Momentum conference in February: let’s take this opportunity to democratise Momentum (proposal to the NC)

I promised some more general commentary on the ways Momentum needs to change this week. It is coming, I promise! Meanwhile, a specific proposal to meet specific and very urgent needs.

In part because of the short timetable imposed by the bad way this has been handled so far and the lack of information circulated, some of this may be confusing or hard to follow. Please feel free to email me with questions and queries as well as comments: jillmountford@rocketmail.com. I’m also happy to come and speak to Momentum groups and regions about this.

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BRIEF SUMMARY: The Momentum Steering Committee has repeatedly delayed putting out any long term structural proposals. Now some individuals within the SC have put out a very complicated document about how to decide the shape of Momentum’s February conference which effective bypasses the elected National Committee and creates a very opaque and difficult system for deciding what happens. Myself and another NC member, Ed Whitby, have produced what we hope is a much simpler and more democratic proposal. Essentially this involves
One: the 5 November NC taking control over the shape of the conference – which after all meets very soon, in February;
Two: organising a conference based on delegates from local groups, the best way of ensuring meaningful democracy;
Three: establishing a simple, accessible system for groups, regions, members, etc to make proposals to the conference including about Momentum’s longer term structure.

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LONGER EXPLANATION: Following an initiative by Momentum activists around the country earlier this year which won agreement from the National Committee, there will be a national Momentum conference in February. We need to agree timetables, procedures and a provisional structure now to allow all Momentum groups and individual paid up members to understand how they can take part and facilitate them doing so. This is a crucial opportunity for us to push forward the much discussed and needed democratisation of Momentum.

While myself and another Momentum National Committee member, Ed Whitby, were drafting this proposal, a document was circulated from the office to the regional networks (or, it seems, some regional networks) arguing for a complex system for deciding how things will move forward (to read it, see here). This document has been billed as coming from the Steering Committee, but in fact has not been voted on by any Momentum body (Local Group, Regional Network, National Committee or Steering Committee). In fact it was not even seen by any Momentum body, including the Steering Committee, before it was put out. But most importantly it is over-complicated and confusing, while effectively bypassing the National Committee, which – whatever its faults – is by far the closest thing Momentum has at present to a national democratic, representative body. It also creates very large barriers to submitting proposals at various stages, thus entrenching the power of the central Momentum bureaucracy against activists and groups in the process.

Now, the procedure as administered by the Steering Committee has been poor – huge and repeated delays, virtually no relevant information circulated, no meaningful consultation. This now means that if no straightforward procedures are agreed at this 5 November NC, then this will continue to perpetuate the problem of decisions being made undemocratically and unaccountably (the circulated paper tries to present this as being democratic and “open” because “unmediated” by the NC – what this means in practice is that the democratic structures we have are carved out and the office will decide). The simplest and most democratic solution now available is for the NC to agree a procedure for this conference which allows for maximum involvement of local groups and regions and ability for all to propose constitution and policy for Momentum.

In place of the circulated document referred to above, we propose the following simple procedure:

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ACTUAL PROPOSAL: Proposal on way forward to 5 November Momentum National Committee
(Download this proposal as a one-side PDF you can print off here.)

i) the 5 November NC decides the date and the basic shape of the February conference including delegations, timescales and ability to submit motions. The NC should elect a reasonably large and representative conference arrangements committee (say of 10) to take things forward, confirm venue, and agenda, deal with and resolves issues that arise and delegate tasks to staff to carry out – this body and not the Steering Committee should have the ultimate say.
Below is our proposal that we want the NC to adopt (“Proposed composition of February conference”).

ii) between the 5 November NC meeting and Monday 9 January, the NC, each local group, region, group of members above a certain size (say 50) and equalities group can submit two motions to the conference – whether constitutional (ie proposals for the permanent structure of Momentum) or about Momentum’s political orientation/what we stand for or about policy. These are published on 9 January on the website.
The conference arrangements committee sorts out a system of compositing (i.e. each group names a contact who can liaise with others proposers to composite motions together to reduce the number by Friday 20 January).
Regional Groups are proposed to meet between 20 January and the week before Conference to vote a priority order i.e. 1 to 20 on motions. This leads to a score for the priority motions nationally and each Regional Group nominates a member for the Standing Orders committee to agree the order for motions and timing for speeches.

Proposed composition of February conference – submission to 5 November NC

Delegates elected by local groups (this has already been agreed by the NC), on the basis of number of members in that area. A final figure of delegates to be agreed by the CAC in consultation with the National Committee but we suggest something between 1 delegate per 20 members-1 delegate per 40 members (or part thereof) – with a minimum of 2 and maximum of 10, ascending in twos. Delegations must be at least half women and with at least 1 youth for delegations of 4 and above and 2 for delegations of 8 and above.
This would produce a conference of roughly 4-700 people, which seems a reasonable size in terms of logistics and also in terms of meaningful democratic participation and control (not too small and not too big).

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Appendix: a proposal for the NC, groups, etc, to make to the February conference – or base their proposals on

Together with other Momentum activists, we have drafted a proposal on what the final structure agreed in February should look like. Essentially it involves a similar conference to the one described above, annually; a National Council of about 70, elected partly by the conference and partly by regional networks (plus union reps, etc), which then elects most of the Steering Committee; and various other basic measures of democratisation including circulation of minutes. No doubt it can be improved. Please circulate!

Download PDF here

Email me your questions, comments, requests for me to get in touch or come and speak: jillmountford@rocketmail.com

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4 thoughts on “Momentum conference in February: let’s take this opportunity to democratise Momentum (proposal to the NC)”

  1. As one of many new members, my instinct is to trust those who originally set Momentum up (just as we trusted the very effective six-person slate for Labour’s NEC), may I ask if there is a way of finding out what founding members think in respect of democratising Momentum?

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