Momentum is the grassroots campaign network, a mass movement of over 200,000 supporters. Their aim is to back Jeremy Corbyn in his leadership position, and the left-wing policies he espouses. The mass movement was born from sheer excitement and joy, of Labour returning to its socialist roots, when party ranks swelled hundreds of thousands and real socialism looked to be on the table again. The currently non-affiliated but Labour supporting movement has been fundamental to ensure Corbyn could increase his leadership mandate in 2016, and change the conversation across the UK during the snap general election called in May.
Unfortunately, during Momentum’s existence there has been intense pressure from establishment forces trying to oust a democratically elected but ‘extreme-left’ Labour leader. Since its inception Momentum itself has been the focus of demonisation from the mainstream media, and unfortunately aspects of the Labour party itself.
Despite being attacked on both sides Momentum as a movement has managed to grow and develop into something special. The network has developed a new way of effective electoral campaigning by harnessing social media, something both major parties have been slow to adapt to. Social media campaigning has changed how politics can be done completely; no longer are parties and politicians solely reliant on the overtly right-wing press to put a political message across. Today, social media allows unfiltered messages from anyone to be transmitted to millions of people directly and instantly, if they have the following. The unfiltered aspect of social media has played a huge role in the recent political upsets from Brexit, Trump, and now Corbyn – the establishment have struggled to keep up.
During the snap election Momentum created political adverts that regularly reached millions of people, it has been claimed that 1/3rd of the UKs Facebook userbase had been reached by Momentum content within just 6-weeks. Momentum has become a well-oiled machine at producing viral content, to the envy of the Conservatives who are reportedly attempting to copy Momentum’s style. In their efforts to do so they will completely miss the organic nature of Momentum that made it successful, but will substitute that organic nature by throwing obscene amounts of money at it in vain. Moggmentum will never be a success beyond the small alt-right GuidoFawkes following.
Aside from viral campaigning videos, Momentum has set-up over 150 local branches to coordinate local campaigning and to bring supporters to the doorstep and phone banks, to promote the Labour message in a more traditional manner. To aid this, an interactive Google Maps-like data base, ‘My Nearest Marginal’, allowed supporters to locate the most vulnerable marginals near their home, encouraging many to engage in traditional campaigning, but in a more effective targeted manner. This approach was invaluable during the recent election in winning and holding marginals, as Labour HQ starved key-marginals of campaign funding in an overly defensive strategy.
Other novel campaigning techniques utilised WhatsApp to ‘cascade’ messages (shareable texts) to pass vital information to a mostly young audience. Momentum HQ estimated that 400,000 people were reached on election day alone, with information of where to vote and an easy way to alert their friends.
However, these campaigning techniques have not solely been used against the Conservative party. There has been controversy in the media and within the party, that Momentum is ‘taking over’ the Labour party from within. By encouraging Momentum members to run for positions within the party, and then utilising Momentum’s vast membership and outreach potential, critics of Jeremy Corbyn have found themselves being removed from key party positions. In most CLPs, there has been a clean sweep for pro-Corbyn candidates, even in ‘Blairite Strongholds’.
Attacks on Momentum are troubling for Labour democracy. Unlike the behind the scenes tinkering centre-right Blairite groups have been accused of, to subvert party elections, Momentum-related candidates simply encourage card holding members to show up and vote. There’s nothing sinister with increasing grassroots engagement within the party, painfully it’s the bleating of angry Labour First & Progress backed candidates that are causing the party to shed credibility by opening unnecessary public divides. These are often the same groups that detested the increased accessibility to join the Labour party, and the democratic involvement during the leadership competition, even though a majority of long-term members backed Corbyn.
It should be clear at this point to Labour supporters from every corner of the broad-church, that Momentum has proven to be an effective pro-Labour movement. Given the dire position Labour was in pre-election, after a year of; party infighting, hostile media briefings, leadership challenges, and self-harming inflicted by the parliamentary Labour party, the reversal of fortunes during the short campaign were nothing short of miraculous. From an insurmountable 25-points behind the Conservatives in the polls, to stripping Theresa May of her majority, and placing the Tories on borrowed time.
Of course, Labour’s recovery during the election is by no means to the credit of Momentum alone. Long-term Labour activists, new members joining in, and other forms of viral pro-Labour content from sources such as The Canary, proved invaluable. With the party on permanent campaign footing, the more unified post-election Labour party will be ready to sweep the next election.
To continue the campaign Momentum are still at it producing viral content, just two days ago (28/07/17) their most recent video has been seen by millions, and has featured in multiple mainstream outlets such as the Sun & The Guardian.
It seems their message is proving controversial, see below for yourself: