Please find below another contribution to the debate about Momentum’s forthcoming national conference and its national structures going forward – from the Momentum group in Camden, North London.
I do not agree with everything in this document, but I am posting it so that people have access to it and can assess and discuss it, in order to push forward the debate.
There are some I don’t understand after a couple of readings (eg are the Camden comrades proposing that only delegates can vote at the conference, or all members by the internet?). More generally I’m somewhat surprised to hear there was strong opposition at the Camden meeting to the proposals I’ve put forward, since the structures they propose are not so different from those suggested in my document. I would be happy to come to another of their meetings to discuss it with them.
In terms of the issue Camden raises right at the start of overly strong national and regional structures, I would say: I am not suggesting such bodies should have a strong powers to over-ride local groups or set their priorities. I see autonomous, self-governing local groups as central to a democratic Momentum. What I am concerned about is the largely unaccountable power exercised by those in and around the Momentum office (the bureaucracy, if you will) and the need for strong central democratic institutions to bring the office under accountable control – which would allow the centre to have a better, more responsive relationship to the groups too.
I look forward to discussing with the Camden comrades.
Camden Momentum submission on structure (agreed at meeting on 24 .10.16)
The meeting agreed a draft submission, with minor additions, by 23-0 with 4 abstentions. We do not want to create a top-heavy structure. There was overwhelming opposition to Jill Mountford’s paper because it gave undue emphasis to regional/national meetings setting Momentum priorities for the branches, and would put disproportionate time into taking motions and recommendations. The meeting agreed with the spirit of Hackney Momentum statement calling for: (a) a moratorium on motions and (b) a discussion as soon as possible on what London Region Committee role should be.
The discussion of Momentum’s proposed structures and the method of voting to create it has to take place on basis of what Momentum currently is and what it hopes to become, that the structure follows the purpose. Momentum has huge aspirations. It hopes to transform the Labour Party (and ensure we win the next General Election with Corbyn as PM), in the belief that 313,000 who voted for him (plus those excluded and those denied a vote) can be mobilised into transforming politics and society. At the moment there is a long way to go in achieving either.
There are 20,000 members of Momentum and a larger number of supporters. It has a significant public profile, due largely but not exclusively to demonisation by anti JC LP figures and the media.
The report back by local groups to the London Regional meeting on 15 October was helpful but only gave a glimpse as to strengths and weaknesses.
Throughout the London Regional meeting, concerns were raised about the lack of accountability, transparency and democracy in Momentum’s current structures. While every allowance can be made for the difficulties of setting up a national organisation from scratch, with an ambitious agenda, lack of funding and dependence on volunteer staff by and large, there has not been significant leadership nationally, and therefore the current structures and leadership do not enjoy the respect which they might otherwise have had.
Furthermore, the aspiration of Momentum to be a grassroots fluid bottom-up organisation, in contrast to traditional hierarchical top-down political organisations, means that, at this stage, there is unlikely to be much direction or authority from a national leadership. Local groups will need to develop their own priorities and ways of working. They will need to take account of widely differing circumstances. Some will be in areas where we are able to challenge for political leadership in LP because they are moribund, in others we have to focus on winning over current middle of the road members. In some areas there will be more opportunities to relate to activities outside the LP, perhaps because the hard right has a grip on Councils implementing cuts.
Therefore a more federal structure is what meets our needs at our current stage of development. Regional and national structures would then be mostly about sharing information and best practice and not as forums for voting on policies (in contrast to discussing them). A national leadership needs to be in place, primarily to serve the local membership, (providing resources to services the branches: including sharing information, best practice, literature, campaigning material, lists of speakers etc) and to deal with raising the profile nationally (media etc).
Need for transparency and effective communication to all members. Worry less about “spies” as a reason to be coy.
A proposal to achieve this
Delegates to Conference to be elected by recognised Branches and other recognised groups, proportionate to registered members, and top up by regions.
Conference to be open to all to attend, with limited plenary sessions. The outgoing SC to ensure that it has provided full reports for consideration and acceptance by Conference. Resolutions geared towards broad policy discussion.
Delegates to elect National Committee, which would be heavily weighted towards representation of Branches.
National Committee to elect the officers and other members of the national steering committee.
Regional meetings to share experiences and contribute to 360 degree communications.
As greater strength and maturity in Momentum is built, at local and national level, it is expected the structure would be amended within a year to reflect this.
The meeting also considered the document “Process for deciding Momentum’s new structures” [circulated by Jon Lansman: see here]
1. Do you agree with the broad process outlined . . . ? No
2. Do you agree with the 3 categories of conference papers? Yes
3. Do you agree with the numbers needed to reach each stage . . .? No, too high
4. Do you agree with the dates and time scales? To be discussed
5. Any other comments or suggestions? See our document above
1. Voting at conference by delegates or on-line ballot . . . ?
Hybrid; by delegates, on-line and at conference.
2. If voting is by delegates, how should the delegate entitlement be calculated . . . ? See our document and agree with proposal for 50-50 gender balance. Ensure proper representation for BAME and other groups of members most likely to be excluded but not be tokenistic.
3. Apart from Momentum’s core documents, what should conference vote on . . . ? What we want from head office and national leadership.
4. What kind of sessions should the conference include . . . ? See our document above
5. Additional ideas . . . ? See above.
Draft proposed by Mike Tait Chair Camden Momentum