A note on priorities for the UK left

Momentum’s fresh start is excellent

The election of Donald Trump, the Tory swing to hard Brexit, UKIP’s evolution into a Trump-backed populist movement — demand two things from the left of the Labour Party: urgency and focus.

Corbyn’s big hits on Theresa May, and the disarray of the Tory cabinet over the NHS, show how we can win.

It’s not a question of policy anymore: Corbyn’s policies, outlined in the Ten Pledges he fought for leadership on, are the basis around which the left should organise inside the party.

They’re being fleshed out into a viable programme for government by the Labour front bench, and the left needs to be in there, bringing the lessons of grassroots struggle and new ideas into the policy process.

In the first half of 2017 I believe the pro-Corbyn left in Labour needs to focus as follows:

  • Turn the NHS Crisis into a crisis of validity for Theresa May
  • Winning the Copeland and Stoke by-elections with good local candidates, and campaigns where we learn on the doorstep instead of preaching
  • Forensic opposition to Theresa May’s chaotic Brexit strategy
  • Mayoral campaigns in April, and the county council elections, where we put Labour’s new, radical message to the fore
  • A targeted fightback againt the UKIP-Tory tag team: where the government creates a crisis and UKIP fills the vacuum with racist poison.

Through it all we need to support the Labour leadership in its attempts to get the party ready for a snap General Election. And we need to expand the democratic reforms Corbyn is proposing, overcoming resistance from the stay-behind remnants of Blairism (though some don’t seem to relish staying behind).

For all these reasons I welcome Momentum’s decision to adopt one-member-one-vote direct democracy.

I welcome its new aim of qualifying for affiliation to the party itself. There is no need for Momentum to have detailed policymaking apparatus, or a parallel delegate structure to Labour itself.

It’s of secondary importance whether Labour allows Momentum to affiliate: what’s important is that its members are following the same rules and priorities as those of the party itself.

We should continue to fight the expulsions and CLP suspensions on a case-by-case basis, while abiding by the decisions of the Labour Party NEC and its subcommittees, so long as they are legal.

As for campaigning work, we need the Labour left to focus around the timetable and objectives set by the campaign team in Labour HQ guided by Jon Trickett MP, the election co-ordinator.

Does that sound like becoming a foot-soldier? I hope so, because an army of campaigners is what we need right now — with a simple message, clear language and the courage to stand up against racism and xenophobia.

As an individual member of Momentum, I want to see it at the forefront of activist training, political education and the renewal of the parliamentary party with new left MPs. It should go on templating new kinds of activism, learning from the social movements and networks.

Anybody in Momentum who’s not a Labour member should join now. I will go on fighting to admit those expelled or suspended on spurious grounds. But that means, as I’ve said before, dissolving for real and forever the far left Bolshevik re-enactment groups.

There’s probably one more ideological bust-up yet to happen inside Labour, when the Shadow Cabinet and the NPF actually decide on what the concrete migration policy should be, now Freedom of Movement has been sidelined as a principle. I’ll be contributing to that debate.

But beyond that, “what should we do?” and “who should lead the party?” are questions that were solved in 2016. We need to get on and do it, in the only place it matters — the hard-pressed working class communities of Britain.