At the General Election, support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party shocked politicians and pundits alike. So what happened? In a series of interviews, we speak to the campaigners, mobilisers, concert organisers, educators and pundits changing the political landscape and energising a new generation of the left in Britain…
When Momentum grew out of the successful Jeremy Corbyn leadership bid in 2015 as a place for those enthused by his politics to continue their campaigning, it was viewed with suspicion by some within the Labour Party. Was it attempting to hijack or help the party? And were MPs who didn’t agree with Corbyn’s politics in the firing line?
According to Joe Todd, who volunteered for the organisation as a student and now works in their press department, the recent General Election has seen Momentum win hearts and minds within the party – and Labour win seats across the country. So how has this semi-affiliated group changed the political playing field?
What is Momentum?
Momentum is one of the most important political organisations in the country, youth-led and dynamic. It acts as bridge between social movements and the Labour Party. It’s a very important coalition and one of the reasons we could get so many people knocking on doors.
We expect a general election within the year, and we’ll be ready
What difference did the software ‘MyNearestMarginal’ that you developed make?
We had more than 100,000 unique users over the campaign using that app. That’s equivalent to nearly one fifth of the Labour Party. It was about getting people’s confidence up. If you have never knocked on doors it is a weird thing to do. Talking about politics to strangers is not normal! But we do believe genuine face-to-face conversations hold a lot of weight.
Did your videos mean the party won the cyber-election?
There are two ways we produce videos. There are pieces of content we want to go viral. These are clipped from the news or satirical videos we make to high production values. We commission them through a network of volunteers across the country who make them in their spare time. Some went really big. ‘Daddy Do You Hate Me?’ reached eight million views. Our other key stream of content was aimed at activists. These were aimed at people on the edge of door-knocking to push them over the line to make them go to do it.
How did you work with the manifesto leak?
It was electrifying, it gave activists something tangible to argue about. The ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ chant? I first became aware of it at Tranmere Rovers’ stadium before a Libertines show. It showed the possibility I’d seen among new members percolating out into wider society. I’ve never seen a popular reaction to a politician like that. I knew we were on to something.
How did the election change Momentum’s relationship with the Labour party?
This election was very good for that. We campaigned for every Labour MP. We were on pavement knocking on doors with new members, people who were part of Momentum or other groups in the Labour party. When you work together you build bridges, you remember all in the same party. And unity wins elections.
We have far better relationships with MPs across the party now. Sarah Jones won in Croydon Central and is a Progress-aligned MP. She has been very complimentary of Momentum. We had big campaign weekends in Croydon – all our south London groups were there all the time.
How do you keep the Momentum going after the election?
We are not stopping campaigning. We will keep going. We expect a general election within the year, and we are going to be ready.