We first published this article on 11th May 2023 in response to Momentum’s campaign to get left wing delegates elected to the Labour Party conference, which opens next Sunday, 9th October, in order to influence the policy agenda. We thought it was a foolish ambition then, and in the intervening four months Starmer has pushed the policy agenda even further to the right. In our next issue we will report on the outcome for the Labour Left. If we had to make a prediction, it would be that none of Momentum’s transformative policies will even be debated, never mind passed, at a conference that will be stage-managed to present Labour as the party of big business in the run up to the next election.
For most readers of Critical Mass there is little left to make them think that a vote for Labour is any more than a vote for a Tory-lite set of imposters. But not so the Labour Left. In a news release yesterday Momentum, an organisation set up in 2015 to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn, informed us that it is still possible “to maximise pressure on the Labour Leadership for transformative policies”.
To this end, Momentum is asking their members to “organise in your CLPs to elect left delegates who will vote for transformative policies”. Whilst we applaud their enthusiasm, we have always felt that bringing about the transformation of society was more to do with the balance of class forces than playing fantasy policies in the Labour Party.
As Mike Stanton pointed out only this week: “The right wing .. used to tolerate the left. It gave credence to the myth of a broad church… Now the gloves are off. The left will never again be tolerated within the Labour Party..” Yet Momentum, an organisation founded to support a man who is excommunicated from the party he served loyally, tells us to go to our CLPs and pass motions which will then get debated at conference this year.
We have no argument with the policies that they propose: free school meals, social care for all who need it, public ownership of the energy sector, a 4-day working week, replacing Universal Credit, 150,000 rented homes a year, increased public investment in the NHS and many more. Indeed, their 4-page document, much of it from the 2017/19 manifestos, is a left-wing wish-list.
Labour’s National Policy Forum met recently and discussed some of these issues. We understand that a national policy of free school meals was excluded from that discussion. Just two weeks ago, Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, ruled out social care free at the point of need as “hugely expensive” and too much of a “big overnight change”. In March, Rachel Reeves said that the railways were the only sector in line to be taken over by the state. Nationalising other businesses such as energy firms, water companies and the Royal Mail is no longer on the agenda. At last year’s conference, Sir Keir Starmer said, “Labour is the party of home ownership in Britain today,” which hardly bodes well for their commitment to the rented sector. In January Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, announced that benefits sanctions would continue under a Labour government and that the planned overhaul of Universal Credit would be delayed.
Most of these Momentum policies are already Labour Party policy in as much as they were agreed at a Labour Party Conference. But, despite this, the Labour front bench, supported by the pro-Starmer National Executive Committee, simply overrides them as they continue to chase Conservative voters and abandon traditional Labour ones. This is not an oversight or error on their part, which they just need pointing out for them to throw their arms in the air as they declare “Goodness we have forgotten to put those policies you voted for at conference in our manifesto. How remiss we are.” This is a deliberate policy to put clear water between Labour and socialism and to paint Labour as a party that can be trusted by big business and the Tory establishment.
Frankly, Momentum is deluding itself if it thinks it has any role whatsoever in formulating policy. It is also deluding its members if it thinks that the left will be able to use conference to dictate left-wing policies to a right-wing Labour establishment. All the democratic means that the left was once able to use to generate debate and discussion have been removed and those that remain are a husk to keep the door knockers onboard. The sooner every socialist realises that the Labour Party project is a complete dead end, the sooner we can start putting our efforts into building an organisation that is genuinely concerned to transform society.