Saturday afternoon in the Frog and Bucket, Oldham Street, Manchester and its buzzing! I doubt even the atmosphere at Glastonbury with Jeremy Corbyn’s energising appearance can beat it. More than 250 Labour activists from all over greater Manchester and beyond are gathered at a Momentum North West meeting to analyse the General Election result. Two weeks on and the sense of surprise has dissipated but a glow of success pervades the meeting.
To gusty choruses of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” Tameside Councillor Leigh Drennan pumps the meeting up for the speakers and on come Rebecca Long-Bailey MP and Jon Trickett MP to give us the strong speeches they are famous for – lots of concrete examples of the misery and stunted lives that result from heartless Tory cuts over the past 7 years, but lots of praise too for the fantastic efforts by activists young and old in the election, and urging us to go on fighting until the Conservatives are in the political dustbin where they belong.
Then comes our new MP for Crewe and Nantwich, Laura Smith – what a barnstorming speech! She may be new to the job but she will rock Westminster, a proper working class young woman and a breath of fresh air to those over-privileged, stuffy corridors of power. Just what we need more of in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Party generally and she did not shy away from our solid socialist manifesto to do it!
Now come contributions from the floor, campaign stories from dog-bitten fingers to converting a Kipper [UKIP supporter] . The mood is part euphoric and part determined – what worked well, where do we need to improve? It is clear that negative prognoses led to a defensive approach in the early days, but with the fairer press and TV coverage of Labour policies and personalities enforced by election rules, the polls began to reflect dawning public understanding that we were neither mad Trots nor deluded economic ignoramuses.
The Party apparatus could not adjust swiftly but Momentum could and did. Hordes of enthusiastic activists overran the marginals. Well-versed organisers helped out constituencies where local numbers and in some cases experienced people were in short supply. Old hands exclaimed that they had never seen an election like it. Not all were Momentum and not all were young, I myself met several in Crewe and Bolton West who were in their sixties and fighting their first campaign, but all were keen for socialism to succeed and all were optimistic for the outcome. How right they were.
So what now? Co-operation with previously unsympathetic Labour Party members has borne fruit and this spirit should be continued. But we must work to consolidate the shift to the left, away from cosy collusion with the establishment. For that we need to recruit more members both to Momentum and the Party; we need to train and encourage more activists to take up roles in the Party structure, no good sitting back and hoping someone else will do it; and we must start now!
It won’t be easy. The Tories are in disarray just now, while Labour is somewhat unusually united. But as power becomes more real and a proper socialist Labour Government takes over in the UK, the real power brokers in our capitalist world will flex their substantial financial muscle. They will use any means, however low and despicable, to ruin the fairer future we plan for the masses, the ordinary people of our country. As Jon Trickett warned us – if you think the media have been biased the past two years, just wait until we look like winning the next election for the 95% who have lost out for so many years.
With momentum behind Jeremy Corbyn and a galvanised Labour Party after an election result that many doubted possible, we have every chance of overcoming this negative force from vested interests. Corbyn has captured the imagination of the UK’s youth, as demonstrated by his reception at Glastonbury, who want a future with opportunities and hope and that only a Labour government can provide.
Thanks for this event are due to Momentum staff members Joe Bradley and Councillor Damien Bailey plus all the volunteers who made it such a success.
Vince Martin – Stockport Labour Party and Unite activist
Momentum Northwest Facebook page – click here
Labour North West website – click here