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Role of Interest Groups

Case Study – Momentum

Origin

The group was created in Autumn 2015 initially to support the leadership campaign of left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party, a similar organisation was set up by Tony Blair in 1996 in the run up to his election as leader. Estimates of the membership of Momentum vary but some reports suggest estimates of 20,000 members (Silvera, 2016) and up 100,000 supporters nationally (MacAskill, 2016) with local groups from the South West to the North East of England. 

Jon Lansman is credited with setting up the original group, and continues to be an influential member of the organisation.

Cause or Interest Group?

They are a cause/promotional group as they wish to change government policy and put forward (usually left-wing) ideas and principles, the membership is technically open to all (however there is a level of expectation that members should also be a member of the Labour Party or broadly support Labour Party policies under Jeremy Corbyn), and generally speaking members are motivated by the desire to better society usually in favour of marginalised or disadvantaged groups in society.

Aims

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the leadership of the Labour Party the movement has shifted aims towards campaigning on social issues and being a left-wing political voice in society. More recently the group has stated its aim to become a mass social movement engaged with community organisations. Its aims as described on its website include the following:
  • Redistribute wealth and power from the few to the many;
  • Put people and planet before profit and narrow corporate interests;
  • Provide protection at work and strong collective bargaining to stamp out workplace injustice.
  • Ensure decent homes for all in public and private sectors through a big house¬building programme and rent controls.
  • Support workers and their trade unions defending the interests of their members, families and communities.
  • End discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or age.
  • Transform Labour into a more open, member-¬led party, with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government. (Momentum, 2016)

Insider or Outsider?

It could be argued that Momentum is an Ideological Outsider Group –as it is a pressure group that is not consulted by the government, although it is consulted on a fairly regular basis by the leader of the opposition party Jeremy Corbyn, this is often on an informal basis so Momentum should not be classed as an insider group. 

Membership

There are mainly two groups within Momentum:
  • the traditional ‘old left’ who focus on the internal dynamics of the labour party and returning Labour members who left over Iraq as well as other issues
  • younger members who are more focused on building a social movement who have come into UK politics through UK Uncut and the Occupy movements. (MacAskill, 2016)

Action

Momentum has run a number of national campaigns such as the work in local elections which have helped secure some electoral success for Labour, such as in Oldham West and Royton by-election in October 2015 where Momentum’s assistance was singled out by the winning MP Jim McMahon. 

It has also been involved in protests against George Osborne’s proposed tax credit cuts that eventually forced a reversal in policy. (Red Pepper, 2016)

It organises campaigns on key issues such as the NHS, organising peaceful protests and petitions, as well as facilitating local meetings at a grass-roots level to debate current governmental policy, and has recently announced launching a partnership with Disabled People Against the Cuts, in a move to put the fight for disabled people’s rights, and accessibility and inclusion, at the heart of the labour movement. (Momentum Press, 2016)

In 2016 it held ‘The World Transformed’ four day festival of politics, art, culture and community in Liverpool that ran alongside the labour annual conference in September (The World Transformed, 2016).

Response

Momentum has had significant support from Jeremy Corbyn who often makes appearances and gives talks at their events, at ‘The World Transformed’ festival in 2016 he was reported to have said the group had made a “significant” contribution to his election campaign, and holding a copy of The World Transformed programme said: “This event here might be described as some kind of fringe extreme. I see the kind of discussions that are in this programme here absolutely central and mainstream to how people think and what we're trying to do.” (Cowburn, 2016).

However some media outlets have criticised the movement, for example Channel 4 released an exposé in the wake of Corbyn’s election in 2015 leadership contest. The Dispatches programme secretly recorded meetings of the group in the aim to demonstrate that the movement was being influenced by extremists on the hard left (Channel 4, 2016).

References

Channel 4, 2016. The Battle for The Labour Party: Channel 4 Dispatches. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/the-battle-for-the-labour-party-channel-4-dispatches
[Accessed 5th November 2016].
Cowburn, A., 2016. The World Transformed: A look inside the Momentum movement that helped secure a second Corbyn victory. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/world-transformed-look-inside-momentum-movement-second-jeremy-corbyn-victory-labour-conference-a7336831.html
[Accessed 29 September 2016].
MacAskill, E., 2016. At home with Momentum: the rise of 'Corbyn's Shock Troops'. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/mar/08/momentum-corbyns-shock-troops-labour
[Accessed 28 September 2016].
Momentum Press, 2016. Momentum Press. [Online] 
Available at: http://momentumpress.tumblr.com/
[Accessed 5 November 2016].
Momentum, 2016. About. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/about
[Accessed 28 September 2016].
Red Pepper, 2016. What is Momentum?. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/what-is-momentum/
[Accessed 25 October 2016].
Silvera, I., 2016. Momentum membership nears 20,000 after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election as Labour leader. [Online] 
Available at: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/momentum-membership-nears-20000-after-jeremy-corbyns-re-election-labour-leader-1583694
[Accessed 29 September 2016].
The World Transformed, 2016. The World Transformed. [Online] 
Available at: http://theworldtransformed.org/lineup/
[Accessed September 2016].

Case study provided by Advanced Level Adviser - Zoe Lynes
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