On Monday 20th March Yeovil CLP was delighted to welcome many members from across Somerset and Dorset to their open meeting “Energising Labour in the South West: learning from Momentum”.
Martin Menear of the Momentum National Coordinating Group and Momentum Somerset Founder Gary Tucker (who is also Labour Bridgwater’s newly-elected Branch Secretary) gave speeches detailing what Momentum is about and the successes achieved right here in Somerset. Martin spoke about what Momentum is and is not whilst also answering questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Gary spoke about Momentum Somerset’s achievements in empowering members to become more active, particularly through social media and email campaigns.
What Momentum is/ is not
Martin explained that Momentum exists to democratise and change the way the party is run. He dispelled misconceptions about the organisation being a possible ‘Trot entryist movement’ (which it is not). He clarified this with details about how he was involved in the 80s to remove these groups from Labour, so it is impossible for these people to take part. He also went on to tell concerned members that the rumours in the media about it trying to takeover Labour with Unite Union are completely false. He reported that Jeremy Corbyn’s style is to transform the party from a presidential model of governance to a collaborative more cabinet-style of leadership which was how it used to be before previous leaders changed it across parties.
Gary talked more specifically about the successes Momentum Somerset have been having in both Bridgwater and Yeovil CLPs with members becoming more active. He illustrated his ideas from his successes in an outstanding school to show that successful leadership involves devolving power to people. He said, “I felt trusted, empowered and emotionally-invested in what I was doing (in the school). This is what we need to do with our members- trust them and empower them. Get the ideas from them.” He shared new insights into social media and how this could be used to get older and younger members active in local branches and CLPS.
New ways of working
Both speeches emphasised that the old ways of doing things- ignoring seats which have never been Labour- are over. Taking the assumption that every seat is winnable is difficult to picture, but certainly doable if we engage our mass membership and get them to be inspired and active within every CLP.
Both speakers responded to members fed-up with the perception that Jeremy Corbyn may not be the charismatic leader we’ve all been waiting for. Martin elaborated on the fact that Corbyn wants a more devolved, powerful membership which feels that what it does makes a huge difference rather than holding power in the hands of the very few. Gary went on to explain (in his best teacher-way) to not see Corbyn as this presidential figure and that we are the new leaders of the Labour party- all of us members.
Afterwards, people stopped for a chat and thanked the speakers for their efforts. One person even said that they were very worried about Momentum prior to the meeting and that their fears had been allayed by the speakers. One young member was very inspired by Gary’s speech about memes and Twitter and has offered to start creating these to make Yeovil CLP’s Twitter page go viral! As it was an all-members meeting from across the constituencies, interest was registered to set up further Momentum groups in areas deemed safe Tory seats. Bridgwater members Gaye and Hadrian even spoke about how empowered they have felt to set up their own Labour street stall in the centre of Bridgwater every last Saturday of the month. Interest was also made in joining in the ‘Twitter Storms’ which Gary mentioned in his speech. If you would like further details about Momentum or how to engage your members in your CLP or branches then please contact Bridgwater Branch Secretary Gary Tucker. All-in-all a very positive evening!
Steve Roberts, Chair of Yeovil CLP, said “it was a great evening and we are very proud to have been able to fund this. We are particularly grateful to Martin Menear who stepped in at very short notice.”