THE BLOG

Momentum: Building the Labour Movement

30/10/2015 08:47 GMT | Updated 29/10/2016 10:12 BST

Walking up Coldharbour lane in Brixton, South London on an autumnal Thursday morning I was preparing to meet a group of strangers who I was now loosely organised into a new 'Momentum' group with.

We had all agreed to an interview with Norman Smith for Radio 4's Today programme to discuss the new group. As is so often the case nowadays this had all been organised through social media.

Momentum is the new group which has been set up as the successor to the Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader campaign. It is still in its infancy, has no democratic structures as such (yet) and no specific rules to follow (other than an Interim Code of Ethics). Local groups are springing up across the U.K and many of those involved are still coming to their own conclusions about exactly what Momentum is.

It's hard to know what the BBC journalists were expecting from this loosely grouped gathering of activists but I suspect there was an element of surprise when it became clear we were not a group of so called 'hard left wingers' calling for the armed insurrection and demanding a workers revolution now.

This caricature of the 'hard left' is being peddled out by the media and some Labour MPs in a bid to discredit Momentum. The fear of the unknown and the dread that there may be a layer of new and enthusiastic activists ready to build a movement for social justice is palpable.

What became clear from the interview and discussions about the various groups being set up is that Momentum really is capturing the excitement, optimism and desire to build the movement that the Jeremy Corbyn campaign sparked. And crucially that it is bringing people to politics that have not been involved before.

What is also evident is that Momentum is made up of people from many different parts of the political spectrum. Seasoned campaigners, newbies, trade unionists, students, Labour and Green Party members. And in the era of 'a new kind of politics' there is a necessity to respect where we are all coming from to ensure we can get to where we need to be.

Crucial to building Momentum will be the ability of local groups to be inclusive and outward looking. To welcome all these different strands, to identify what we can learn from each other, to develop campaigns and to organise within our communities and trade unions to deliver a Labour victory in 2020. But most importantly to develop a new layer of activists ready to lead the fight for a better world based on the principles of the Labour Party, reinvigorating and enlivening our current structures.

Momentum's first day of action on 24 October was a voter registration drive, a campaign that will need to form a crucial part of the Momentum strategy to deliver a Labour victory. The day of action cuts across party divisions, who can argue with a campaign seeking to build democracy and encourage more people to vote?

The other message that we were all keen to get across during the interview is that many of the activists involved in Momentum genuinely want to work with (and are indeed members of) local Labour parties.

We want to engage in the structures, support the canvassing and campaigning work that many of them are already doing, not cut across, undermine or duplicate. We hope too that experienced Labour Party members will want to engage with Momentum groups and mentor new activists getting involved with the party for the first time, welcoming new members to meetings and taking them under their wing.

The strategy, aims and structures for Momentum may not yet be clearly worked out and in many respects that doesn't really matter at the moment. But one thing is abundantly clear: the idea that people are apathetic, won't engage in politics or don't care who governs them is being smashed and Momentum may hold the key to unlocking the possibilities that this new era of politics represents.

It is now becoming clear that those engaged in Momentum don't neatly fit a stereotype the press have so far keenly portrayed in order to fit a narrow narrative. Hope, enthusiasm and a desire to build a stronger democracy can cut across even the most cynical of critics.

Whilst much of this new social movement appears uncertain there is one thing I am sure of, for me, politics has never been this exciting and there's no way I'm going to miss it.

If there is the slightest hope that Momentum can invigorate the Labour movement, build an inclusive space for discussion, education and action which ultimately aims to end the austerity agenda of the Tories then from where I'm standing we've got nothing to lose.