Momentum’s broad left slate

Momentum is currently conducting its internal elections. Fortunately there are a number of sensible broad left candidates, who if elected, will move the organisation forwards, away from intra-left squabbling, and focus on working to strengthen the left generally under JC’s leadership, and securing a Labour victory at the general election.

These are the candidates I recommend

London and South East

Puru Miah

Pascale Mitchell

David Braniff-Herbert

Christine Shawcroft

Wales, South West, West Midlands, East Midlands, Eastern division

Cecile Wright

Martin Menear

Sam Poulson

Liz Hames

Northern Division (Northeast, North west, Scotland, Yorkshire and Humber)

Gemma Thornton

Nav Mishra

Elizabeth Hayden

John Taylor

As soon as this pub closes

I was fortunate enough to be at the Brick lane launch of Trade Union Pale Ale (TUPA) last Friday evening.

A more public launch is planned at a pub in Salford in February. There will be a £5 entry charge, with pints of TUPA selling at £2 all night. Music to be provided by Joe Solo, Conor Molloy and Boss Caine. The event is supported by ASLEF, FBU, GMB, RMT, Thompsons Solicitors and TSSA. Contact Brigadista Ale for details

However, the London launch upstairs in a rather intimate curry house was for the trade union sponsors, and I was there as a (admittedly small scale) customer, as my GMB branch has made an investment in 100 cans, along with assorted mugs, jute bags, and now T-shirts.

TUPA follows the success of Brigadista Ale as a fund raising project for Hope Not Hate. Selling at a very reasonable £2 per pint drawn from the barrel on the launch night, the beer certainly proved popular, and is a quality product, with a slightly fruity body to it.

Creating a fun and vibrant culture around trade unionism is important to sustain the networks and relationships of trust which the movement relies upon, and indeed providing a welcoming atmosphere for new activists to enter into. Top marks to Matt Wrack of the FBU for a spirited rendition of the ballad of Casey Jones, and Steve Hedley of RMT for a song about Irish volunteers in the Spanish civil war.

My own acheivements were more modest, managing to drop curry down my shirt, and accidentally spill beer over an ITN journalist!

Anyway, it is a good beer. Buy it and drink it. In so doing you help raise money for Hope Not Hate.

Community need to face the consequences

The criterion for success for any trade union campaign is whether or not it leaves organisation weaker or stronger.

A hundred years ago, the German socialist, Rosa Luxemburg, observed that trade union organisation was a “labour of Sisyphus”, comparing it to the mythological figure who was doomed to an eternity of pushing a rock up hill, only for it to roll back to the bottom each time.

It is certainly true that the nature of capitalist competition between companies means that the commercial context that businesses operate in is always changing, and that in the final analysis there is a conflict of interest between employers who wish to get more work for less money, and employees who wish to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be paid a fair wage. In that respect no negotiated deal is ever final, and the process of industrial relations is never ending.

However, unlike Sisyphus, trade unions can grow and become stronger through that process. It is through the very process of collectively organizing around grievances, or campaigning to improve pay and terms and conditions, through using creative collective pressure to impose upon employers, that trade union capacity is built. As trade union members step forward to be shop stewards to organize and persuade their work colleagues, as they educate and inform themselves, and become educated by their union, as they share experience and network with other activists, participating in the democratic processes of their union, then that builds capacity and workplace strength.

It is by this standard that we should judge the decision by Community, the relatively small union with its historical base in Iron and Steel, to sign a single union sweetheart deal with ASOS, and XPO logistics, who have been the focus of a campaign by GMB for the last two years.

Organisation at the Barnsley distribution centre has been built by GMB. It is GMB who have a network of stewards and activists. Community has nothing.

The most bizarre aspect is that reportedly, ASOS has signed all of their staff into membership of Community, with the subscriptions free for six months. Individual members have to inform HR if they wish to leave. Clearly, it is no longer lawful for an employer to require a member of staff to be a member of a particular union, which explains why individuals are being given the option of leaving.

But at the end of the six month period, what will happen?

Community’s collusion with ASOS to seek to derail the GMB’s campaign is frankly scabbing. Just as EETPU were expelled from the TUC for organizing TNT workers at Wapping to empower a scab operation to break the print unions, Community have stepped over the line, and should face the consequences.

How we adapt to the new Trade Union Act

The Trade Union Act 2016 comes into effect for all industrial disputes where the ballot is to commence after 1st March 2017. Due to a well coordinated campaign by trade unions and the Labour Party, much of it lobbying behind the scenes, many of the more draconian aspects that had originally been proposed by the Conservative Government in the original bill had been dropped prior to Royal Assent, however there are still significant changes that will be challenging for unions.

While it may be counter-productive to pick over the entrails, much of the motivation for the Act’s changes to the law relating to industrial disputes possibly relates to a few instances of action by some public sector trade unions, and also due to the use of imaginative alternatives to traditional industrial action by GMB and Unite. The government therefore made the unwise decision to enact broad legal changes to cover all industrial disputes where their specific objectives could have been better achieved by a more proportionate response, or indeed by stepping back from government involvement in industrial disputes altogether.

It is clear that the drafts of the legislation were informed by people who have no understanding of industrial relations. There was no problem that needed solving. In particular, the level of strikes is very low by historical standards, and picket line violence is a thing of the past.

With regard to so-called “leverage” campaigns, the government had commissioned a report by Bruce Carr QC in 2014, which looked at allegedly “extreme” forms of industrial action, inspired by somewhat hysterical reaction to Unite’s campaign at INEOS. For example, at Prime Minister’s Question in November 2013, there was a following exchange:

“Steve Baker : Hard-working businessmen facing tough decisions, decent trade unionists and newspapers including the Daily Mirror will have been appalled by the so-called leverage tactics of Unite in the Grangemouth dispute. Will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that families, children and homes are protected from a minority of militants?

“The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. This sort of industrial intimidation is completely unacceptable. We have seen “Wanted” posters put through children’s letterboxes, we have seen families intimidated and we have seen people’s neighbours being told that they are evil. What has happened is shocking. It is also shocking that the Labour party is refusing to hold a review and to stand up to Len McCluskey. At this late stage, it should do so.”

“Leverage” tactics have been effectively employed by both GMB and Unite for a number of years. The practice is actually very fairly described by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development:

“… seeking to reinforce or strengthen a trade union’s position in relation to one or more employers by involving third parties. Leverage tactics can be seen as modern industrial action, including the use of social media, targeted e-mails to senior executives, and focusing on supply chains to bring an organisation to account through corporate social responsibility “soft laws”.

In general, this can be seen as legitimate trade union activity designed to ensure an organisation is held to account and reflecting a democratic right to protest within the law. Used properly, this can offer a useful check and balance for organisations. In its most basic form, leverage might be seen as simply communication – for example, using the media to make a case. […] The leverage this affords to trade unions to influence employers’ behaviour is exercised by building on the risks to employers’ “brand” or reputation of any perceived misbehaviour.

The adoption by Unite of a declared “leverage” strategy may also reflect an acceptance that employees are increasingly reluctant to sacrifice pay through strikes or other traditional forms of industrial action. Leverage can be seen as an alternative method of putting pressure on an employer to concede trade union demands.”

It is precisely because such tactics are effective, such as humorously dressing up as a crocodile and protesting outside the workplaces of those personnel managers who participated in the unlawful practice of blacklisting, that trade unions do them.

In any event the Carr report made no recommendations relating to such use of publicity stunts and social media campaigns, and it is impossible to see how constraints on such activity could be consistent with the rights to organize and democratically protest in a liberal democracy. The original drafts of the Trade Union Bill proposed restrictions to such practices, but these were withdrawn.

However, the point made by CIDP about using leverage as a substitute to traditional industrial action does draw attention to a potential pitfall. The purpose of trade unionism is to improve the bargaining position of workers. The formal contractual basis of an employment contract assumes that the employer and employee stand as equals on the legal stage, but the real social relation is that when dealing with an individual employee the employer holds the power. Even at the level of legal rights, the political and economic weight of employers ensures that the courts are more likely to favour the bosses than the workers.

Workers redress that imbalance though combination, and the source of durable collective strength relies upon financially sustainable organisation. Therefore leverage campaigns used to strengthen collective bargaining in conjunction with effective density of membership are a powerful weapon. But leverage campaigns cannot become a substitute for the hard work of building collective capacity, the unglamorous graft of recruiting members, bringing forward shop stewards, educating and informing the membership, and encouraging participatory lay democracy.

This is why it is necessary for trade unionists to take very seriously the challenges of the Trade Union Act, but if we take a level headed view, we can see that by adapting our practices there are no insurmountable obstacles.

The Prussian General, Von Clauswitz, famously observed that war is diplomacy by other means. In his era in Europe this was true, once the competing principalities and Kingdoms had failed to reach diplomatic agreement over a dispute, then war would be engaged in to test the relative bargaining strengths of the competing parties prior to diplomatic negotiations recommencing. Similarly, industrial action is not an end in itself, it is just one stage in the never ending process of industrial relations.

The purpose of industrial action is to cause the employer to reconsider their negotiating stance. The unregulated era of mass carpark meetings and workers taking strike action following a show of hands will never return, but every change in the law and regulations of industrial action gives trade unions opportunites, as well as restrictions. The late Bob Crow was adept at using announcements of RMT strike ballots to put political pressure on the bosses of the London Underground. The balloting requirements prior to industrial action have become a weapon in the hands of trade unions where the process of building for action is itself used to pressurize the employer.

One significant change in the new law is that ballot papers will now require a summary of the types of action, and the timetable when they will be acted upon. It will be unlawful to take action not listed on the ballot paper, but the dictates of good industrial relations must, for example, allow trade unions to respond to concessions and approaches from the employer to take less action than was on the ballot. In certain circumstances listing an extensive programme of action on the ballot may be used to demonstrate union strength to the employer right at the outset.

The effective life of industrial action ballots will also be time limited to 6 months (or 9 months with the agreement of the employer). It is not unusual in certain industrial disputes for the resolve of the workforce to stiffen once action has been engaged, the time limits may therefore change the tempo of industrial campaigns such that unions reballot to demonstrate strength of feeling to an employer during the course of a dispute. In any event, notwithstanding the inspirational historic examples such as the 1984 miners strike, the momentum of any industrial campaign that has lasted more than 6 months may be flagging, and such a campaign may profit from regroupment and reappraisal by the union, this is unlikely to damage many disputes.

The new legal thresholds for ballots require at least 50% of those entitled to vote returning a ballot, and a simple majority of those voting. For those engaged in important public services, there is an additional threshold that 40% of those entitled to vote must be in favour. These are certainly demanding targets.

Certainly many trade unions have their own rule book or policy requirements for a ballot threshold, but on principle this should be a question for the unions themselves, not for legal interference.

Where there is industrial action in individual workplaces, where there are shop stewards, and an engagement between the members and the union, then good turnouts over clearly defined issues are achievable. It is more difficult to achieve good turn outs in national disputes in the public sector, where there may be uneven density, and no union activists in some workplaces. But, if we are absolutely honest, in some instances in recent years, trade unions have engaged in national strike action with such low participation levels that it has been more of a demonstration of weakness than of strength to the employer.

The new balloting requirements will force a reappraisal, whether we want to or not. It may not be possible to conduct national public sector campaigns on the same basis anymore. But that does not mean that they cannot be conducted. While the decisions need to be made through each union, via their own democratic processes, and following their own appraisal of their strengths, there are still opportunites. For example, unions could vote for a financial levy by all members affected by a particular industrial issue, and then only selectively ballot for actual industrial action a few strategic workforces who have the capacity to deliver, and the industrial leverage to hit the employer.

Elsewhere, the new requirements for picketing will be unlikely to have much impact. While there are grounds for concern at the possible change regarding the use of agency workers, it should be borne in mind that the regulations currently outlawing the uses of agency staff are already breached on occasion, and the regulatory authorities take no action. It is correct to oppose any change of the law, but if it happens, then let us deal with that then. Agencies who provide strike breaking labour may find themselves the focus of the sort of leverage campaigns that would induce them to reconsider.

Whatever the legal frameworks, trade unions will adapt and evolve our tactics and continue to prosecute the best interests of our members. Employers who treat their workers with respect and dignity, and who pay a fair wage will have nothing to fear. For those employers who abuse, exploit and disrespect working people, then they can be assured that the changes in the law will provide them no protection.

Corbyn’s vision

Speech by Jeremy Corbyn

Whether you voted to Leave or to Remain, you voted for a better future for Britain.

One thing is clear, the Tories cannot deliver that. So today I want to set how Labour will deliver that vision of a better Britain.

This government is in disarray over Brexit.

As the Prime Minister made clear herself they didn’t plan for it before the referendum and they still don’t have a plan now.

I voted and campaigned to remain and reform as many of you may know I was not uncritical of the European Union. It has many failings.

Some people argued that we should have a second referendum. That case was put to our party’s membership last summer and defeated.

Britain is now leaving the European Union. And Britain can be better off after Brexit. But that’s far from inevitable and it certainly won’t happen with a government that stands by whilst wages and salaries are driven down, industry is hollowed out and public services are cut to the point of breakdown.

Because while the European Union has many problems so does Britain in the hands of Theresa May after six years of Conservative misrule.

Our social care system is failing to provide essential care for people with disabilities and over a million of our elderly people.

The NHS is in record deficit; nearly four million people are on waiting lists, the Red Cross is describing the state of our emergency health and social care as a “humanitarian crisis”.

Our jobs market is being turned into a sea of insecurity, six million workers in Britain earning less than the living wage, nearly a million people on zero hours contracts, record numbers of people in work living in poverty while in fat cat Britain, the chief executives had already received more than most people will earn all year by the third day of January.

My point is this, I don’t trust this government with social care, or with the NHS or with the labour market.

So do I trust them to make a success of Brexit? Not remotely.

Only a Labour government, determined to reshape the economy so that it works for all, in every part of the country, can make Brexit work for Britain.

And there can be no question of giving Theresa May’s Tories a free pass in the Brexit negotiations to entrench and take still further their failed free market policies in a post-Brexit Britain.

The Tory Brexiteers, whose leaders are now in the government and their Ukip allies had no more of a plan for a Brexit vote than the Tory remainers, like Theresa May.

They did however promise that Brexit would guarantee funding for the NHS, to the tune of £350m a week. It was on the side of Boris Johnson’s bus.

What’s happened to that promise now the NHS and social care are in serious crisis? It’s already been ditched.

And it’s not just on the NHS. We have had no answers from the government about any of their plans or objectives for these complex Brexit negotiations.

At no point since the Second World War has Britain’s ruling elite so recklessly put the country in such an exposed position without a plan.

As a result they are now reduced to repeating “Brexit means Brexit”. They are unfit to negotiate Brexit.

That is why Labour has demanded the government come to Parliament and set out their plan before they present it to Brussels and explain what they want to achieve for our country.

But in the glaring absence of a government plan Labour also believes it’s time to spell out more clearly what we believe the country’s Brexit objectives should be.

People voted for Brexit on the promise that Britain outside the European Union could be a better place for all its citizens. Whatever their colour or creed. A chance to regain control over our economy, our democracy and people’s lives.

But beyond vague plans to control borders the only concrete commitment the government has so far made is to protect the financial interests in the City of London. Though maybe that’s hardly surprising from a government that has already slashed the bank levy and corporation tax.

In the last budget there was not a penny extra for the NHS or social care but under the Tories there’s always billions available for giveaways to the richest.

As far as Labour is concerned, the referendum result delivered a clear message.

First, that Britain must leave the EU and bring control of our democracy and our economy closer to home.

Second, that people would get the resources they were promised to rebuild the NHS.

Third, that people have had their fill of an economic system and an establishment that works only for the few, not for the many.

And finally, that their concerns about immigration policy would be addressed.

Labour accepts those challenges that you, the voters, gave us.

Unlike the Tories, Labour will insist on a Brexit that works not just for City interests but in the interests of us all.

That puts health and social care, decent jobs and living standards first and a better deal for young people and the areas of this country that have been left behind for too long.

First, we will open the way to rebuilding our NHS by ending the under-funding and privatisation of health care.

Leaving the EU won’t free up the £350m a week that Boris Johnson claimed but savings in EU contributions could help close the gap.

And we will reject pressure to privatise public services as part of any Brexit settlement. Just as we oppose the attempt to give special legal privileges to corporate interests as part of the EU’s CETA or TTIP trade deals.

This government could have given the NHS the funding it needs but it has chosen not to. Their tax giveaways to the very richest and to big business hand back £70bn between now and 2022.

That is more of a priority for the Tories than elderly people neglected in their homes, patients dying on trolleys or millions waiting in pain to get the treatment they need.

Labour created the NHS, and it is only safe under a Labour government. We will give the NHS the funding it needs. The British people voted to re-finance the NHS – and we will deliver it.

Second, we will push to maintain full access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs.

But we will also press to repatriate powers from Brussels for the British government to develop a genuine industrial strategy essential for the economy of the future, and so that no community is left behind.

Tory governments have hidden behind EU state aid rules because they don’t want to intervene. They did so again last year when the steel industry was in trouble. Other governments in Europe acted and saved their industry, the Tory government here sat back.

But EU rules can also be a block on the action that’s needed to support our economy, decent jobs and living standards.

Labour will use state aid powers in a drive to build a new economy, based on new technology and the green industries of the future.

That’s why Labour has set out proposals for a National Investment Bank with regional investment banks that will decide the priorities for their areas. A massive programme of investment that will be needed to rebuild regional economies.

This country is far too centralized. So we will take back powers over regional policy. And instead of such decisions being made in Brussels or in London, we will make sure they taken locally wherever possible. Taking back real control and putting power and resources right into the heart of local communities to target investment where it’s needed.

Third, we will use the huge spending leverage of taxpayer-funded services to massively expand the number of proper apprenticeships.

All firms with a government or council contract over £250,000 will be required to pay tax in the UK and train young people.

No company will receive taxpayer-funded contracts if it, or its parent company, is headquartered in a tax haven.

And we will not buy outsourced public services, such as care for the elderly, from companies whose owners and executives are creaming off profits to stuff their pockets at the expense of the workforce and the public purse.

Finally, a Labour Brexit would take back control over our jobs market which has been seriously damaged by years of reckless deregulation.

During the referendum campaign, many people expressed deep concerns about unregulated migration from the EU.

In many sectors of the economy, from IT to health and social care, migrant workers make an important contribution to our common prosperity, and in many parts of the country public services depend on migrant labour.

This government has been saying it will reduce migration to the tens of thousands. Theresa May as Home Secretary set an arbitrary political target knowing full well it would not be met.

They inflamed the issue of immigration. They put immense strain on public services with six years of extreme cuts and then blamed migrants for the pressure caused by Tory austerity.

And last week a government minister who voted “Leave” told an employers’ conference, “don’t worry, we’ll still let you bring in cheap EU labour”.

Unlike the Tories, Labour will not offer false promises on immigration targets or sow division by scapegoating migrants because we know where that leads. The worrying rise in race hate crime and division we have seen in recent months and how the issue of immigration can be used as a proxy to abuse or intimidate minority communities.

Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle, but I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.

When it comes to border controls, we are proud to say we will meet our international obligations to refugees fleeing wars and persecution.

To those EU citizens who are already here, we will guarantee your rights.

And we continue to welcome international students who come to study in this country.

We cannot afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend.

Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.

Labour supports fair rules and the reasonable management of migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, while putting jobs and living standards first in the negotiations.

At the same time, taking action against undercutting of pay and conditions, closing down cheap labour loopholes, banning exclusive advertising of jobs abroad and strengthening workplace protections would have the effect of reducing numbers of EU migrant workers in the most deregulated sectors, regardless of the final Brexit deal.

Of course migration has put a strain on public services in some areas that’s why Labour would restore the migrant impact fund that the Tories scrapped.

Sarah Champion is leading for Labour on our policies to ensure better integration and more community cohesion and part of that again will be about restoring funding for English language lessons.

Let’s not forget it was this Tory government that slashed funding for learning English as a second language. As we’ve seen with the Prime Minister talking about the need to strengthen mental health care, while cutting funding by eight per cent it seems the government’s second language is hypocrisy.

It is the ripping up of workplace protections and trade union rights that has allowed unscrupulous employers to exploit both migrant and British labour, and help to keep pay low, and drive down conditions for everyone.

But let’s be clear, public services are not under pressure primarily because of immigration – especially since many migrant workers keep those public services going.

They are under pressure because this Tory government has cut them to fund tax break after tax break to the super rich and big business.

That is the Tory game – low taxes for the rich, low pay for the rest, underfund public services, and find someone to blame , It’s brutal and it’s not working.
Labour will break with this failed model and offer solutions to problems, not someone to blame.

Labour will demand that the Brexit negotiations give us the power to intervene decisively to prevent workers, from here or abroad, being used and exploited to undermine pay and conditions at work.

We need a drive to provide British people with the skills necessary to take up the new jobs which a Labour government and the new economy will generate. I’ve already set out at the CBI and TUC conferences that this means asking companies to pay a bit more in tax to fund more and better access to education and skills training, and government contractors always providing decent skilled apprenticeships.

We will end the race to the bottom in pay, working conditions and job insecurity, setting up a new Ministry of Labour to get a grip on the anything goes jobs market free-for-all.

Labour will ensure all workers have equal rights at work from day one – and require collective bargaining agreements in key sectors in a properly regulated labour market, so that workers cannot be undercut.

That will bring an end to the unscrupulous use of agency labour and bogus self-employment, to stop undercutting and to ensure every worker has a secure job with secure pay, that’s why we’ll set the minimum wage at the level of the living wage, expected to be £10 per hour by 2020.

Those changes should be made to benefit the whole country.

But while we tackle low pay at the bottom, we also have to address the excess that drives that poverty pay that leaves millions of people in poverty even though they work.

In the 1920s, J.P. Morgan, the Wall Street banker limited salaries to 20 times that of junior employees.

Another advocate of pay ratios was David Cameron. His government proposed a 20:1 pay ratio to limit sky-high pay in the public sector and now all salaries higher than £150,000 must be signed off by the Cabinet Office.

Labour will go further and extend that to any company that is awarded a government contract.

A 20:1 ratio means someone earning the living wage, just over £16,000 a year, would permit an executive to be earning nearly £350,000. It cannot be right that if companies are getting public money that that can be creamed off by a few at the top.

But there is a wider point too. 20 years ago the top bosses of the FTSE 100 companies earned just under 50 times their average worker, today that figure is now 130 times. Last year alone, the top bosses got a 10 per cent pay rise, far higher than those doing the work in the shops, in the call centres, in the warehouses.

So what can we do?

… We could allow consumers to judge for themselves, with a government-backed kitemark for those companies that have agreed pay ratios between the pay of the highest and lowest earners with a recognised trade union.

… We could ask for executive pay to be signed off by remuneration committees on which workers have a majority.

… We could ensure higher earners pay their fair share by introducing a higher rate of income tax on the highest 5 percent or 1 percent of incomes.

… We could offer lower rates of corporation tax for companies that don’t pay anyone more than a certain multiple of the pay of the lowest earner.

There are many options. But what we cannot accept is a society in which a few earn the in two and a bit days, what a nurse, a shop worker, a teacher do in a year. That cannot be right.

This is not about limiting aspiration or penalising success, it’s about recognising that success is a collective effort and rewards must be shared.

We cannot have the CEO paying less tax than the cleaner and pretending they are worth thousands times more than the lowest paid staff.

So this is Labour’s vision for Britain after Brexit.

Labour will not block the referendum vote when the time comes in Parliament, we will vote for Article 50.

But as the Opposition we will ensure the government is held to account for its negotiating demands.

At the moment they are in total disarray, on Brexit, on the NHS and social care, on the pay in your pocket.

Labour will build a better Britain out of Brexit.

That will start with the refinancing of the NHS and the creation of a more equal country, in which power and wealth is more fairly shared amongst our communities. A genuinely inclusive society with strong and peaceful relations with the rest of the world.

This is Labour’s New Year pledge to the British people.

Momentum becomes fit for purpose

It would be fair to say that the announcement of a new constitution for Momentum has caused some controversy. In summary, Momentum recently asked supporters their views in an online survey, accompanied by a message from Jeremy Corbyn.

The results of that survey have been used to justify a new constitution being announced. The constitution is here.

Along with this account of how the constitution was introduced:

The results of the survey sent to Momentum members show that there is a widespread consensus about the type of organisation members want – a grassroots, campaigning political movement that can help Labour win power on a transformative platform. 40.35% of members responded to the survey. Campaigning for Labour victories and helping members become more active in the Labour Party were the most popular options for Momentum’s priorities in 2017, chosen by 71.71% and 68.23% of respondents respectively.

80.60% of respondents said that key decisions should be taken by One Member One Vote, rather than by delegates at regional and national conferences and committees (12.50%). 79.29% of respondents said all members should have a say in electing their representatives, as opposed to national representatives being elected by delegates from local groups (16.16%).

Following this decisive response, the Steering Committee voted to introduce the constitution for Momentum to deliver the kind of action-focussed, campaigning, Labour-focussed organisation our members have said they want. The constitution puts decision making power in the hands of members with direct democracy and OMOV elections central to the organisation.

Momentum as an organisation was established originally to carry forwards the organizational and functional impetus behingd Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election campaign. In particular, it has been felt by many people for a long time that the centre left needed an organized counterbalance to the pressure from Progress, and Labour First, two organizations of the centre right that have disproportionate influence in the Labour Party.

However, Momentum became bogged down in the usual and interminable arguments of the left, which have effectively prevented the organisation from operating. This had a very enervating effect, and parts of the left who have fetishised an alleged democratic deficit in Momentum have distracted attention away from the real scandals, the democratic deficits in society as a whole, and particularly in the Labour Party.

Momentum does not need to duplicate the functions of a political party. Momentum does not need to duplicate the functions of a trade union. What is needed is to have a structure on a broad left basis where supporters of the current trajectory of the Labour Party leadership can coordinate their efforts to good effect, on the basis of what we agree about. This gives the space for a new politics to develop.

I just joined Momentum, which I believe is now becoming serious and fit for purpose.

Of course they know it’s Christmas

Of Course They Know It’s Christmas
after Midge Ure & Bob Geldof

It’s Christmastime; and there’s every reason to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let the light love us and we banish shame
Down our streets of plenty we can spread the smirk of money
Throw your arms around a former bass guitarist
Whose name you think is Chris at Christmastime

But ping your pennies at the other ones
In the long line outside the foodbank
As you drive loudly past
In your silver BMW
Because it’s better than paying tax

At Christmastime
It gets hard, though not as hard as it used to, when you’re having fun
With a reupholstered former model who claims to be a cousin
Of General Pinochet’s personal physician
There’s a world outside your triple-gazed PVC window
And it’s a world of fear and hate
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting
Of an accountant from Penge
Peeing on rough sleepers
Because his train is late again

We could’ve kept our enormous
Mouths shut, or had the good taste
To be found dead in suspicious
Circumstances at least a decade ago
Instead we offer
A bunch of rock stars who’d be forgotten
If it wasn’t for this old song

And the alarms that go off there
Are the clanging chimes of private property
Well tonight thank Lucifer it’s them instead of Bono
And there will be ice in sleeping bags this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is death
Remind them that it’s Christmastime
In case they missed the ads


Appeal to Potential Asylum Seekers

Appeal to Potential Asylum Seekers
By Order of Her Majesty’s Government

The desserts of Vienna are creamier
than is the case in even
the better bits of Leeds or Swansea.
Their trams turn up when they’re meant to,
which is hardly ever true
of an outskirts-of-Great-Yarmouth Saturday night,
except when Prince Edward is dying,
re-marrying, or giving birth,
and there’s an Ian Stuart Donaldson concert to celebrate.

Also, we think it important we clarify:
Hugh Grant is not a real person.
So, there’s no point coming here
in the hope of making him
your husband, or even,
your wife.

Contrary to reports in the popular press:
our social security is in fact rubbish.
And we’re working hard to make it worse.
You’ll toil all the hours picking
shells off a beach in the dark;
or clean a pretend bank
for less per week than
Andrew Neil pays to have
his back waxed.

And you’ll have nowhere to live,
given our plan to gift
the last council house to former
model Jerry Hall
for rest and recuperation
the day after she’s taken annually
by Rupert Murdoch, as she’s now
contractually bound
to let herself be.

If you stay were you are,
as a gesture, we offer you
Richard Branson. The first forty four
legitimate asylum seekers
to complete the relevant form will each
be entitled to one of his teeth,
for use perhaps as collateral or
as a miniature sex toy –

on condition you remove
it at your own leisure using
the rudimentary
chisel provided.