How to win again: Some ideas for Moderates

Last night, I attended a meeting with the charity “MigrantVoice”, an organisation set up to help migrants in the UK to get their stories heard in the media to change the narrative around immigration and empower those currently demonized by newspapers to take back some control in a conversation largely about us, not with us.

During the two hour session, I heard from people working on so many different, fascinating projects from interfaith women’s groups to education projects. These people were inspiring, brave and creative. It is exciting to be around them, it makes you want to be part of something bigger, too.

This is probably how it feels for many new Labour members when they get involved in Momentum.

It frustrates me to see arguments unfold on social media in which some Labour moderates openly dismiss grassroot engagement, social movements and activism.

I understand the frustration they feel. I agree with them that the Labour Party first and foremost should be a political party, operating in parliament, seeking power through winning elections to deliver a policy portfolio in government.

But how do we get to this winning policy platform?

Labour moderates value the conversation with voters on the doorstep. I believe we need to pursue a joint approach of conversation — both listening to the public through campaigning, but also by listening to grassroots activists who work in communities. They can deliver insights we might not otherwise have.

Being a member of a moderate faction of the Labour Party appears to be a lot more of a passive affair. One can read or contribute to magazines and blogs and attend events, but there seems little scope to get active within your faction, network with others and shape the ideas and policies the group wants to put forward.

Moderates should reach out to community groups and support a more active model of involvement in their faction if they want to win back control of the Labour Party and encourage more Labour members to support their side of the argument. By offering something exciting to be part of, by giving members the opportunity to take action, they will achieve more than by focusing on denouncing their opponents.

Momentum’s “The World Transformed” festival of politics, art and culture alongside Labour Party conference illustrates how the organisation can function as a big tent for other social movements. It can act as a catalyst for ideas generated on the grassroots level to reach top ranks in the Party. There is no reason why moderates should not pursue a similar approach.

Only through challenging their own ways of operation and thinking, moderates can develop fresh ideas which can shape a new winning platform — for the party selectorate and for the general voting public. They need to understand why Corbyn rose to power and what motivates most people behind him.

There are people in Momentum, some of them in key positions within the organisation, who describe themselves as Trotskyist or revolutionary socialist. But most new members will not think of themselves as that, especially if members are just at the beginning of their political journey. There is still time for moderates to win some of the new membership over, but they need to act quickly, before it will be too late and their wing will face years in oblivion.