Members Should Have the Say on Who Momentum Backs for Labour Leader
by Kallum Pembro and Elliot Dugdale
19 December 2019
With the potential for divisions among the Labour left, Momentum must empower its members by letting them democratically decide who it endorses as the next Labour leader.
With all wings of Labour already looking to the upcoming leadership contest, Momentum now begins the process of deciding who to endorse as the next leader of the party. With its considerable communications apparatus – including a mailing list of over 300,000 subscribers – Momentum will have considerable influence over who succeeds Jeremy Corbyn.
Momentum was created after Corbyn won the 2015 Labour leadership election. The circumstances of that campaign were very different: the left of the party was broadly united behind a single candidate, who clearly opposed austerity and stood in stark contrast to the three other candidates.
This time the situation is more complex. It is unlikely that any candidate will openly disavow Labour’s 2019 manifesto, while the Corbynite wing of the party holds differing opinions about the general election defeat, which could influence choices in the leadership election. In this context, there is a real danger of activists becoming disillusioned if there is a coronation of one leadership candidate by Momentum’s governing body without consultation of the membership. In our view, this disillusionment could lead to the Labour left splitting our limited resources and energy between two or more candidates, strengthening the chances of any well-resourced centrists.
The Labour right want us at each others’ throats, hurling blame at each other. This will only play into their hands and lay the ground for a more centrist leader, who will reverse the progress we have made under Corbyn.
We must not lose sight of what we ultimately fight for – a socialist Labour government that will put power in the hands of the many. Over the next few years we will need to redouble our efforts to build a popular majority for a transformative socio-economic programme.
To make this happen, we need to elect a socialist as the next leader of the Labour party. We also need to continue with our campaign to democratise the Labour party so that it is capable of channelling the energy of the hundreds of thousands of party members into action, turning it into an organising force in working-class communities across the country.
Momentum must practice what it preaches. The best way to mobilise Momentum’s members and make an effective intervention in the leadership election is through open debate and democratic decision-making. We need to create as much space as possible for members to deliberate about the way forward and then to act collectively. Hence, we argue that Momentum must allow its members to decide who the organisation will endorse in the Labour leadership election through a one member, one vote online ballot.
This process will engage Momentum members and, importantly, will subject leadership candidates to scrutiny from the left. Although some Momentum members may still choose to support different candidates, if the process is democratic many will choose to unite behind the candidate endorsed by the majority. On the other hand, if Momentum’s leadership tries to impose a candidate without involving the members, it runs the risk of alienating members and even the possibility of the organisation fragmenting.
Our politics can no longer be based on horse-trading and behind-closed-doors decision making. This is evident in the anger towards the NEC’s imposition of parliamentary candidates during the run up to the election.
The election campaign saw tens of thousands of Labour activists, many of them Momentum members and supporters, travel the country campaigning for a transformative Labour government. We are already seeing attempts by the political establishment to pressure Labour into ditching its policy programme. It is vital that we maintain the energy and determination shown by these activists during the general election and redirect it into this upcoming leadership election and beyond. Momentum were right to put trust in members to show leadership on the doorstep, they must trust us again to choose who we campaign for in the leadership election.
We are asking Momentum members to sign a petition asking the organisation to hold a vote on who to endorse as the next leader.
Kallum Pembro and Elliot Dugdale are organisers with The World Transformed.