What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

8th October, 2015 3:40 pm

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour is in opposition and I hate it. This week I’ve been in Manchester where the Conservative Party had their annual Conference. It would be easy to feel impotent watching the government crow over how they are “making work pay” while cutting tax credits that clobber the working poor. According to the trade union Unison, the Tory policy will see a teaching assistant with one child earning £16,300 per year lose £1,845.20 per year. Or announce “affordable starter homes” that you’d have to earn £50,000 per year to afford (or a staggering £77,000 in London), according to the charity Shelter.

Thankfully, Labour is not just watching from the sidelines. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s new leadership, Labour will fight these unfair, costly and unnecessary policies tooth and nail with our allies in the trade union movement and civil society.

Opposition is about opposing. It is about fighting the Tories. But, it’s also about much more too. We can and must achieve an enormous amount before we win in 2020.

The Tories are trying to dominate political common sense, making their policies of defending the powerful and stigmatising the weak seem like the natural order of things. We have to shift the grounds of debate. Thankfully, there are a great number of movements and campaigners doing this already that Labour can team up with and amplify. Think of the Tax Justice movement and UKUncut. Without their work over the last few years, do you think David Cameron and George Osborne would be forced to pay lip service to cracking down on the massive tax avoidance they oversee?

The Corbyn campaign for Labour’s leadership excited and inspired so many people because at its heart contained the promise of democracy. Now we have to deliver on that promise of participatory democracy. Corbyn has already announced that Labour’s policy making is going to be much more open, using new technologies and the public’s skills and knowledge. Shadow Communities Secretary John Trickett is due to launch a series of Citizen’s Assemblies. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has encouraged people to begin participatory, democratic budgeting where they can in their communities and workplaces. This is the work of building real democracy outside Westminster. That work starts now.

To deliver on this promise of participatory, the Corbyn campaign has today transformed into the Momentum movement. Momentum is a network for people inside and outside the Labour Party to organise and build a mass, democratic movement for progressive change.

Momentum will help people develop their own organisations in their areas on the issues that most matter to them. It will assist these groups in campaigning and working with allies, but importantly in making real changes in people’s lives now. Already, activists are discussing setting up a private sector tenants’ union, cooperative childcare, a network of food banks, and much more.

Through these actions, we hope to make the case for a transformative Labour government in 2020 that brings people together to build a more democratic, equal and decent society.

Corbyn and McDonnell have said another world is possible. It is. That’s why we want a Labour government in 2020. But, while we grow ’til then, there’s so much to do to start building that world today.

Shelly Asquith is NUS Vice President of Welfare and was Student Youth and Young Trade Unionist spokesperson for the Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign

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