Naked Politics Blogger
It seems almost an age since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. However, it’s only been seven months, and a lot has happened. Despite all the controversies and successes, the press remains hung up on Labour’s internal divisions. Whilst they should be focusing on policy issues or real world events, Britain’s press is besotted by the fact that a major party in British politics is so at odds with itself. Whilst their right wing motives implore them to attack Labour at every opportunity, they do have a point. How can the second largest party, whose duty it is to provide effective opposition and scrutiny of the incumbent government, carry out its job when the party cannot unite behind its leader, mutters behind his back, disagrees on major issues and constantly undermines any form of cohesion?
This lack of unity looks far from being repaired. If we are to find a major blockade to peace to peace in the party we should look to the mass movement that rose up to sweep Corbyn to leadership. Corbyn engaged thousands of people with his leadership campaign; former Labour supporters alienated by New Labour or lacked belief in Ed Miliband, current Labour voters who have been waiting for something more socialist, or new voters in general, those who had no previous interest in politics due to the mainstream centre left/right and boring politics that Britain has experienced for decades. This mass of support had one thing at its core: radical left thinking. Out of Corbyn’s support base came Momentum. As in their name, their aim is keep up the momentum of the support for Corbyn’s ideas and movement, to keep the energy and engagement of the people alive. Whilst the group may have good intentions and left wing views, to which I am an advocate of, their existence undermines the future success of Corbyn’s leadership and the Labour party.
When the party should be focusing on scrutinising the Tory government and deciding upon policy alternatives, Momentum places a further wedge into the already established divisions in the party. Many Labour MPs voiced their opposition to Corbyn’s views, arguing he would lead the party to ruin by 2020. These ‘Blairites’, ‘Brownites’, moderates, social democrats, or whatever name you have for the many factions of Labour, are just plain stubborn if you ask me. Ideally these MPs need to accept their member’s choice and support their new leader. However, Momentum can be just as much a cause for concern. The fact that a group of this type, almost a party within a party, exists will only push the anti-Corbynites further away. It seeks to make the voices of Corbyn’s supporters heard, yet in the process silence and discredit those who oppose him. Whilst it doesn’t explicitly state this, it acts as a front to criticise Labour MPs who dare to hold other views. It operates similarly to the party, holding local meetings to discuss the vital issues. Yet that’s exactly what the party is for. How can a party be run by discussing policies at one meeting under the name ‘Labour’ yet discuss them again under ‘Momentum’. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Momentum wants to keep alive the drive for progressive change in politics, by ramping up support for Corbyn inside the party and will seek to do so by outnumbering the Corbyn opposition in the party with Corbynistas. As long as the entity that is Momentum continues with its aim, Labour MPs not on the same footing as Corbyn will move further and further away as all they can is a scheming plot to undermine their views and role in the Labour Party.
Not only this, but the style with which Momentum presents itself in its campaigning only adds to the trouble it causes Labour. Promoting radical left-wing ideas is what the party needs, but doing so by encouraging protests and pickets of Labour fundraisers leaves the re-emergence of many radical groups such as the Militant Tendency and Trotskyists as a worrying possibility, just as the party is trying to reconnect with the population rather than lose them. There is even talk of the Socialist Worker’s party trying to infiltrate the party and that is certainly far from what Labour needs right now. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are intelligent, calm and well-mannered people. The opposite to the sort of figures that have put so many people off 21st century politics. Their approach and desire for a ‘kinder’ politics that discusses the real issues of the day and ‘brings values back to politics’, is one of the reasons there has been a surge in support for the new leadership and mass engagement in contemporary politics. Momentum doesn’t give off the image that Corbyn’s new leadership endorses a ‘kinder’ politics if it threatens the opportunity of violent and aggressive left-wing groups forming part of the party’s identity.
Whether Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have anything to do with Momentum is irrelevant. They need to distance themselves from the group. Momentum will never impact his leadership in a beneficial way. Whilst its aim is to bolster support for Corbyn, the division in the party will grow larger until the day he is ousted. By not associating himself with the group and attempting to disband it, he could ease fears in the party as well build new relationships with moderate centre-left MPs. Corbyn advocates democratic socialism, he is open to many views in the party and he wants there to be open debates. Yet Momentum completely refutes this possibility. It demands Labour MPs support their views or face the wrath of the Labour grassroots. That is not how a democratic socialist party should work. If party members want to make a difference in the party, promoting left-wing values, making it a socialist party once more, they need to mobilise inside the party at local, regional and national discussions. The party is there to stand up for workers and ordinary British citizens, and that is where members should be influencing Labour’s policy stances, not as a separate entity. The beauty of the Labour party is that it can incorporate many views. It is structured to encourage debate as the process to forming their policies. If Corbyn is whom the members support, then they should be supporting him under the name of Labour, not Momentum.