by Lorcan Mullen, CfS rep, Momentum NCG
The National Coordinating Group is the governing body of Momentum, with quarterly meetings and annual elections for its various seats. Contentious decisions requiring quick responses are typically made within the smaller NCG Officers Group, which is elected from the broader NCG. NCG minutes can now be found at http://peoplesmomentum.com/ncg/
The key themes of discussion in recent NCG meetings have been: party structures, slate formation and slate management, Brexit, and managing a maturing organisation grown out of short-run campaigns.
Momentum has led and coordinated campaigns leading to unprecedented left power within key Labour Party structures. The NCG has advised and reviewed the conduct of these campaigns, and the conduct of NCG Officers / Momentum staff throughout Conference. While we have made incredible progress in recent years, there is much regret at the fate of the Democracy Review, largely scuppered by block voting from the largest affiliated unions. Despite disappointment at some TU decisions at Conference and the NEC, the NCG has made it clear that we cannot tolerate a 'members vs unions' dynamic, not least because so many Momentum members and activists are passionate, active trades unionists. We hope for renewed cooperation between members' reps and left TUs to make a party fit to build sustained socialist change throughout the country.
The NCG has also pushed its Officers towards more transparent decision-making at key moments. This should allow for maximal democratic input, but also allows NCG reps to link meaningfully with the local groups and members who elect them. This in turn should allow for more trust and discipline from left delegates broadly affiliated to Momentum. Due to the nature of decision-making within party structures - characterised by backroom dealing, shifting alliances and constant tactical and strategic considerations - it is not always easy to take soundings from reps all round the country, but where possible, this is what we want to see. We also hope to build a deeper link with representatives of Jeremy's office. We are a loyal force dedicated to supporting and sustaining Jeremy and the left's leadership of the party, but we cannot allow ourselves to be taken for granted.
Reflecting feedback from a number of Scottish activists, I relayed criticism of the Willsman exclusion to NCG Officers, and supported others in pushing for a more coherent, transparent method of forming 'slates' for Labour Party elections. Momentum is not the only group on the Labour left, but has responsibility for marshalling those forces and takes the brunt of criticism when things, as sometimes happens, go wrong. Momentum's candidates are endorsed by NCG Officers after an application and interview process, while other groups are a little more ad-hoc. Again, there is a difficulty merging a process of horsetrading and prolonged negotiation with a nationally transparent process, all under the scrutiny of a hostile press and establishment. With that said, NCG Officers have heeded recent criticism and I'm confident that will be reflected in future practice.
Brexit has been discussed a number of times within the NCG. This has come about after sustained lobbying from a substantial minority of members and the democratically decided position of the TSSA, a left union with representation on the NCG. After much debate, the NCG has consistently reaffirmed a position of doing its utmost to limit political headaches for the party leadership, allowing them space to play a near-impossible hand on the way to a General Election victory. Based on feedback from the CFS exec and Scottish activists, I have consistently argued for this position.
According to reports at our most recent NCG, Momentum continues to grow, with membership moving well past the 40,000 mark. Despite this growth, resources remain scarce, as the organisation matures in to a permanent entity with a need for stable office space, equipment and decent pay and conditions for its workforce. As well as coordinating successful campaigns within Labour Party structures, Momentum wants to play a role building socialist hegemony in Britain, laying the foundations for political success beyond the cycles of Parliament. As part of this work, and in line with the CFS-originated policy on political education, The World Transformed has begun work to develop a national political education programme, starting in early 2019. This will take a while to scale up from a number of local pilot projects, but the plan is to have centrally available resources, a speakers network for CLPs, and advice and limited training for those willing to establish political education programmes in their CLP or locality. I have been closely involved in this work, and hope to report on further progress in 2019.
As ever, if people want to ask NCG-related questions or feed back on Momentum-related issues, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also happy to speak to local groups, if you would like to have a more in-depth insight in to the workings of the NCG.