For a report of the NC meeting by one of the Momentum NC LGBT reps, Josie Runswick, which explains what was agreed and passed in some detail (including text of motions), see here.
For thoughts on the way forward after the NC by Steering member Michael Chessum, see here.
By Ed Whitby, Northern (North East and Cumbria) regional delegate
Today’s Momentum National Committee (3 December, Birmingham) was long overdue – no meeting for seven months, due to repeated cancellations of the NC by the Steering Committee – so the agenda was absurdly full with proposals about how to run the forthcoming conference, how delegates should be elected, how motions will be decided, etc, as well as motions on other issues.
In summary: the left, more radical, pro-democracy wing of the NC won on some democracy issues including the structure and powers of the upcoming national conference, passing policy for a conference of delegates from local groups that can meaningful decide Momentum’s policy and plans; as well as on some other issues (eg defending freedom of movement and migrants’ rights, and fighting expulsions and suspensions). But the more moderate or conservative wing managed, by one vote, to block holding a new election for the Steering Committee, even though it was elected ten months ago (before many events, controversies and issues arose) for a six month term – and the May NC agreed the SC would be subject to new elections in July!
At the start of the meeting there was controversy about the new delegates from the regions and equalities groups, elected by online ballot of members, with uncertainty who had the right to vote. Delegates also questioned the representatives from left groups (CPLD, Compass, LRC, Labour Briefing Coop, Open Labour, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, Labour CND; it’s not clear if anyone was there this time from the blog Left Futures which previously “delegated” Jon Lansman). These organisations have not chosen to affiliate; Open Labour refused to back Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election – so why are they represented on the Momentum NC?!
There was also concern over delegates elected from the regions in online ballots for those supposedly not covered by local groups, for a number of reasons – because some of those elected actually appear to be in groups, because of the tiny number of votes cast (the lowest was one person elected on nine votes) and in one case a region being given an extra delegate when it seemed they shouldn’t have been.
The big majority of delegates actually representing local groups via the regions were for holding a new election for the Steering Committee, for democratising Momentum, and for a democratic conference deciding policy and the organisation’s direction. Without votes from some online ballot-elected regional delegates, some of which were elected in a dubious manner, and various Labour left organisations of doubtful involvement, the result on everything would have been clear.
As it was, votes throughout were close or faily close, with some recounts; the chair, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack having to consult with staff members to ensure everyone voting was entitled to vote; and difficulty in counting the votes due to the room being packed with poorly identified people including staff and volunteers.
Right at the start of the meeting we lost, by one vote, the proposal to hold new elections for the national Steering Committee. Thus a committee elected seven stormy months ago remains in place, despite the fact it includes three people (Sam Wheeler, Michael Chessum, Marsha Jane Thompson) not re-elected to the NC. Two (Sam and Marsha) were not even present today. I suspect if this vote had been held later in the day it would have gone differently. Certainly without the dubiously elected delegates backing the incumbent SC majority it would have been.
After that, the key votes:
• The NC voted for a sovereign national policy-making conference, representing members via local groups with most of the time committed to motions and debate, as well as political education.
• That this conference should make policy and establish a constitution.
• We voted down the proposal from the SC majority that we could only discuss three key areas.
• We voted that the conference would be on 18 February, 25 February or 4 March (25 February clashes with Scottish Labour conference).
• We voted for a composite from the Northern, London and Midlands regions advocating motions can be submitted one each from local groups, liberation groups, students and youth, affiliated unions, the NC and regional networks; three weeks before confernece; with compositing, an e-forum to discuss motions and an online priorities ballot.
• Two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof (at least gender balanced and groups sending more than four must send at least one young person).
• Those not covered by a group can send at same rate elected by ballot.
• If not covered by a group 30 people can submit a motion.
• Liberation groups and students and youth can send delegates, to be agreed by NC in consultation with these groups subject to verification of structures and elections.
• We elected a Conference Arrangements Committee of seven people: Alec Price, Huda Elmi, Josie Runswick, Delia Mattis, Lotte Boumelha, Jackie Walker, James Elliott.
• We voted against complicated formulas for voting and instead for simple delegate voting at conference.
• We voted that group delegates should be elected at face-to-face local Momentum group meetings.
This seems like major victories for democracy. The risk is that the incumbent Steering Committee will try to void or get round these decisions. We must urge them not to do so.
With such a packed agenda, we didn’t have time to vote on the 16 motions submitted, but we did vote:
• For Momentum Youth and Students’ proposal to fight for migrants’ rights and to defend and extend free movement, and fight for Labour to do the same. This could be very significant indeed.
• A national housebuilding program.
• The North West region motion for action against suspensions and expulsions form Labour and in defence of Wallasey, Liverpool Riverside and Brighton and Hove Labour Parties.
We must circulate the text of these motions and start pushing for action on them asap.
No votes were taken on censuring the SC, on basic accountability, on the Momentum company structures.
We agreed each region would be represented on a mapping working group and a member of the SC would take political responsibility to lead the mapping and local groups and data issues, as this is very contentious and clarity and clear decisions are needed.
It was agreed that the SC will meaningfully consult with regional networks on staffing structures, including specifically a discussion about regional organiser posts, before making any decisions on this.
In summary: many good proposals were won, but the failure to re-elect the Steering Committee, and the fact there were various efforts to pack the NC, leaves many issues of democracy unresolved. On the other hand, given that, the victories the left won were even more impressive. However, there is a real risk the democratic gains achieved today will be overturned. The membership must fight to stop this happening.
Momentum is a major step forward for the Labour and labour movement left, and we must continue to work hard and struggle to maximise the outcome from this potential. It is good that the Momentum NC has once again shown itself to be a democratic body with real life and refused to simply accept what is presented to it.
Please note, this report was written the night of the NC, to get something out fast. It may be wrong on this or that detail. Please check back for more coverage and analysis soon.
Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions: firstname.lastname@example.org