OPINION

Voting for the Momentum slate will destroy Labour in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 23 Jul 2018 at 8:42 am

Recent days have seen the news emerge that Momentum is attempting to deselect all existing Labour councillors in Brighton and Hove, with the exception of one.

Of course this comes as little surprise, following, as it does, the vicious attacks against the previous council leader and the partially successful campaign of harassment and intimidation mounted against incumbents to discourage them from standing for re-election.

I signed myself up to get updates from Momentum in the city and as a consequence got to see a little of their operation ahead of the Preston Park shortlisting meeting held on Tuesday 17 July.

I received an email and texts urging me to vote against automatically reselecting the ward’s one sitting councillor and to shortlist the Momentum slate.

I am not completely innocent. I know there have always been slates. But as a pluralist and as someone who believes in treating my comrades with enough intelligence and sophistication to make their own minds up, I have always seen slates as divisive, and a tool for political control — the enemy of the consensus and inclusivity that I cherish.

Like tens of thousands of others down the years I’ve invariably voted across the left-right spectrum, according to the views, ability and character of candidates and a strong belief that a broad balanced ticket delivers the mix of idealism and pragmatism that’s most likely to get us over the line and ensure we use office effectively.

But while there’s nothing to stop me continuing to vote as I have always done, it’s now obvious that in the current period in this city I have no chance of seeing an outcome that reflects my preference for pluralism and balance — or indeed the experience of sitting councillors.

Momentum is the only organisation within the party locally with a slate and organisation. They have burnt the broad church to the ground and now have a clear run. Crucially they are able to continue to ride the Corbyn wave and mobilise activists around a crude proposition that their people are for the first ever socialist council and everyone else is against.

There is no opposition or counterpoint.
 And apart from anything else, this ignores the fact that there was a successful majority Labour council in Brighton and Hove between 1997 and 2003  and Labour majorities on the earlier councils that subsequently merged to become the current authority.

Unfortunately this is isn’t just a disaster for my own sensibilities. It’s also grim for the whole party in Brighton and Hove because it shifts power from transparent, democratic, party structures and ordinary members to the opaque, closed off world of a separate organisation.

To make matters worse this separate organisation, Momentum, is, in this city at least, highly dubious. It continues to be chaired by somebody who has been suspended from the party. It also, to the best of my knowledge, continues to include among its number, someone who has been expelled from the party for anti-semitism.

Councillor Warren Morgan with Labour candidates and supporters at the start of the 2015 election campaign

Although nationally and in other parts of the country Momentum might be said to have contributed to some positive campaigns, in this city it is, in effect, an organisation dedicated to taking over control of the Labour party and council.

This sorry state of affairs casts a shadow over the integrity of party structures. How will ordinary members be able to hold councillors to account if they even partly owe their selection (and reselection in later years) and thus their allegiance to a separate shadowy organisation — one that includes non-Labour members?

And how will party members be able to engage in meaningful debate about the choices and challenges we face, on everything from Brexit to the local government manifesto, when the real decisions are taken and the votes marshalled elsewhere.

The massive irony in all of this is that we supposedly operate at a moment when party democracy is at its apogee. And while I do not doubt the idealism and democratic intent of all of the approximately 1 in 10 party members who have joined Momentum across the country, I would expect them to ask themselves how they justify the power grab to the 9 in 10 who are not members.

The new members I spoke to at the Preston Park shortlisting meeting were bewildered to say the least when learning of the slate. Put simply, the party at constituency level requires a level playing field. None of this Orwellian  “some members are more equal than others”.

Worst of all is that the current state of affairs gives an open goal to our political opponents. Who, they may well ask, is really pulling the strings? What’s more in the run up, potentially, to a close general election our council will be in the spotlight.

Do we really think the current state of affairs reflects well on Labour? Shouldn’t all party members be worried that we are beginning to stink of the fumes coming from the current Brighton and Hove Momentum chief’s gaslight?

David Arnold is a Labour Party member and previously agent to Nancy Platts and party organiser.


  1. Marian Cleary Reply

    David is absolutely correct. People who are left of centre in Brighton and Hove are being pushed out of Labour politics, which was their natural home, in wards which have stood by Labour from all kinds of viewpoints. But there was always space for debate and the bottom line was the fair distribution of wealth locally, nationally and internationally and an end to prejudice based on race, ideology and belief.

    Now, from views on pragmatic things such as council spending to more overtly political things such as antisemitism in the Labour Party, all the way through to identity politics, Brighton and Hove Labour is in a mess. It’s kind of like when I remember the Socialist Workers edging into Labour Students back in the day at uni. It didn’t matter then because just campus politics. Only now their ilk seem to have managed it under the banner of Momentum with backing of Corbyn (where does the money come from?) in full-on local government because the Labour folk in the wards were too overwhelmed and too frightened by the people from Momentum who rocked up and said ‘think this’ when it used to be ‘stuff’ they used to debate. If they said ‘we disagree’ in their wards (e.g. Withdean), they were called bad names and/or accused of all the phobias.

    I commend Margaret Hodge for calling Corbyn an anti-Semite. She is closer to all this than we can ever be and as possibly the only true statesperson in the Labour Party left, for her to say that, it must be serious, and good for her for speaking up.

    When a movement that has spanned three centuries has people turning up on a six month of membership, pushing out the activists – who in some cases have worked hard in Brighton for over half a century to make sure the Socialist voice is heard here – so their Corbyn dream can come true, and it is a dream, and let’s hope it is not realised, is vile, disrespectful and smacks of a total misunderstanding of what the Labour Party is. Labour is a party of reform, not revolution, gives a voice to the underdog and if in power enables policy which ensures fairer distribution of wealth. The rest is icing on the cake, not its raison d’etre.

    What I don’t get is that while Momentum folk here in Brighton espouse all the gay rights and so on, up North it is the opposite. You know, like homophobia, antisemitism, so as not to alienate the Muslim core vote in northern constituencies. I’d love to see a Momentum candidate stand up in a Bolton ward and speak about the rights of transgender people as vociferously and they seem to talk about the plight of the Palestinians when talking at Brighton meetings. Know your audience, I suppose.

    The manipulation of local wards (say what they want to hear and/or pick off the weakest and recruit the ones who are disheartened) to get Momentum candidates in place for local government election would have Machiavelli giving them a high five. End of the day, however, this tactic of Momentum in Brighton and Hove and across the UK is basically the end of 120 years of working people having a coherent and serious voice in local and national politics via the Labour Party. That is Corbyn’s legacy.

  2. Pear Reply

    Mr Arnold

    Just how informed are you about the proceedings in your labour party are you?
    Did you know that your LCF executive (which contains 4 councillors) voted to endorse open shortlists where possible?
    Did you know that many sitting councillors have already been automatically reselected despite momentum claiming that they shouldn’t be?
    why are you belittling the intelligence of your fellows and not letting them get on with making their decisions?
    Instead of trying to scare them (and others) with “reds under the bed” why not try to convince them of the good things your side has done, more flies with honey and all that.

    Instead what im seeing here is the ramblings of someone who is lost in a new world where there is a different party structure made to accomodate the 8000 odd members across the city!

    Signed, some fruit who bothers to find out whats going on (because its all out there if you’re willing to ask).

  3. Marian CLeary Reply

    Pear, I suggest that David is probably one of the best informed people regarding stuff going on with Labour in Brighton. And this is why he wrote his article. ‘Reds under the beds’ is kind of saying we in a one of the most liberal constituencies with a Green MP are afraid of this scared of people joining Labour and espousing left-wing policy? Nope. We are scared that a faction of the Labour Party (some of which members of said faction are not actually members of the Labour Party (see my analogy with the SWP)) are now manipulating things. And if you want to know about manipulation, I suggest, as ‘some fruit who bothers to find out what’s going on’, you take a train ride to Bradford and see how you are welcomed there by your Momentum friends in the North.

  4. Jenny Mulligan Reply

    There aren’t 8,000 members of the Labour Party locally as branch audits are showing. Something Greg Hadfield would know if he wasn’t unlawfully holding onto an outdated membership list.

  5. Mike Davies Reply

    As everyone who bothers to turn up to vote in selection meetings knows, there are 2 slates in the current Labour political landscape and it’s interesting to see that the word “Progress” does not appear on this page even once (apart from this single use by myself).

    Is the “stink of the fumes coming from the current Brighton and Hove Momentum chief’s gaslight?” actually the whiff of hypocracy coming from a place closer to what the writer David Arnold calls home ?

    Just asking…

  6. Pear Reply

    Marian

    You do know this is the same David Arnold that advised the labour party to not stand a candidate here in the last general election Right?

    and that we should all vote for the Green Party

    Friend of Labour He ain’t. Momentumn/Progress/whatever, he’s lucky to even be a member of the party still.

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