Report of 15 October London Momentum regional meeting

This report was written by my fellow Lewisham delegate Sacha Ismail. He says feel free to email him questions or comments at sacha_isma@hotmail.com. My email is jillmountford@rocketmail.com

The London regional Momentum meeting which took place on 15 October revealed a growing organisation with substantial life, but one that needs more organisation. Hopefully that meeting and the additional one that has been scheduled for 29 October (to discuss national structures and re-elect National Committee reps) represent the start of that process, including the start of meeting regularly.

In February, following a grassroots revolt against proposals to create undemocratic structures essentially appointed from above, Momentum established regional networks to coordinate groups (two reps per registered group) and elect the bulk of the NC. The London region met twice but then did not meet for six months.

The 15 October meeting was attended by about 45 people, 35 of whom were delegates representing about 20 London groups (there were some groups not present) and a smattering of other Momentum organisations (including youth, disabled, LGBT, women).

There was wide political diversity in the room. About half of those present were women and about a quarter BME. There was a big age range and some young people, but mostly it was comrades between 30 and 50, I’d say.

Each group present reported for three minutes on their activity, which sounds arduous but was actually very helpful and encouraging – there is a lot of good work being done, from supporting cleaners’ struggles in the City of London to winning the nomination for a marginal council by-election in Tory Wandsworth. New groups are still appearing, particularly in West London.

Seema Chandwani, secretary of Tottenham CLP, led off a discussion about Momentum’s highly limited intervention inside Labour Party conference and the need to do better at the upcoming London Labour conference (12 November). There was some discussion about what Momentum could have done differently at national conference and the lessons that should be learned, as well as about the need for democratic control over who Momentum backs and puts forward in internal party elections.

Because there had been no meeting for so long and because the notification was sent out at short notice, there was controversy about whether to take motions. Underlying this was a wider disagreement about whether the region should take motions at all. Some argued that motions are inherently undesirable; others that voting on motions without mandates from groups is never acceptable. Clearly having every meeting entirely taken up by motions would be undesirable, but without the ability to put proposals there is surely no possibility of democratic decision-making. While mandating may often be desirable, it would have been absurd to take no decisions at the 15 October meeting.

By clear majorities, the meeting decided to discuss and take positions on two things: 1. a proposal about campaigning against expulsions and suspensions from the Labour Party, from Lewisham; and 2. a statement about Jackie Walker’s removal as Vice Chair, which supporters of Global Women’s Strike had put forward. This did not come from a group but de facto represented a number of groups who have voted for Walker’s reinstatement as VC.

The motion on expulsions and suspensions passed almost unanimously, to go forward to the 5 November NC, with a clear consensus that Momentum’s inaction on this issue is a real problem. Unfortunately the line supporting the Stop the Purge conference in Nottingham was deleted by a margin of two votes after some bizarre attacks on the AWL (we are “Zionists”, supposedly; we are involved in Stop the Purge; therefore Stop the Purge is Zionist and cannot be supported… I think most delegates felt they didn’t know enough about the campaign and this crazy, sectarian stuff made some feel uncomfortable).

An attempt to delete the call for Corbyn and McDonnell to be bold on these issues, motivated by Global Women’s Strike supporters on the explicit grounds that Momentum should not even criticise the Labour leadership by implication but simply support what they say, was overwhelmingly defeated.

On the removal of Jackie Walker as Vice Chair there was a long debate. London NC reps Jill Mountford and Michael Chessum, who both also sit on the national Steering Committee and voted to remove Walker, explained their decision; while fellow NC rep and London regional chair Delia Mattis explained why she disagreed and criticised how the decision-making process had been handled by the Steering Committee’s chair Jon Lansman.

Eventually, by a margin of three, the meeting deleted the call to reinstate Walker as chair and substituted a call to campaign for her reinstatement in the Labour Party.

(See below for the text of both motions passed.)

By that time it was 4pm, we had been there five hours and the meeting had still not discussed the upcoming question of Momentum’s national structures. Delia Mattis proposed holding another meeting on 29 October to discuss that as well as other issues, and to hold a new election for representatives on the National Committee – which was agreed.

On the proposal of Lambeth delegate Ruth Cashman and Wandsworth delegate and former Ritzy worker Rob Lugg, the meeting organised a collection for the Picturehouses living wage strike. Hopefully the next meeting will talk about outward-looking, class-struggle campaigning activity as well as the vitally important question of democratising Momentum.

***

Click here for the London region statement/petition on Jackie Walker the meeting agreed

• The motion passed on expulsions read:
“Momentum will, in line with previously agreed commitments, start seriously and publicly campaigning against unjust expulsions and suspensions of individuals and local parties from the Labour Party – and for reform of the party’s structure and processes to stop such factional abuse of the party machine. It will also include calling on Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and other left-wing Labour Party leaders to be bold on these issues.”

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