An empowered mass movement will help Labour rebuild Britain

Laura Parker

Whether rescuing crumbling public services from the ravages of austerity or mounting serious resistance to the global rise of the right and climate change, today’s challenges demand that we build a powerful, purposeful, dynamic movement. Rooted in socialism, solidarity and internationalism, such a movement is the only meaningful response to the political alienation that so many felt as they cast their EU referendum votes over two long years ago.

In 2017, Labour’s empowering campaigning smashed through politics as a public school debating chamber and relocated real discussions about real lives in communities across the country. Millions of people were energised by principles, vision and values.

Maybe inevitably, and at least partially deliberately, Brexit has since then reduced much of politics to process, the big point of it all lost in the incomprehensible small print of endless amendments. Across the country people have been relegated from active participants in their future to spectators of parliamentary pantomime as a band of reactionary bigots in the Conservative Party seek to drag us back to a past that never existed.

The abject failure of our floundering Prime Minister to strike a deal is a masterclass in how politicians cannot lead if they will not listen. Labour must do the opposite. It must find a way of bridging the gap between those in the elected bubble and activists, trade union members and civil society organisers.

Ours is a party awash with talent and ideas, with people who need no green bench status to quietly get on with the work of transforming their communities. From the cafe staffed by ex-prisoners in Harlow and a network of food banks in Lancashire to the renters’ unions in Brighton and Bristol and the app developed to link migrants with lawyers in Manchester, up and down the country, Labour Party and Momentum members are finding some of the answers to the difficult questions of how this country can really work for the many. It is they who should be on stage at party conference.

They are the antidote to the inevitable risk of ambition being squeezed out of policy in the airless corridors of Westminster. They are the critical friends who can support our party to retain its radicalism. They will be the engaged base of organised workers, developing local and regional plans, integral to implementing John McDonnell’s alternative forms of ownership. They will ensure Labour goes into government with the right agenda and when it does, we will provide strength to deal with the inevitable confrontations with entrenched power interests.

Whether it is the thousands of classroom assistants, teachers and lecturers who are ‘ordinary’ Labour Party members, or the train drivers, nurses and council workers in our midst, the extraordinary experience and wisdom we have must not be wasted. This is why Momentum is so keen that the process of party democratisation is not halted and that reform of the National Policy Forum be taken forward as soon as possible – set out so well by Rachel Garnham’s article on policymaking.

Amongst our thousands of members are the community leaders, councillors and MPs of the future. They will be encouraged into action with training and mentoring – not procedural motions and Any Other Business. Labour’s new community organising unit team get this. Momentum is also making a contribution, including most recently launching a programme supporting young BAME activists – essential when Labour shamefully selected just a handful of BAME PPCs last year.

Invited in and skilled up, our hundreds of thousands of members can then truly reach out, way beyond the lowest-common-denominator positioning of Brexit battered politics to transcend divides across the country – an empowered mass movement that will help Labour fulfil its promise of rebuilding Britain.

This piece was commissioned by Labour Together, which is guest editing LabourList this week.

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