Momentum strengthens its democratic structures

Momentum has published the results of its ‘Refounding Momentum’ exercise. The outcome means an increase in internal democracy, with all-member conventions every two years, new regional bodies, term limits for office holders and the introduction of the STV voting system for leadership elections.

Additionally, Momentum will support candidates for the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party only after a binding vote of all members. Momentum was criticised in 2020 after its ruling National Coordinating Group (NCG) failed to offer a full choice to its members in the spring leadership elections.

Among the adopted proposals, the following stand out.

There will be a new online Convention held every two years, composed of eligible members and delegates from affiliated unions. It will have the power to decide on campaign and strategic priorities for the organisation, debate and vote on constitutional amendments and question NCG members and staff on the running of the organisation.

Regional Organising Forums will be set up to coordinate regional campaigns, put together Labour Party Regional Executive Committee slates, decide Momentum’s policy priorities for regional Labour Conferences and facilitate improved coordination and communications between Local Groups. Delegates from Local Groups will sit on these new regional bodies, improving regional coordination across the country.

Every member will have the opportunity to participate in one Momentum group – a Local Momentum Group (priority), a county group that catches missed people (as with Norfolk Momentum), or a regional group that catches missed people. Until now, Momentum has had a sizeable number of members at large, who are not members of any local unit. That is set to change.

Momentum will introduce a Single Transferable Vote electoral system for elections to the NCG. Three-quarters of respondents voted for this extension of democracy. “Under STV,” Momentum notes, “the number of seats a slate of candidates would get would be more proportional to the percentage of votes they received, unlike in First Past the Post (FPTP), where a slate preferred by more than 50% of the voters will win all the positions.”

This makes eminent sense. The battle of rival slates in Momentum in 2020 risked unnecessary factionalism in an organisation that was facing increasing hostility from the new Party leadership. A clean sweep for one slate over the other can risk losing vital continuity and experience in the organisation and taking its focus away from its central tasks, as Mike Phipps and Liz Davies argued at the time.

Term limits for the NCG will also be introduced. Members will be able to serve two consecutive terms and then have to take a break before running again. “Term limits can prevent the monopolisation of leadership positions by individuals and provide an opportunity for new leaders to emerge and develop,” suggest Momentum, an argument developed in more detail by Ewan Cameron in a recent Labour Hub article.

Momentum will introduce a right of recall, enabling members to trigger by-elections when a member of the NCG is deemed no longer suitable for a leadership position in the organisation. Other transparency and accountability measures were also approved.

Liberation forums will also be instituted twice a year for BAME, disabled, LGBTQ+ and women Momentum members, in which members that identify within these liberation groups can network, politically educate and organise together.

Taken together, these proposals are ambitious but should help make Momentum a more democratic, member-led organisation, which will strengthen its ability to reach out to and organise the socialist grassroots of the Party. The full set of proposals can be found here.

Image: Momentum banner. Source: Momentum at the Stop Trump Rally. Author: Garry Knight, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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