Merseyside Momentum: the beginning of a movement
MOMENTUM MERSEYSIDE, LIKE HUNDREDS OF OTHER MOMENTUM GROUPS across the UK, was set up in the wake of the successful Jeremy Corbyn for Leader campaign. It has brought together Labour Party supporters, both veterans and novices, young and old, with the aim of pushing genuinely progressive policies within the Party.
With hundreds of people turning up to public meetings held by the Corbyn leadership campaign during the summer, the question was whether such enthusiasm could be translated into a functioning movement. From the beginning there seemed to be a loud left voice that had been awakened in Merseyside. The first meeting after Corbyn’s election had over one hundred attending with standing room only. Many who attended were new to politics and seemed to be attracted to the sense of hope that Corbyn’s campaign had brought during the summer – but for others this seemed like the beginning of something for which they had waited a long time.
The well known history of the Labour Party in Liverpool ensures that Momentum Merseyside is in a unique position. The right, which has dominated CLPs since the expulsion of Militant members in the 1980s, have used that experience as a means of attacking the group, labelling members (many of whom were not even around in the 1980s) as ‘Trot entryists’ intent on destroying the Labour Party. Yet we have been clear that Momentum is fully committed to supporting the Labour Party winning elections and entering government. We will be out on the doorsteps, alongside comrades who are not involved in Momentum, supporting Labour candidates in upcoming local elections just as we were for Jim McMahon in Oldham.
The debate about who is able to attend meetings and be involved in the decision-making process has taken up a lot of time both locally and nationally – and rightly so. However, with the Momentum National Committee agreeing on a policy of keeping the membership and supporter status open to any person who supports Labour – and only excluding those who support opposing parties – we can now begin to develop as a movement. Similarly, there have been some concerns about how some youth and equality reps had been elected to the National Committee but these should be seen for what they are, teething problems.
As Momentum Merseyside, we have become one of the more organised branches. Already, we have held elections for what is a gender-balanced steering committee and have developed a programme of political education. Similarly, Momentum Merseyside Youth has been born, which is the first of its kind in the country, with its own elected committee and a bigger focus on mobilising disenfranchised young people and student activists.
We have seen new local groups in Sefton, Chester and on the Wirral. To continue to grow, we need to do more to reach out to minority groups across Merseyside whose needs have for too long been marginalised and ignored, resulting in a widespread distrust of mainstream politics and politicians. Until then we cannot claim to properly represent the area.
We are committed to doing all we can to help Labour win elections, including Joe Anderson in the mayoral election in May. We believe in the New Politics espoused by Corbyn and are determined to deliver a socialist Labour government in 2020. This means being out on the doorsteps and speaking to the public on behalf of our Party. However, the big issue with the mayoral election is that a lot of new members were stopped from voting in the trigger ballot due to a rule introduced by the Party which meant that those who joined after April 2015 were unable to take part in electing a candidate on February 2nd, 2016.
There is a tension between those wanting Corbyn to succeed and the politics of the local party because Joe Anderson and many of the councillors are hostile towards Corbyn and members of the left. Momentum Merseyside must therefore continue to build a network of people who support Corbyn, providing a platform upon which they can influence the decisions made in their own CLPs.
As Momentum Merseyside, we are a collective brimming with hope and enthusiasm for the future. We are tired of the corrupt politics that grants socialism to the top one per cent of the country while the rest of us are left exposed to the consequences of free market capitalism. We are angry about the continued assault on our NHS, the vile attacks on the poor, the disabled and working people under the cloak of ‘austerity’ and the total lack of action from our politicians to resist the destruction of our planet.
The rise of Bernie Sanders in the US, the Podemos movement in Spain and, of course, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader shows the appetite for change. Momentum is part of this movement.