Labour left activists have written to the current leadership of Momentum to demand that it facilitates online hustings for the upcoming internal elections.
In a letter to members of Momentum’s outgoing national coordinating group (NCG), 24 candidates hoping to replace them have made the call for a “proper debate”.
The signatories are all standing on the platform of new time-limited campaign group Forward Momentum, which unveiled its slate of candidates last week.
The #Forward24 includes Labour MP Nadia Whittome, metro-mayor Jamie Driscoll, former parliamentary candidate Jennifer Forbes and writer Alan Gibbons.
They have argued that Momentum, with its “well-deserved reputation for innovations in digital campaigning”, should be able to overcome technical difficulties presented by online hustings.
The activists also point out that volunteer-run Forward Momentum itself held video hustings as part of the open primaries process used to select members for its slate.
“Over 64 prospective candidates spoke and 500 supporters watched, after which nearly 2,000 supporters voted in our primaries,” the letter reads.
“Going forward, Momentum needs more, not less, of this engagement, which can provide an opportunity for grassroots activists and those without a large public profile or connections in high places to really make their mark.”
Momentum founder and current chair Jon Lansman announced via a LabourList piece that he would not be standing for the forthcoming internal NCG elections.
Another slate of candidates is expected to be released by rival campaign ‘Momentum Renewal‘ – backed by several Labour MPs – in the coming days.
NCG nominations will open on May 28th and close on June 11th, then a one-member-one-vote ballot will be conducted by Momentum from June 16th to June 30th.
Below is the full text of the Forward Momentum letter.
To the outgoing NCG,
As candidates for Forward Momentum, we are calling on you to reconsider your decision to not hold hustings for the coming NCG elections.
Momentum members deserve a meaningful debate about the future of our organisation. Candidates should be given a chance to engage with each other, debate our visions for Momentum and outline where there are key differences. Momentum must lead in facilitating this.
Such debates are part of what makes a healthy democratic culture, and at this critical crossroads for the left, they are essential. But if open democratic debate is not allowed and supported, it will only further reinforce the feeling among many in Momentum that democracy is an inconvenience to be managed. We know that many members have left Momentum or are considering leaving because they feel that they have no opportunity to get involved in important decisions.
While we understand the NCG’s concerns around the technical difficulties presented by online hustings, an organisation with a well-deserved reputation for innovations in digital campaigning such as Momentum is well-placed to overcome these obstacles. Indeed, in the general election Momentum hosted many successful Zoom calls, reaching out to thousands of activists.
At Forward Momentum we also recently hosted our own video hustings as part of our open primaries process for selecting our slate of candidates, despite our campaign being just six weeks old, without resources and run entirely by volunteers. Over 64 prospective candidates spoke and 500 supporters watched, after which nearly 2,000 supporters voted in our primaries. Going forward Momentum needs more, not less, of this engagement, which can provide an opportunity for grassroots activists and those without a large public profile or connections in high places to really make their mark.
Hustings are of course just one part of this election, and a small part of what makes an organisation democratic, but at this moment it is vital every effort is made to engage members, and fuel the debate on the future of Momentum.
Members frequently remark upon a culture of top-down decision-making in our organisation. We know because we have experienced it, and spoken to so many others who have experienced it. This culture has bred a sense of despondency and disengagement among members. A desire to change it motivated many of us to stand for election. Any action that can be taken to drive engagement in this election, and to encourage future participation in Momentum, should be taken, no matter how small.
So we respectfully ask you to start by implementing online hustings; let’s have a proper debate and then let’s get on with the much-needed task of transforming Momentum into the member-led and campaigning organisation we need it to be.
Harriet Protheroe Soltani