Saturday 14 December 2019

Weekend Election Thoughts (1): Momentum

Here's an interesting difference between the two main parties.  If you volunteer to go canvassing for the Tories, you are welcomed with open arms and - frequently with little, or even no 'training' - sent straight out onto the streets with a cheery "have you done this before?"  If you're a first-timer, you might be sent out as part of a little team.  If you self-identify as "experienced", or are just cocky, they'll happily send you out alone. 

So how difficult can it be, to ask "can we count on your support?".  Well.  For those who don't know, the old business of just sticking people down on the list as "pledge", "doubtful" or "other" are long since over.  Since the rise of UKIP, Tory canvassers have supposedly been trying to classify people much more finely, e.g. "Brexit-formerly-Labour".  In theory, they'd get a different personalised letter to the person who was "Brexit-formerly-Cons".  (Just once in a while, there's a local operation sufficiently competent to make use of such subtleties.  In truth, it really only makes sense in official target seats or by-elections of national importance, when central resources are available.)

Oh yes: and we're not to call it "canvassing" any more.  It's "listening".  Now where did that come from?  The answer is - Momentum.  And a very stark contrast they present to what us Tories do

As well as having a bit of an inside perspective on Momentum (it's a long story), I first met these chaps in action on the doorstep in 2017.  A 20-something rang the doorbell, and he probably guessed he was on a sticky wicket because we had a poster in the window.  So that's strange, right from the off: received wisdom is not to waste your time with the other side, there's just too many houses to get round.  But evidently it was all in his brief, because he had a string of well-crafted Q&A scripts, designed to actually engage and probe and, yes, maybe even to convince. 

But there isn't one person in ten thousand who can take on that challenge without (a) training and (b) motivation.  Well, we live in a marginal.  But still: that's impressive.  BTW, he had clearly been bussed in because his local knowledge was rudimentary - though not zero - and soon gave out.  Not so his general intelligence: he was an educated, polite, thoughtful person (and I've encountered more of the same in 2019) and gave no outward signs of rabidity, snowflakery, or cult-grooming.  What he had clearly undertaken was extensive political education (might have been self-taught, of course) - and some very purposeful training: which definitely included the importance of "listening".

Two things about this.  First, there is no serious Tory equivalent of such training - some half-hearted measures at best (like making people call it "listening"!), which are pretty-much lost on confident middle-aged activists who just hit the streets with "can we count on ..." as they always have.  And, frankly, few of our youthful activists (yes, there are quite a lot of them in the Tory ranks these days, itself a big change over the last ten years) could hold a candle to this lot.  We have no Doctrine to steep them in! - because "no Doctrine" is half of our raison d'ĂȘtre.

The second thing is this.  Since 2011, as regular C@W-ers will know, I have been much taken with the concept of a capable new officer-class emerging within the ranks of politically-active, educated, disillusioned 20-somethings.  2011?  The year of the riots, of course, when one of our esteemed BTL-ers ('Anon', if I recall) opined that while the nonsense of that summer was pretty much anarchy, frequently of merely the opportunistic-looting kind (albeit with some Blackberry-based 'organisation'), we ain't seen nothing yet.  Just wait until the leftist bedsit officer-class emerges.

Momentum is a pretty fair candidate to be just that.  Its senior ranks (I can assure you if you don't already know) include some really intelligent people.  They are motivated.  They have stamina.  They are strongly inclined towards a Doctrine, though I'm not sure it's fully formed.  They are utterly hostile to what generally gets called neo-liberalism; though again, that's not a wholly coherent doctrinal stance because by some definitions, I am too.  They have a programme of political education and, up to a point, it's pretty practical in its intentions, if not in its outcomes.  And some of them - what proportion, I know not - are outright revolutionary marxists who believe their time has come.

In ones nightmares, Momentum could be truly formidable.  That's certainly its intention!  And it needs to be taken carefully into the reckoning.

More to come



Jan said...

You could have met my son Nick!

He was one of the first to join Momentum and loved JC. I think he saw him as someone who stuck to his views through thick and thin even when they weren't popular ie he had some integrity unlike most salaried politicians. My son was one of those on the anti Iraq war march which was totally ignored by TB. Corbyn was also anti.

We don't discuss politics much as we are on opposite sides. He's been going to his local labour party meetings and helped select the candidate plus did some canvassing in a London marginal constituency. He's self-educated in politics but that's not so hard with lots of leftie groups to join online. I expect there are a lot of university educated middle class youngsters in Momentum so I'm not surprised if they have a professional approach to canvasssing.

I haven't dared phone him since the election as he was probably really upset by it. He lives in the London millenial bubble and really thought Corbyn stood a good chance of winning.

BlokeInBrum said...

After the election the Tories really need to get their shit together.
They need to make it clear what they are for, and what they are against.
The media environment is going to be as hostile as ever if not more so.
The left still infuse academia, the media and the establishment and the election hasn't changed that.
Having a focussed ideology and being able to organise for that is what made Thatcher so effective.
Boris is a great character, as is Trumpf. But one person alone isn't sufficient. He needs to purge all the quangos etc and put in place people of the same ideological bent.
Thatcher surrounded herself with a bodyguard of like minded souls, able to defend her and support her.
Lansman got this, - and with Momentum created a cadre of highly motivated, intelligent people with a singular goal.
Conservatives embodied by the Tory party, seem to have been content to lose every cultural battle they've fought, when they could be bothered to fight. Maybe Boris will take the fight to the enemy, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

Labour supporters have been calling the BBC the Brexit Broadcasting Conservative.

One of my friends is a member of the LDs and he was very frustrated at their strategy. They would have done better if they didn't do stupid things like standing in Tory/Labour tossups and focused on the constituencies where they were the 2nd (or 1st but marginal) party.

Jan said...

What BlokeinBrum said.

They won't give up without a fight:

Anonymous said...

I'd have more sympathy for Corbyn/Momentum if it weren't for his IRA history.

But we've elected Boris to 'get Brexit done', not to privatise the NHS or depress living standards even further. We surely can't "race to the bottom" much more. We need more economic leftism (I'd love it if he got us out of PFI contracts - IIRC a Corbs policy) and less social leftism - I'd like to see ID cards - hate them, but we are where we are - and definitely no amnesty for illegal infiltrators.

I do hope he keeps Dominic Cummings on and cuts Fraser Nelson out of his life. Fat chance. Dom has ideas on the economy which aren't just related to raising total GDP while destroying communities. Round my rural way they are building as fast as they can to house people fleeing diversity - only for the reasonably well-off, of course. Sod those racists in Stoke and West Bromwich, they should earn more.

We've raised total GDP 50% since 1997, while people have become poorer and more indebted. Can't go on.

I'll believe in Britannia Unchained when the last hand car wash has vanished.

Must say, while I'd never vote for him, the campaign against Corbyn was so full of lies I felt a bit as I did with Scotref1 and the daily, obviously orchestrated, drip-drip of captains of industry telling us the place would become an industrial wasteland (well, more of one) if they dared vote out. I almost (but not quite) wanted a Yes vote just to put the fingers up.

BlokeInBrum said...

There clearly was a concerted campaign to nobble Corbyn. Guido's site has had a steady drip drip drip of antisemitism stories about him and his party for months.
Doesn't mean to say that the stories are untrue though. He undisputedly is an anti Semite and a supporter of every anti British ideology and group going.
The campaign against him and the Labour party had the effect of neutering the moral high ground that the left likes to claim.
Its only the Tories who are supposed to be baby killing monsters etc etc
If you note the 'sudden' emergence of the NHS as a topic right before the election, as if they don't flog that horse every election.
The left can't campaign on economics as their track record is useless, they cant campaign on defence as they all hate this country and want to make us defenceless. They can't campaign on public services as all they want to do is spend, spend, spend.
All that's left is to convince the public that the right wing are all monsters, subservient to rapacious big business and snooty Tory toffs. Sadly enough of the public are dim witted or tribal enough to believe this bollox, but slowly the glamour is wearing thin.
This election was a breakthrough, traditional labour voters put a tick in the box marked 'Tory' and didn't spontaneously combust. The NHS hasn't imploded. Next time it will be easier.
What Boris needs to do is reinforce that. Focus on the youth, deradicalise the Unis. and work more on getting the message out on Social Media. Make it cool to be Conservative again.

Anonymous said...

BiB - I disagree. He's an old 70s leftie, brought up on stories of Cable Street and the International Brigade. A few years older and he'd have been volunteering on a kibbutz, as many of my friends did in the late 60s.

This anti-semitism nagombi is purely because he's not terribly keen on what Israel have done to Palestinians over the last few decades, and a Corbyn foreign policy would not have implied knee-jerk, 110% support for Israel.

It depresses me that no Guardian writer gave a crap about him having tea with the IRA, but a lot were concerned about him sharing a platform with Hamas. Who's killed more Brits - a lot more?

"The NHS hasn't imploded"

No, but I presume you saw the figures, released the day after the election.

BlokeInBrum said...

What happens to the NHS isn't dependant on whom is in government at any given time. The behemoth is simply to big and unruly to be controlled by dozy politicians, at least in the short term.
Corbyn himself may not be an hardcore anti Semite on a personal level, but optics count, and if he is too dozy to see how the average voter sees him then that's his problem. He is also giving cover to those who genuinely want the destruction of Israel and is certainly sympathetic to them.
I was reading about Airey Neave the other day, whom the INLA killed with a car bomb as he was coming out of the Palace of Westminster car park.
The IRA was a real menace and Airey was about to become Northern Irish Secretary in the Thatcher Government.
His intent was to go after them instead of a supine policy of containment, hence his assassination.
People quickly forget how intense the 'troubles' were. It was a brutal fight and no quarter was given. Belfast was a war zone. Manchester, Birmingham, London among many others were bombed. People died. To sympathize, to support that. As a British, mainstream politician is unforgivable. Perhaps part of the reason was that the IRA were also hardcore Marxists, having had training and support from the Cuban regime.
I'll say it again, that 1/3 of the electorate support such a person is to me mind boggling.

dearieme said...

How many of us would it need to take out £3 memberships and then vote to disband the party?

A few hundred thousand?

Anonymous said...

I was impressed by the similarity of the picture of the child on the floor in the hospital with the one some time ago of Corbin on the floor of the train.???????

\or am \i an old cynic\//

Anonymous said...

"Corbyn himself may not be an hardcore anti Semite on a personal level, but optics count"

Those optics were totally manufactured. It was all about Israel and a potential change to UK foreign policy. Corbyn's no anti-semite of any sort. He's anti-British, I'll give you that.

But if you chuck enough mud, it'll stick with some low-information voters.

andrew said...

Indeed the nhs is not dependant on who is in power at any one time but a bit like the old railway system, it benefits from network effects.
There is a slow tendency to offer contracts to the private sector in limited elective areas (cataracts, hips etc) that can be done more efficiently than the nhs.

The externalities are ignored.
When something goes wrong you are shipped back into the NHS
Patients with issues (age weight diabetic - high risk) are passed to the nhs.
A private doc becomes very good at eyes. This means that an nhs doc is less skilled.

Over time an increasing amount of treatment 'has its pathways optimised' (outsourced to a private provider) currently 7-10% depending on definitions.

It may be that the nhs does slowly get privitised by small slices.

If done in the form of rail we will end up paying more for less.
If done like water it might work out.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian sent someone to Sedgefield

Zero mentions of anti-semitism, but plenty of the IRA. Complete opposite of the Guardian opinion section.

Talking to regulars the same allegations surface again and again. That Corbyn consorted with the IRA, that he is soft on terrorists. That he has remained silent on prosecuting veterans over the Bloody Sunday killings. The leader’s shifting agnosticism on Brexit, in this context, is portrayed as yet another failure of patriotism, just as symbolic as his unforgivable reluctance to sing God save the Queen at a Battle of Britain remembrance service.

"There is hardly a family around here who has not had a son or a brother or a father serve. A man like Corbyn, with his history, they could not vote for him."

Elby the Beserk said...

Anonymous said...
BiB - I disagree. He's an old 70s leftie, brought up on stories of Cable Street and the International Brigade.

My generation. Some became acid casualties. Some, and I knew a few, became Hard Left casualties.

Alan Johnson was right. Corbyn's politics are frozen in his adolescence. Only problem for Labour is that he repels the ordinary citizen.