I HAVE MY DISAGREEMENTS WITH MOMENTUM and how it organises as a left grouping in the Labour Party. However Momentum’s organisation in the General Election was outstanding and I have nothing but admiration for how the organisation used social media and new technology to full effect as an organising tool.
I was campaigning in Hampstead and Kilburn, a marginal before the election, and time and time again I would meet mainly young people who had made their way to the CLP via the Momentum app, ‘my nearest marginal’. This was reported all over the country. The app had 100,000 hits during the campaign and 10,000 hits alone on the Friday before the final weekend. Momentum videos and other social media support such as Jeremy Corbyn for PM reached a third of UK Facebook pages and one video alone got seen by 7.6 million people.
On the day of the election a WhatsApp message, which could easily be shared with all your contacts and gave info on how to help with the campaign, is believed to have reached 400,000 people. The sheer numbers of people turning up to committee rooms showed how effective this was. Often people queued around the block or in the street to be given jobs of door knocking. Some were not even Labour members. Up to 8,000 people pledged online to campaign for Labour on the day. Eleanor Smith, Chair of Unison Labour Link and now MP for Wolverhampton SW, a marginal which was a key Tory target, thanked Momentum in her acceptance speech. It was clearly not just a London phenomenon.
The Labour Party itself has a lot to learn from this sort of campaigning. Members often get messages from Labour about the nearest canvass session, not discriminating between safe seats and marginals. I witnessed someone arrive in my ward in Islington North from Hackney South, both safe seats, as that was where Labour’s email link said to go. Campaigning information and canvassing sessions details are not held centrally.
The Labour Party is playing catch up with Momentum. Perhaps some MPs and others will stop throwing insults and instead welcome the role of Momentum. The Labour left must continue to work with Momentum even though there remain very real concerns about its democratic procedures.