By Rebecca A, Yorkshire and Humber delegate (personal capacity) Last weekend’s meeting of the National Committee, the first since April, agreed a series of proposals that provide a framework for growing and strengthening the organisation through a process of democratic debate and campaigning.
The run up to the meeting had seen a certain amount of tension and this was reflected in a sometimes fractious debate. However, many of the disputes have their origin in the Steering Committee’s refusal to hold a National Committee meeting for so long.
It was inevitable that by overreaching their mandate the Steering Committee’s actions would leave many people feeling disenfranchised and frustrated. This frustration caused some rude and uncomradely behavoiur at the meeting that at future meetings all participants need to avoid and the chair should challenge.
Nevertheless, Saturday’s meeting agreed to hold our first national conference in February or March next year, elected a conference arrangements committee to oversee its organisation, and voted to commit Momentum to campaigning in defence of migrants’ rights and to help members and Labour Party branches fight against unfair disciplinary action.
The decisions strike a balance between addressing some of the organisational shortcomings and providing a campaigning focus that all members can unite around.
The NC voted at the beginning to amend the order of the agenda to ensure that the most important decisions - organising the conference, electing the Steering Committee and discussing motions on policy - were brought forward to ensure adequate time for discussion.
The NC voted by a margin of one not to re-elect the SC, leaving the original SC members, whose mandate expired in July, in place. This means that three of those are no longer members of the NC, having been replaced by other regional delegates. It also meant that the NC, which has a large number of delegates newly elected by the regional committees was not able to elect an SC that reflected the composition and growth of the organisation.
Given that the current members of the SC agreed to be elected on the basis of a limited term of office, it is extraordinary that they would renege on that commitment and remain in post without seeking a renewed mandate. At the very least, those without an elected position to the NC should have made way for replacements with fresh mandates.
Unfortunately this display of sharp practice was compounded by the presence of delegates whose democratic credentials for having voting rights on the NC was dubious at best. As it stands, Labour CND, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, LRC, Labour Briefing Coop, CLPD, Compass, Open Labour and Jon Lansman’s blog “Left Futures” each get a delegate to the NC. Compass supported a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Richmond Park byelection, and Open Labour in no way shares the “aims and values” of Momentum.
It should go without saying that only organisations which have decided to seek affiliation and been accepted should have a voice in a leadership.
This was the first NC attended by the delegates recently elected through an online ‘One Member One Vote’ (OMOV) process. This ballot was conducted last minute and problems included men being given a vote in the women's delegate election and the North East, London and Yorkshire & Humber being allocated delegates they weren't entitled to.
The elections were a transparent attempt to create an artificial majority on the NC but a large minority or even a majority of the OMOV delegates ended up voting for a delegate conference. Since Momentum has no constitution, it seems fairly uncontroversial to suggest that the NC, the most representative elected body, should have final say on who its voting members are.
What is disappointing is that rather than put the effort into building national equalities networks over the past year or give others the tools to do so, the Momentum SC has used equalities and democracy as political footballs in their factional struggle. This results in the candidates who nominated themselves in good faith being unfairly associated with bureaucratic manoeuvres.
The NC then voted on the seven criteria for organising the national conference.
The conference will take policy as well as on structure, aims and ethics.
NC decided that the CAC will pick the most suitable date from February 18th, 25th, or March 4th.
Each branch, liberation group, youth and students, affiliated union, regional committee and the NC will be able to submit one policy motion, with details and deadlines TBC. There will be an online discussion forum and an online priorities ballot.
Local groups will elect two delegates per 100 members or part thereof, to be gender balanced. Elections will take place at meetings called for this purpose.
Members not in local groups will elect delegates on the same ratio, organised by regional online ballot. Any 30 members not in a local group may submit a motion.
The number of delegates from the liberation groups will be decided by the January NC after consultation.
A seven-person CAC was elected by the NC to take forward organisation of the conference subject to the decisions of the NC and SC.
Some people have suggested that the narrow margins in the NC votes imply an unwillingness to compromise for the good of the organisation. In my view this misses the point about what has happened.
There has been a vigorous and wide-ranging debate about the purpose and role of Momentum from its inception. The second leadership election campaign and victory stimulated that debate, drawing many thousands more into discussion.
The alternative proposals have been well rehearsed for many months now. But during that debate, the Steering Committee majority used their privilege and the office resources to repeatedly pre-empt, and stymie democratic discussion and resolution of differences. This has been the major cause of a hardening of resolve - on both sides.
The point should be made that many of the NC delegates were recently elected from regional committees elected by members of local groups. Most were mandated by those groups following the discussions that have taken place around what kind of conference we want - a discussion in which all sides have been heard.
Many of those voting against delegate democracy have their vote on the NC through opaque means and are completely unaccountable to Momentum’s members. If the NC was only composed of delegates elected by the members, the majorities for proposals would have been dramatically different - and far more representative of what the members want.
The only reason there appears to be an irreconcilable 50/50 split in Momentum’s leadership is because of the attempt to create an artificial majority on the NC. The reality on the ground is completely different.
In spite of everything, Saturday’s NC adopted a clear process for going forwards. The method adopted for the conference creates an imperative to organise new branches and provide members with the means to actively engage and shape Momentum’s direction through debate and elections.
In the meantime it gives all sides of the debate a clear direction on campaigning together to defend the rights of migrants and counter the purges and suspensions in the Labour Party.
That is a pretty positive balance sheet. Now it remains for a comradely debate to inform the selection of delegates and allow our national conference to do its work of firmly establishing an organisation fit for the ambitious goals we have set ourselves.