Momentum democracy: how the organisation ignore its own flawed rules

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By Dave Levy, Lewisham Deptford CLP

I felt the need to re-read in detail Momentum’s Constitution. Much has been written about the post 2017 Momentum’s lack of democracy, but here are five things that they promise and seem to ignore.

1. Except for the OMOV petitions, all decisions are taken by or on behalf of the National Co-ordinating Group who also have absolute powers of delegation. The full membership of the NCG is not publicly known. Acts/Instruments of delegation are not published to the membership and so we do not know what powers of decision or authority those individual officers have nor who they are. This secrecy also applies to the finances of the organisation, to the deliberations of the Membership Council and to the HR Policies.

2. The NCG must organise an annual national conference which “shall provide opportunities … to discuss the organisation’s performance and campaigning objectives”. This year, an organisation of 41,000 members held its annual conference in a room with 200 seats, I am waiting reports as whether there were any votes and if the accounts were presented[1].

3. it is a rule that the NCG, “shall ensure there is an online facility to enable members to propose…”, basically, rule changes and campaigns. This does not exist; Alena Ivanova had to go to the Action Network to launch her campaign proposal to #stoptorybrexit.

4. They have a membership grandfathering rule which allows donors from prior to Jan 2017 who were not members of the Labour Party to remain members of Momentum.  (There’s some oddness in the expulsion rules in that even a dues arrears leads to people being deemed to have left the organisation). There’s no separation of duties between investigation, prosecution, judgement and appeal in the expulsion process. I don’t think this would stand up to comparison with ACAS code on disciplinary matters.

5. Momentum’s constitution specifies the powers of the NCG (§13) which they are required to exercise in pursuit of the association’s aims (§3). Nowhere does it mention campaigning for internal positions within the Labour Party, or as PPCs. It seems to be an oversight since between general elections, its all they seem to do. Other comrades are looking to catalogue the unwelcome interventions by the Momentum national office in selections and other local internal affairs.

They just don’t seem to care as the lack of consistency shows, they have historically opposed CLP Momentums (except in one or two cases where it suits them for a particular reason of factional control), sneered at informal CLP organisations and interfered in various autonomous left initiatives. We should be asking them who they think they serve.

Much of Momentum’s democratic deficit has focused on the composition of the NCG (and its predecessor).

The NCG consists of up to 25 members, of whom 12 are elected in three constituencies by all (40,000) members, the remainder are elected by affiliates, members holding public office and momentum’s Scottish and Welsh sister organisations. It also has the power to co-opt[2] an additional 4 members and elects its Chairperson. One curiosity is there is an Affiliates division consisting several left-wing campaigning organisations of varying sizes and degrees of democratic governance. One of those “affiliates” is Jon Lansman’s now defunct blog. This would seem to be an interesting take on ‘one member one vote’.

I have written widely[3] about the need for, and impossibility of building trustworthy e-voting systems. The failure to have a system and failure to publish the IT Risk register, and the IT Controls[4] is both a breach of rules and trust.  Furthermore, there are no rules relating to the transparency or accountability of the finances, and the Membership Council and NCG might as well meet in secret. The whole organisation is shrouded in an unacceptable cloud of secrecy.

Notes

[1] They weren’t!

[2] This maybe designed to ensure representation of women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ representation.

[3] davelevy.info/tag/e-voting

[4] How can the losers in the Democracy Review ballots, know that they lost fairly? Some of the votes in the Democracy Review submissions site were very close and the last hour suspiciously changed things a lot.

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