Throughout my NEC campaign I have had the great privilege of speaking at Momentum meetings across England. From Southampton to Liverpool I have been so inspired by the inclusive and democratic local groups that have sprung up in such a short space of time. I met countless young people who were enthused by the Jeremy’s Leadership campaign and tried to get involved in their local Party only to be confronted by bureaucracy and, in some unfortunate cases, outright hostility. It is interesting how Momentum groups are serving as a bridge between the new and enthusiastic membership, and the party’s out-of-date structures. For many members it is their Momentum group that tells them when, where and how to get involved with their CLP or Branch, not to mention being the friendly faces to welcome them when they arrive.
But it’s not only young and new members who are attracted to Momentum. I’ve met so many members who have either returned to the Labour Party after many years, or who, after maintaining their membership despite disagreements with consecutive leaderships, have had their confidence in the party immeasurably lifted. These are people who have devoted their lives to the labour movement and the struggle for social justice, and it is through Momentum that they are finding their way back to the heart of their local parties, where they belong.
I am convinced that Momentum has the potential to transform our party into the democratic, inclusive and grassroots movement that we need to take on the Tories. But more than that, I believe that Momentum, as a crucial component of the Labour Party, has the potential to transform our politics and our society. Momentum can open democratic participation in the political system. This means going beyond the bare bones elections and accountability – which are of course vital in a democratic society – and moving towards participative models that empower communities to make decisions for ourselves.
Our party and our political system were forged in a different era. Today we live in a world where technology allows us to communicate at an unprecedented speed, allowing networks to outperform hierarchies in gathering knowledge and making effective decisions. But our political system has not caught up. Momentum is beginning to change that in the party and it can be the model for change in society. I welcome the Labour leadership’s initial movements towards participatory budgeting – giving local communities the power to decide spending priorities – but think we can go much further. Our political system is broken and millions of people feel alienated. The Labour Party can and should take responsibility for finding a way out of this democratic crisis.
And the word ‘crisis’ brings me back to the state of the party I cherish. We cannot preach democracy and leadership if we do not practise it ourselves. This chaos must end. Labour MPs have a right to express their opinions and they hold the privileged position in the Labour Party in their ability to call for a leadership election. If they have serious concerns with the direction that Jeremy is taking the Party then they should use this process to put forward a competing vision for the country. But they do not have the right to hold our party to ransom, they do not have the right to abandon the country when it is in desperate need of leadership, and they do not have the right to use bullying as a tactic to get their own way. I urge them put an end to this turmoil, call a leadership election if they wish, and in the meantime work with the Labour leadership to help steer the future of our country in these turbulent times.
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