Momentum Dispatches Investigation Contains 'Slurs' And Inaccuracies, Corbyn-Supporting Group Claims

But Channel 4 says its report is 'vital'.

17/09/2016 16:48 | Updated 18 September 2016

Left-wing campaign group Momentum has rejected alleged claims in an upcoming Channel 4 Dispatches investigation that it is an ‘entryist’ group secretly plotting to deselect MPs opposed to Jeremy Corbyn.

A Dispatches exposé set to air on Monday sees an undercover reporter spend six months working with Momentum, the grassroots movement that supports Corbyn.

Channel 4 has put a series of allegations to Momentum ahead of the programme, the group claims, including what it calls “slurs” that it is being used to undermine the Labour Party, is secretly organising for MPs to be deselected and has been funded by the Opposition’s official ‘Jeremy for Labour’ campaign.

Rick Findler/PA Wire
Corbyn speaking at a Momentum event at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.

Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith accused Momentum of using the Labour party as a “host body” to promote hard-left policies, and HuffPost reported in August that a Momentum conference was stuffed with speakers who have a history of opposing the party.

A spokesperson for the group told The Huffington Post UK that Channel 4’s ‘The Battle For The Labour Party’ investigation has exploited its “enthusiastic and young activists”, and that some allegations are “slurs or matters of opinion”.

A Momentum source said: “Lawyers are looking at it and we’re minded to take this to Ofcom.”

But Channel 4 told HuffPost UK its report was “a vital piece of investigative journalism” on an issue “of critical national importance to everyone in the UK particularly in a period of political flux.”

In response to the alleged claim that Momentum has an “entryist” problem, the group’s spokesperson told HuffPost UK that Dispatches tried to find evidence of “a serious entryist plot, involving Momentum, to undermine the Labour Party.

“The program has failed to do so because no such plot exists.”

The spokesperson said that Momentum is not campaigning for deselections or mandatory reselection of MPs and “Labour members are free to organise as they see fit for candidate selections”.

It said any suggestions Momentum has been funded by Corbyn’s leadership campaign were false and claimed that in fact, Momentum has provided loans to Jeremy for Labour.

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Momentum holding a 'Keep Corbyn' demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament.

Momentum also complains that the Dispatches programme focuses on the actions of the left-wing Alliance of Workers’ Liberty, which it claims has around 100 members.

“Neither Labour’s well over half a million membership, nor Momentum’s 18,000 paying members and over 150 local groups with perhaps 1000 people holding “positions of influence” can be controlled by an organisation of 100 members - no matter how old the hands of the few and how young the arms of the many. Trotskyites are not setting the agenda,” said the spokesperson.

The Dispatches reporter volunteered for Momentum before joining Jeremy for Labour as a paid staff member, Momentum told HuffPost UK. She then worked on the ‘volunteer mobilisation team’, often with members of Momentum who she filmed and recorded, it said. 

Other accusations which Momentum claims Channel 4 has put to it include that the group’s relationship to the Jeremy for Labour campaign “has been dishonestly concealed”, that it has improperly managed data and that Momentum members engaged in threatening behaviour some of the group’s AGMs.

The spokesperson denied the relationship between Momentum and the Jeremy For Labour campaign was not transparent, saying it was a matter of public record. 

It said that the reporter’s actions have “disappointed and hurt a number of people” and “concerns about the impartiality” of Channel 4.

Rick Findler/PA Wire
Corbyn is backed by the Momentum, which launched after he became the party's leader.

“Dispatches and [the reporter] have exploited two of the strongest attributes of Momentum and the Jeremy for Labour campaign: their enthusiastic and young activists and their open, welcoming approach,” the spokesperson said. “[The reporter] initially volunteered for Momentum before joining Jeremy for Labour as a paid staff member.

“On the campaign, she worked on the volunteer mobilisation team, spending a significant amount of time mobilising Momentum activists on behalf of the campaign. [The reporter’s] work was highly regarded, she was a vital part of a vibrant, close-knit team, and considered a friend by many. Her dishonest actions have disappointed and hurt a number of people, but most especially many of the young volunteers she worked so closely with.

“[The reporter] covertly filmed and recorded people, including young campaigners (under 18) and others who were in the campaign offices or at open meetings over an extended period. Those of the accusations made on the basis of information gained by [the reporter] which are true are freely admitted. Many of them are a matter of public record.

“Others could have been learned by openly attending public meetings, or by simply asking a question, rather than through lying. Other “allegations” are, properly analysed, slurs or matters of opinion which will raise more concerns about the impartiality of the broadcaster than anything else.”

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “Channel 4 has a remit to deliver high quality news and current affairs, and a track record for investigative journalism and holding those in power to account. This is a vital piece of investigative journalism, on an issue of critical national importance to everyone in the UK particularly in a period of political flux.”

The Dispatches programme ‘The Battle For The Labour Party’ is scheduled to be broadcast at 7.25pm on Monday 19 September.

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