How do you solve a problem like Momentum?

Sienna Rodgers
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We’ve seen plenty of coronavirus news in the last 24 hours. The government has committed to publishing care home deaths daily. Testing should now be available to millions more. British Airways decided to make 12,000 staff redundant in a decision described by Unite the Union as “heartless”. And Priti Patel will finally face the home affairs committee this morning.

But across the labour movement, there is much focus on the unexpected resignation of GMB general secretary Tim Roache. He was only re-elected in November, making this an abrupt change. Further details when confirmed, and the appointment of an acting leader, will be covered on LabourList in due course.

In other Labour news, Momentum has set a timetable for its overdue internal elections. Contests for new national coordinating group (NCG) members should be held annually, but in 2019 they were delayed by local elections, then the general election and Labour leadership race got in the way. They will now be held entirely online, and conclude on June 30th. The intra-factional divisions within Momentum, already evident for a long time to anyone involved with the Labour left or paying attention, are increasingly being played out in the open.

We’ve had the recent launch of Forward Momentum, since backed by John McDonnell. The campaign wants to “refound” and “democratise” Jon Lansman’s organisation, bringing a greater focus on political education, organiser training and member-led campaigns. They are preparing to put together a slate of candidates for the NCG. There is now also Momentum Internationalists, who launched yesterday.

The difference between the two? The idea is for the latter to work with and within the former. MI do not intend to run a different slate for NCG, but instead promote candidates within FM. MI activists also reckon they have more specific demands, going beyond the democratisation of Momentum to include transforming trade unions, for example. The group has more links to Labour for a Socialist Europe and Another Europe is Possible, and there are members of Trotskyist group Alliance for Workers’ Liberty involved as acknowledged by Michael Chessum.

Reflecting on the different paths that Momentum could take and the reasoning behind the reorientation of the organisation, Sabrina Huck argues that Labour left activists need to wrestle with some existential questions. She also makes the point that Momentum might want to focus on organising to improve the conditions that a left-wing Labour leadership would step into, rather than working to maintain a left leadership that will then be heavily constrained as seen in the Jeremy Corbyn era.

Also worth reading: a piece by Huda Elmi, member of Labour’s national executive committee, who explains what exactly is going on with BAME Labour reforms – or rather BAME reforms in Labour. There is a lot of confusion around this issue, and her contribution offers a much-needed clarification. Once you’ve read that, take a look at the launch of the Labour BAME Network.

Keep up with LabourList today as we bring you essential news from the labour movement and the party. We will be reviewing PMQs this afternoon, though Keir Starmer will not yet face Boris Johnson. There were reports that the Prime Minister was too ill, but the birth of his son has also just been announced.

The two leaders were scheduled to catch up over the phone at 1.30pm – we don’t know whether that is still on, but we have a good idea of what Starmer would say. Matt Hancock told the press conference yesterday that the NHS contact-tracing app should be up and running in three weeks, and 18,000 people working as tracers should also be ready by then. Starmer will likely urge the government to set out more of its thinking on a lockdown exit strategy today.

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