Momentum to expand base by engaging non-members – but is there a risk?

Sienna Rodgers

Momentum, the left-wing organisation that grew out of Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership campaign, is aiming to expand its supporter base by better engaging non-members, LabourList can reveal. The group currently requires its members to be Labour members, too. This is not set to change, but its national coordinating group (NCG) has decided to create a new category of supporter that will encourage non-party members to get involved with Momentum, increase their participation or maintain it after leaving Labour.

Currently, there are two categories in Momentum: members, who have voting rights (in policy primaries, for example); and supporters, who don’t have such rights. There are over 100,000 Momentum supporters, according to LabourList sources. Over the weekend, the NCG voted in favour of introducing a distinction among them – between supporters who are monthly donors and those who aren’t. The former will be classified as an ‘affiliate supporter’ or similar and start to get a specific offer that will be hybrid: they will not have the right to vote in Momentum primaries, but will be able to do more than sit on an email list and donate.

Who will be in this new supporter category? Its creation will benefit those who want to actively support Momentum without being a Labour member. This could apply to leavers: those unhappy with Keir Starmer’s leadership but who want to play a role in the movement. It could also include those who have not recently been Labour members but are involved with the outward-facing work that Momentum is keen to do: someone leading a local housing campaign, for instance, for whom Labour membership is not a priority but who could persuaded to join the party over time. The trickier aspect is that the new category could also appeal to those who have been suspended or expelled from Labour, or those who belong to a group proscribed by Labour.

This more awkward feature is why some on the left are concerned that the move could increase the risk of Momentum being proscribed by the Labour Party. At the last meeting of Labour’s ruling body, the party agreed to ban four small groups: Socialist Appeal, Labour in Exile Network, Labour Against the Witchhunt and Resist. The papers that went to the national executive committee (NEC) specified that supporters of these groups, rather than just members, would be automatically expelled from the party, which shows Labour takes into account not only members but also wider support bases when assessing organisations. Does this pose problems for Momentum, now looking to increase its extra-parliamentary work and engage non-members?

Backers of the NCG’s latest move don’t think so. They say no members of Labour-proscribed groups would be Momentum members, and point out that Momentum would still have a more stringent criteria for membership than organisations such as Open Labour (which allows registered and affiliate supporters of Labour, rather than just members, to join). And of course groups supportive of Labour, from Momentum to Labour First, are allowed to accept donations from people who are not party members.

Nonetheless, how this decision affects Momentum’s status still depends on the detail of the new category, the reality of who is accepted as a premium supporter, and the extent to which there is an appetite among Starmer supporters at the top of the party to proscribe the group.

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