee negotiations Momentum took a red line approach of only backing candidates that supported self-ID. Momentum was attacked for splitting the left slate, but we feel it was the right decision.

In the most recent NEC slate negotiations, Momentum was better prepared to take a stronger position on this issue and did so.

NSYour website lists your achievements and the things you’re proud of having done over the past two years. We’d like to flip that issue a bit and ask: what do you think that the current NCG could have done better? What has gone badly? What mistakes have been made?

YMThough the Eviction Resistance campaign was very successful in recruiting and skilling up hundreds of members—most of whom weren’t already involved in Momentum—ultimately it didn’t achieve what we wanted it to, which was to have Momentum members mobilise en masse in support of tenants’ unions doing eviction resistance. This happened in some places but was not systematic enough, largely because the Government repeatedly conceded on the issue and extended the eviction bans, meaning that the mass wave of evictions that we expected following talks with the tenants unions did not happen, alongside disruption to our organising caused by COVID. Though we would say that regardless of who wins the NCG election, in this cost of living crisis Momentum members should be encouraged to get out on picket lines and in front of houses and flats to block evictions.

We firmly believe Momentum should run national campaigns, as well as support local activity, but the next campaign we do run should look to incorporate better where our members have skills—canvassing, mobilising, for example—and play to our strengths, such as our links to the SCG and left-led trade unions. We also believe that local groups should play a leading role in our campaigning work and should be supported to campaign on the issues that matter to them in their communities. But the reality is not enough members are in local Momentum groups, and a national campaign on the cost of living, for example, could empower and activitate thousands of Momentum members that may not yet be engaged in crucial organising work. And activating a larger proportion of Momentum’s total membership must be a key priority in the next two years. It’s important for us to note that when we talk about campaigning, a key objective of any campaign will be to shift the Labour Party’s position, as that’s where we have the most leverage.

A second area where we think the last NCG could have done more is in developing and disseminating strategies for how members can organise effectively at the local level in the Labour Party and make meaningful progress. There’s been a debate that has taken place over the last two years about whether or not to remain in Labour, and we think the last NCG did a good job making the case for socialist activists to continue the struggle in Labour and presenting an overarching strategy (‘Socialist Organising in a New Era’) for how the left can make progress in the challenging circumstances we are in, which we have built on with our programme for the Your Momentum campaign. There has also been some really good work done by Momentum to support activists on the ground with organising in their CLPs and winning councillor selections. But often this sort of work has only been something that is accessible to more experienced and networked activists, and it hasn’t been something we have been able to engage wide layers of members in. This is something we are keen to build on, if elected, over the next term. Momentum has previously published some case studies of effective local organising and this is something that can be built on and more models can be shared. We also want to set up networks where activists who have organised effectively in their CLPs and to win selections can support and coach others on how to replicate this. This also needs to be extended beyond models for organising for selections, to strategies for how to build an initial base for the left in hostile CLPs, and so on. We have plans for this and are ready to put them into action.

NSWe’d like to talk about some of the critiques of the Refounding Momentum process. Vivak Soni has argued (in New Socialist) that the process amounted to little more “a set of technocratic fixes for an organisation whose malaise goes much deeper,” and also pointed out that it was “beset by multiple delays, with no explanation from the NCG when deadlines passed.” Momentum Organisers have also implicitly critiqued the process, suggesting in a video that Momentum has become “too inward-looking”.1 How would you respond to these criticisms? Do you now regret the amount of time the process took up relative to the length of the NCG term?

YMVivak’s article is okay, but it criticises the process while barely engaging with the outcomes (and at the time it was written the interim proposals were available online), which is ultimately what we should be focusing on. Vivak rightly points to Momentum’s historic centralisation and a lack of engagement among members, but the creation of a Momentum Convention, for example, will provide an opportunity for open, politicised debate on issues that will give Momentum a real boost and empower members to make decisions on campaigns and strategy.

The proposals agreed by Refounding may not deliver the exact organisation Vivak wants, but they are a massive step forward, and we encourage all members to review what Refounding delivered.

In terms of the delays—this was frustrating, but it was a combination of two things. Firstly we wanted to minimise the consumption of resources the process took, and as such the staff time committed was restricted primarily to just one senior staff member doing a few hours a week. This meant we were able to focus on organising while working to deliver vital changes in the background over a slightly longer time timeframe. Secondly, a lot of time was taken up with internal stakeholder negotiations, as Momentum isn’t just an organisation of our members. There are affiliates too and they have strong constitutional powers in relation to changes of the sort that were being proposed.

The criticisms being made by a small minority that Momentum is too inward-looking are just a rehash of the old lines that were used by Momentum Renewal, which obviously didn’t return a single elected rep in the last NCG election. The reality is 60-70 per cent of the Momentum membership voted for Forward Momentum, which had a promise to deliver a Refounding process. So whatever the criticisms of it by Momentum Organisers, it was delivering on a strong mandate, and that’s precisely what a leadership should do. Additionally, at times it is vital for an organisation to look inward, reflect on what works and what doesn’t, provided the outcome of such a process improves our capacity to organise democratically and effectively, which is what we firmly believe Refounding has delivered.

NSWe now have two related questions about the centrality of organising within the Labour Party. It strikes us that there is, at the very least, a certain lack of clarity over what restrictions are imposed on Momentum by this commitment. Even though Your Momentum is less focused on Labour Party activity than Momentum Organisers, it is clear that for either slate Momentum being proscribed would be a catastrophe. Likewise, if large numbers of left councillors, or candidates in internal elections, were to be suspended or expelled, this would be a very significant blow to Momentum. Whilst we accept that the terrain of struggle may change in the medium to long-term, we are interested in your assessment of the situation in the here and now, given both the simultaneous weakness of the left in Labour, and Momentum’s firm commitment to the Party.

The first question is about anti-imperialism in general and the IHRA definition in particular. There’s been a certain amount of controversy over whether a candidate for an internal Labour election post was blocked from standing because of tweets that may have gone against the IHRA definition and examples around calling Israel an apartheid state.

We are not particularly interested in re-litigating this, but we are interested in asking: Given it cannot afford to have left candidates blocked, let alone for the whole organisation to be proscribed—do you think Momentum can avoid having to uphold very sharp limits on what can be argued, particularly around the IHRA, and anti-imperialism more generally?2

It’s fairly clear from Momentum’s public communications and the candidates the organisation has backed over the last two years that the outgoing NCG are committed to upholding a fierce anti-imperialism and not upholding sharp limits in what can be argued in relation to these issues.

You will see repeatedly that Momentum has referred to Israel as an apartheid state in its main communications and has published more video content on the Israel Palestine issue than at any other point in the organisation’s history, including a video with an Israeli refuser, as well as videos on the Sheikh Jarrah attacks earlier this year.

We’d also refer people to Momentum’s public statements which have highlighted the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The outgoing NCG has brought the organisation to a much better position on Palestine over the last two years.

There is also ongoing political education work being organised by Momentum around Palestine, organised by Sonali Bhattacharyya, who is restanding for the NCG, as well as education on anti-imperialism as part of the Leo Panitch education programme.

Of course, there is a great likelihood now of candidates getting blocked and Momentum is being tactically discreet, but that in no way means abandoning core principles like anti-racism and imperialism.

The pile on that was organised against Momentum’s outgoing co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan was unacceptable. We would refer readers to her tweet thread, which shows that the candidate’s position on Palestine was not the reason the candidate was blocked.

On issues of anti-racism more broadly, Momentum is also in a much better place than it was. Momentum has taken positions and organised for them around policing, around migrants rights and more.

NSOur second question on this topic is about local councillors. Your Momentum is very proud of the current NCG’s Future Councillors programme and “the 100 seats won by socialist councillors in May’s local elections”. But what can left councillors who are a minority do, given the disciplines imposed by Labour groups? In Liverpool, councillors—including a current member of Momentum’s NCG—were suspended and ultimately expelled for refusing to vote for cuts. Does an unambiguous commitment to Labour membership mean that left councillors have to keep their heads down and support measures that will put them on the wrong side of community struggles against cuts or around housing?

YMThis is a very pertinent question and a difficult challenge for socialists in Labour. Ultimately, it’s worth stating that socialist councillors will have to make decisions consistent with their principles, and we support that. While we are absolutely committed to building the Left in the Labour Party, and electing Labour councillors, and this sometimes does require a degree of tactical discretion, this should not come at the expense of our commitment to solidarity with the working class and marginalised communities.

We don’t—and are not in a position to—instruct our members that are councillors how to vote, but as socialists we all share a common commitment to class justice and economic redistribution and we won’t be supporting candidates that don’t deliver on that, especially now as the debate around supporting strikes becomes relevant.

Obviously being a minority left-wing councillor in a right-led Labour Group that controls the council, or where another Party is in the majority, is challenging, but there is lots they can do. They can provide a nucleus to organise around to train, recruit and select more socialist Labour councillors; organise to make demands that Community Wealth Building and other socialist policies be adopted; and stand up for the interest of local working class people; by getting on key committees they can provide often vital support to public sector trade unions and so on. These things matter, even accepting the limitations you outline. Just look at the fantastic work that someone like Matt Kerr has done up in Glasgow, and there are hundreds like him across the UK doing the same.

The outgoing NCG also recently launched a Community Wealth Building toolkit for councillors across the country, developed with Matthew Brown in Preston. This is something we are looking to support councillors across the country to make use of as it offers a way to make meaningful changes in our areas.

NSFor us, it feels that one of the major achievements of Momentum in the past two years has been the development of its political education campaigns around trans rights, racial justice, and climate justice—and with these, a capacity to be responsive to and build connections with extra-Parliamentary movements. We are delighted to see a Momentum that is unlikely to ever again defend police as public sector workers. But, given the democratic blockages both within the Labour Party and politics more broadly, what does developing the political level of Momentum members mean? Are you at risk of repeating the common error of the British left, going back at least as far as Moral Force Chartism, of believing that developing the political understanding of the popular classes (or sections of them) will automatically have large-scale political effects?

YMNone of us on the Your Momentum slate believe that political education divorced from organising can make large scale gains. After all, as we’ve seen, struggle is the best way to raise class consciousness and develop people’s political capacities. But political education programmes, like the ones the current Momentum leadership have rolled out, as well as more focused training programmes like the Leo Panitch Leadership Programme, can be a great way for members to reflect on their activity and learn the skills and confidence they need to step up to become more effective organisers. Over the coming months, if elected, we’ll be focusing on pipelining Momentum members that come through these programmes into our organising work.

Momentum’s Trade Unionists Network as well is about getting members feeling confident to get involved in a trade union and start organising in their workplace, through linking them up with members locally with more experience who can support and mentor them. While we can’t do what trade unions do, it is really clear that in this moment of emerging industrial unrest, Momentum has to play a role making sure our members are active in trade unions and our workplaces as well as in the Party, and advancing our class struggle, socialist perspective in all these areas.

Developing the political consciousness of Momentum members means collectively overcoming some of the structural problems in the movement that were present under Corbyn’s leadership, which was the over-identification with Jeremy as a person, and instead developing a shared ideological commitment to socialism, and the organising skills to be effective in the Labour Party and in our communities. We’ve got so many talented members in Momentum, from who we can all learn, but some are new to the movement and need support in making that step, and it’s up to Momentum to assist them. We’ve all had that support in the past, and Momentum must continue to deliver and support political education initiatives to ensure it continues. Our movement is full of knowledge—let’s share it!

NSYour Momentum is essentially a continuation of Forward Momentum but only three current NCG members are standing again—you have talked of how this reflects well on processes of cadre formation, and clearly it is necessary in a socialist organisation to resist the ossification of a leadership. But doesn’t it also represent a huge loss of experience? Does bringing in a large number of people who will be essentially learning on the job mean that they are likely to make mistakes at crucial times, or to pass the responsibility for decisions off to unaccountable staff, who have the experience to negotiate the organisation? Does the level of attrition suggest either that the role of NCG member is too much, or that many of the current NCG were, in hindsight, not prepared for the scale of the task and the level of responsibility?

YMOf course losing experienced NCG members does mean the organisation will lose some experience at the national level, but these NCG members will be going back to their local areas and local groups with an enhanced knowledge of how the organisation works, and will no doubt continue to be leaders on the ground or regionally—and Momentum does need to develop what you might call a ‘middle layer of leadership’ that will help provide better accountability between the NCG and the wider membership. The flipside is that new NCG members means new ideas and new energy and that couldn’t be more vital in these challenging times. It also means that NCG members can’t build fiefdoms of unaccountable patronage power, which we had previously. Ultimately, volunteers can only give so much time leading an organisation like Momentum and they can get tired out after the commitment it entails, and this doesn’t mean that the current NCG were unprepared. This has to be recognised, especially when so many of our current leadership are working class people with responsibilities like we all have. They aren’t a paid political elite. A good number of outgoing NCG members have also committed to helping advise the incoming NCG, so this knowledge will be retained and passed on.

It’s important to say that Momentum staff are accountable, and the staff structures have been set up in such a way that there is strong oversight by the NCG, to whom the senior staff regularly report. This was one of the reasons the Forward Momentum leadership increased the number of NCG meetings from 4 to 12 per year, and set up cross-organisational working groups, so there is much more operational oversight of staff, who do a brilliant job needless to say.

NSAs we’ve already discussed, there seems to be a strong degree of organisational continuity between Forward Momentum and Your Momentum, even though just three current NCG members are hoping to stay on. What’s the basis for that continuity? Are there the same behind-the-scenes people helping to cohere things? If so, how can those people be made known and accountable to the
membership? If not, what is it that determines YM a coherent slate rather than a grouping of individual candidates?

YMThe key basis for continuity across Forward Momentum and Your Momentum is a commitment to a shared politics and way of doing politics, including a clear commitment to democracy, as well as to a broad strategic approach to what Momentum should focus on as you can see in our programme.
There are a number of people who got involved in Your Momentum, including a number of our candidates, who weren’t involved or weren’t closely involved in Forward Momentum, but have been inspired by the work of Momentum over the last two years. For instance, a large number of local Momentum groups are supporting the Your Momentum campaign, on the basis of the strong work that the outgoing NCG has done to support local groups and also to involve them in the running of Momentum through regular meetings with roleholders in groups.

In terms of ‘behind-the-scenes people’, Your Momentum has a campaign committee, which takes decisions on key strategic matters for the campaign. This committee is chaired by Mish Rahman, who is one of our candidates and he is leading on coordinating the campaign. The people involved in the campaign committee are mainly local group roleholders and a few other activists and are all listed on the Your Momentum website as signatories to the campaign so members can see who the people who are involved are.

Major decisions in the campaign have been made democratically at each stage: the programme was agreed democratically by a meeting of around 70 people after a series of open discussions over several months and at the same meeting the campaign committee was elected. The slate was elected at an open hustings.

There isn’t a hidden group behind the scenes steering the campaign. That said, as in every campaign there are people involved who aren’t standing as candidates and may not be as well known and obviously the membership don’t get to have a vote on them. We believe that is normal thing and isn’t an issue. The key thing is that we build cadres who act openly and democratically, rather than closed cliques. That comes from clear democratic commitments from our candidates and they should be judged on that over the course of their terms if they are elected to the NCG.

NSWe accept that it’s necessary to retain enthusiasm and hope—unrelenting pessimism helps nobody and can demoralise a movement. But unrealistic optimism can also be demoralising. Many members (or former members) may well look at your account of the last two years and feel that it doesn’t accurately reflect precisely how bad things are, which may then undermine trust. Is it possible for Your Momentum to face up to how bad the situation is for the Labour left?

YMWe have never claimed that Momentum is growing. We have been quite clear in all our communications and strategy that thousands of socialists have left the party. The attacks have had a deep impact on the left and our ability to organise. The Labour left faces immense challenges. We’ve talked about the limits of the current moment. Our strategy is based upon those limits and what can be achieved. We are clear-eyed about the limits of the current moment. At the same time, the left has to be honest that we are in a much better position than 6 or 7 years ago. That has to be the benchmark. We can’t compare things to the heady days of 2017-18. We have to look over a 10 year timescale. The question is: is the left in a better position now than then? The answer emphatically is yes. The key challenge is how we can maintain and build on that position over the coming years so we can find a way to shift the direction of the party and change the leadership.

It’s going to take patient and steady organising to make progress and there will be setbacks and defeats. There are, nonetheless, reasons to be hopeful too and we can take strength from coming together collectively and from our solidarity with one another.

There is a narrative being spun by Momentum Organisers that Momentum is totally doomed. This is clearly designed to tap into feelings of demoralisation among socialists in order to serve their purposes as a campaign, but is not based on an objective assessment of Momentum’s situation.

The Labour Left as a whole is in retreat right now and our numbers have lessened. This is the result of a successful strategy by Starmer to demoralise and drive out socialists from the party. This is having an effect on Momentum organisationally too and we have been losing members as a result.

Nonetheless, Momentum has managed to significantly retool itself over the last two years. At various stages it has had bursts of growth in membership, such as during moments of democratic input like the policy primary and big campaigns. It has also significantly increased active engagement among its membership and started a serious process of cadre development. Furthermore, the process of democratisation has both rebuilt key internal structures and processes that strengthen the organisation, and has also significantly restored trust among members in the organisation and enabled it to survive and build. There are a number of green shoots here that must be nurtured further.

As well as a realistic assessment of Momentum’s current situation, we also need to be realistic about what strategies can feasibly help us going forward—the challenges we face are huge, which means that fighting rhetoric and quick fixes won’t cut it.

What we’ve seen from Momentum Organisers in this election unfortunately is mostly just that. Significant chunks of their programme are things that are already being done or are on the verge of delivery. Other things are small tweaks on what is currently being done. This has been accompanied by a rhetoric that talks about doing “better organising”, “straining every sinew” and “leaving no stone unturned”, but seems to offer little beyond saying they will do things better. Those aren’t serious solutions to the problems we face.

There are ways Momentum’s organising model can be improved and developed - as mentioned above we are focused on this and are starting to see progress with the long-term work of cadre building and we have plans for how to strengthen this.

But it’s important we have a serious focus on how to most effectively use our capacity and resources and on how we build left power. One of our candidates, Mish Rahman, has laid out in Labour Hub some of this thinking and some of the differences in strategic perspective, which we encourage readers to look over.

NSOne grim aspect of the past two years has been the waning of many, many local Momentum groups. To a large extent, of course, this is due to factors beyond Momentum’s control (the Starmer leadership, left members leaving the Party, the limitations imposed by the pandemic)—but also it has happened on Forward Momentum’s watch. Was there anything that could have been done to halt this decline? What plans do you have for reinvigorating local Momentum groups?

YMThere are sadly a number of Momentum groups that have struggled over the last two years and some that have folded, but looking at the general picture this is actually an area where Momentum has been getting stronger over the last two years. The outgoing NCG has played a key role in that.
The first thing the new NCG did in 2020 was to organise a tour of local groups which was branded as the first phase of “Refounding Momentum”. This included a series of meetings with most groups, where groups were supported to develop strategies for organising locally and to engage new people. This resulted in several new groups being formed at the time and the re-energisation of many existing groups. And that energy hasn’t stopped, with a new group being formed in Newcastle in the last few months alone.

The NCG also quickly introduced regular national Zoom meetings with roleholders from all local groups. This new structure provided support and guidance to local groups and a means of regular communication. It has also allowed local groups to have a mechanism for feedback and input into the national strategy. A significant section of the initial signatories and supporters of the Your Momentum campaign listed on our website is made up of local group roleholders who have been sustained and energised by this support - see this tweet as one example among many. These national roleholder meetings have now been put on a permanent footing as a result of the Refounding ballot.

More recently, Momentum has been able to find resources to hire a new staff member focused exclusively on supporting local groups. This dedicated staff capacity will make a big difference to many local groups and should help them to grow and build their strength and capacity.

Over the next two years we want to build on this. As mentioned above, finances depending, we want to explore ways to put more resources into the hands of local groups. We also want to use the opportunity of a new NCG to drive through a new round of engaging with and re-energising local groups. And we want to put in place some more structures for support across and between local groups within regions, as has been agreed by the Refounding ballot.

NSThanks so much for your time! We really hope this will be useful to Momentum members.

You can read our interview with Momentum Organisers here. The ballot will close on July 6th at 17.00 BST.

  1. The specific claim can be found at 1:34. 

  2. For example, the capitulation of SCG MPs over the Stop the War statement was the necessary consequence of a commitment to Labour Party membership: the threat of losing the whip will almost always effectively discipline left MPs, because of the strategic centrality of being a Labour MP. 


Your Momentum (@YourMmtm)

Your Momentum are Momentum members, including activists, local group roleholders and current members of the Momentum National Coordinating Group (NCG), who are campaigning as a slate for the 2022 Momentum NCG elections. Find out more at

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The New Socialist editorial collective.