Congratulations, Momentum. What now?
The first two words of the title are meant sincerely. I disagree with much of what they want to achieve, but I can’t deny that they’ve done a great job of mobilising support. I’ve noticed more people coming to branch meetings and making motions in support of Corbyn, for example after Chilcot. My CLP nomination meeting was packed, and went in favour of Corbyn.
The pattern holds across the country. I know from watching Momentum social media accounts that there‘s been a big push to get people to turn up at these meetings. And that’s fine, genuinely. I’m a big believer in the “decisions are made by those who show up” maxim (thanks, Aaron Sorkin).
Meanwhile, as has been widely reported, Corbyn’s rallies have attracted large, enthusiastic crowds — while Owen Smith has spoken to small bands of committed but quieter supporters. We’ve seen that at the hustings, too — every one of Jeremy’s utterances receives rapturous ovations, while Owen Smith (often saying largely the same thing on most policies) receives a polite smattering of applause. And that’s simply because Corbyn’s supporters have less compunction about making noise. Good for them.
Slightly more controversially, I find it hard to believe that the “undecideds” who all swarmed to Corbyn on the Victoria Derbyshire debate were not packed by Momentum members, or at least Corbyn supporters. If you think I’m being paranoid, then check this out. But anyway, assuming there was at least some cheating, my main thought is still “well done”. They created a moment on a popular TV show that looked great for their candidate.
And it looks like Corbyn will be elected leader. Again, congratulations.
What’s the plan when Corbyn has to attend televised debates with a carefully selected audience, or he has to talk to genuine undecideds? Where’s the standing ovation coming from then?
What’s the plan when you realise that leaping up out of your seat to applaud a mediocre orator has been tried before, and doesn’t work — because to most normal people, it just looks weird?
What’s the plan when his opponent in those debates isn’t trying to win his fans over, like Owen Smith, but actually trying to utterly discredit him?
What’s the plan when Theresa May and the Tory election machine cranks into life, and they hammer your leader on IRA / Hamas / NATO / Falklands / traingate / fiscal irresponsibility / anti-semitism / inability to lead his MPs / Press TV / etc etc etc? Is there a rapid rebuttal for all these ready?
What’s the plan when it’s a general election, and you realise you can’t influence the turnout by sending an email to the entire population of the UK saying “there’s an important vote coming up, make sure you come along”?
What’s the plan when you take your message to the doorstep and his -41 ratings turn into living, breathing people?
What’s the plan when your members who turned up to meetings to vote in Corbyn turn out to be less enthusiastic about canvassing once, twice, three times a week?
What’s the plan for persuading 172 MPs that he’s a great leader, after all?
What’s the plan when you realise that the social media memes you put out are only reaching the people who agree with you anyway, while the Tories spend money on the precision targeting of floating voters?
What’s the plan if the unpleasant minority of Corbyn supporters turn their fire on the public in general, and it’s not just Labour moderates getting abuse in his name?
What’s the plan for overturning the Tory lead in the polls when the public trust Corbyn and McDonnell to run the economy even less than they trusted Miliband and Balls?
…is there a plan?