Momentum replaces Lansman with firefighter and climate activist co-chairs

Sienna Rodgers

Labour left organisation Momentum has replaced co-founder and former chair Jon Lansman with a firefighter and a climate activist as new co-chairs following internal elections for its national coordinating group.

The activist network, which grew out of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign, recently held contests in which members chose between 57 candidates. Forward Momentum won a majority of the NCG seats.

Meeting for the first time over the weekend, the new ruling body elected two among them to replace Lansman: climate activist Gaya Sriskanthan, who is based in New York, and firefighter Andrew Scattergood.

Sriskanthan is an active member of Labour International and the Democratic Socialists of America. She develops solar energy co-operatives. Scattergood is the West Midlands regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.

The pair, both elected on the Forward Momentum slate, wrote for LabourList last month setting out their aims for the group. They pledged to boost internal democracy, “put members in charge”, and transform the Labour Party.

Momentum has said that the first task ahead of the new leadership will be to negotiate with other Labour left groups to establish a single left slate of candidates for Labour’s upcoming national executive committee (NEC) elections.

Although Forward Momentum promised to ballot members before forming slates, it has been decided that there will not be enough time for a vote as the party’s deadline for candidate statements is July 10th.

In the new NCG’s first meeting, members voted in favour of putting Momentum’s data – currently owned by Lansman, who is no longer on the ruling body – in their own hands. They are confident that this handover will take place.

Commenting on their election, Scattergood said: “As a firefighter and Fire Brigades Union official, I’ll make it my mission to reach out across the labour movement and build cast iron bonds between Momentum and left trade unions.”

The choice of Bedford-born New Yorker Sriskanthan as one of the co-chairs represents a willingness for the organisation to do more international work and “deepen Momentum’s links with US progressive forces”.

On her election, she has stressed the need for Labour under Keir Starmer to back a Green New Deal and become a “driver of big economic change”, warning that the party will otherwise “crash and burn with the under 40s”.

“The pandemic has changed everything and people don’t want to go back to business as usual. There is an appetite for big, bold ideas and Labour will only win in 2024 if we are the drivers of big economic change,” Sriskanthan said.

The new co-chair has also criticised the Labour leadership’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd and its reaction to the leaked report on the party’s handling of complaints.

“Taking a knee is not enough,” Sriskanthan added. “It’s a tragedy that so many BAME people are leaving Labour and Keir must deal swiftly with the racism revealed by the leaked report and get Labour’s house in order.

“Momentum will do everything it can to make Labour a friend of social movements and welcoming for BAME people. Our party must reach out and work in earnest with the Black Lives Matter movement, not criticise it.”

13 NEC members wrote to Keir Starmer earlier in the week to complain about a statement on the leaked report that was sent by the party to journalists. Labour has said it was not intended as an official party statement.

Momentum Renewal put forward a rival platform in the NCG elections that was more closely associated with Lansman. But the slate was only successful in the four office holder posts elected by MPs and councillors.

Momentum founder and then chair Jon Lansman used a LabourList comment piece in May to announce that he would not be standing in the internal elections of the Corbynite organisation.

The supporter of Corbyn’s leadership and former campaigner for Tony Benn concluded that he would spend more time with his family “after working seven days a week for the better part of five years”.

Lansman also said: “I shall return to blogging and focusing my attentions on Labour’s national executive committee.” Whether he is included on the next left slate of NEC candidates will be revealed in the coming days.

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