Anita Downs
Dec 5, 2016 · 4 min read

My name is Anita, I am the other women’s representative to the Momentum National Committee, recently elected by OMOV. I too attended my first Momentum National Committee meeting on Saturday. I want to say how I found the meeting, I must also address the allegation that Jill Mountford bullied Huda Elmi. This is not true.

The main business we discussed was the structures of Momentum, and the upcoming conference.

As the meeting went on some people appeared quite agitated at the way the votes were going. Huda heckled and shouted that the votes shouldn’t be taken until after all the delegates had arrived. I have never come across this before. The time and date of the meeting was one of the things that had been given some time in advance, and the newly elected of us had been advised that we should only stand for election on condition that we were able to attend this meeting. To prevent those who were on time from using the time to make the decisions we had come together to make, because of the lateness of a few people didn’t make any sense to me. But a number of times Huda and others interrupted the business to try to stop the votes on these grounds.

Many of the people present became passionate about the votes. Jill Mountford frowned at a delegate from London, when the delegate refused to vote in the way she had been mandated to vote. She leapt to her feet to view the vote at times (which were within one or two votes almost every time). Many of us were craning our necks & trying to check the tellers’ counts. I think Jill may have protested at Huda’s heckling, but that was all. Huda got up and made speeches from the podium a number of times, I disagreed with some of what she said, but she did very well, at confidently and eloquently getting her point across, I thought.

Jill didn’t bully Huda. I spent half the day sat just behind Jill and the other half sitting in front of Huda, and there was no bullying, and I didn’t see Huda cry. Things were tense at times, but this happens when people present really care about the organisation they are working in. This is part of hearing, and discussing with people you sometimes disagree with. It’s not always very harmonious, but it’s the best way to make sure everyone’s views are heard, and the best chance we have to come up with the right decisions. And decisions, and structures are very important, this is a huge, unique important task that we have in Momentum, we have this opportunity now, to involve all of the members, and the people who have been inspired at the potential for huge change that Corbyn’s election has produced. This is a precious opportunity and we must make sure we get things right, I believe a delegate structure is the best way to acheive this, I think many of the delegate structures people have seen have been uninspiring — not through fault of the structures, but because the organisations have faded. For example the Labour Party was gutted of life in the years under Blair, and they tried to close down the very democratic structures in the Labour Party that we need in Momentum.

I would have been concerned if there were more emphasis on OMOV. In the recent Momentum vote, the OMOV technology, while new had hardly been impressive. Despite being able to stand as a candidate in the women’s section, I wasn’t given a vote until just a couple of days before the voting ended, I know someone who wasn’t able to vote until the last minute, someone else ended up in the wrong region.

The thing is that the structures that Laura and many others are labeling as outdated and failing, are the basic structures of any democratic organisation. To campaign, to change the world, to allow all the creative new ideas that people have to flourish, to be acted on, to really involve everyone, the fact is you have to have democratic structures. To keep the leaders accountable (for there will always be leaders) a delegate structure is needed. That’s how you hold people to account. Who says you can stand there and make decisions for us? — The people who voted for you, the people who gave you a mandate and the people who you must report back to.

There were people at the National Committee who made the point that some people find it difficult to attend local groups. The immediate solution is to have more local groups, so they are more ‘local’ to Momentum members. For areas where people are particularly geographically spread out, the groups may have to cover larger areas, and vary where they meet. These problems are not new, unions have been addressing them for decades, if not centuries — for particular groups of workers we have national branches. Modern technology can assist with delegate democracy (enabling more virtual meetings, with Skype & conference calls, web-chats and the like) but cannot and should not replace it.

It is a shame that the NC didn’t use the opportunity to give a fresh mandate for the steering committee (who are these leaders representing now?). But I was pleased that overall the committee agreed to continue along the tried and tested structures of a delegate structure. The alternative would atomise our members, it would fail to recognise the importance of local groups and face to face discussions, collective decisions and actions that are, surely fundamental to the idea of socialism.

But brothers and sisters, I believe that many of us want the same thing, you may disagree with me on delegate structures and OMOV, but we need to keep discussing and talking to each other we need all of us to continue towards our aim of bringing a socialist Labour Party to power. I hope that Huda and other young delegates who were at the NC are just beginning to bring all that they can to this movement, please don’t lightly smear your sisters with accusations of bullying. Jill Mountford is a dedicated socialist who will never stop fighting for our cause. Please let us work together.

    Anita Downs

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