BY JOHN ISMAEL
The organisation has polarised Labour politicians and journalists since its inception. Some have compared it to the Militant tendency within the Labour Party. Whatever one’s thoughts on the organisation’s policies and Life of Brian style governing committees, People’s Momentum used to be relevant. So significant that some Tory activists grew scraggy beards, ditched deodorant, cultivated blackhead farms on their noses and plucked oversized woolly jumpers from charity shops to attend Momentum meetings to learn for themselves what this peculiar group of Year Zero airheads was all about.
After the 2017 General Election, when it looked for a moment as though the shell-suited prophet Jeremy Corbyn could become Prime Minister, Momentum and its persuasion classes seemed to be working doorstep miracles. Not anymore. Being a member of Momentum these days holds the same street cred as wearing a Socialist Workers Party badge – as well regarded as fanning oneself with a copy of the New Statesman at a sweltry Sir Roger Scruton memorial.
It’s not tricky to fathom when a political movement is heading for the wall. First there’s a cataclysmic event that makes the grouping appear inescapably culpable. The 2019 General Election – dominated by talk of antisemitism coming from Labour’s hard left – was to Momentum what bullied Elliott Johnson’s death was to Conservative Way Forward back in 2016. Or what revelations about Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked did to News of the World. Let’s face it, when in 2020 The Canary and Skwawkbox are the only media left in town promoting you, you know you’re a goner. In the real world the damage Momentum has done to the Labour Party is unforgettable.
Next, one of the group’s key cadres takes a public shellacking, for whatever reason.
Jim Jones’ socialist Peoples Temple entered its period of demise when the tax man publicly moved in on his cult, targeting Jones in the press and on television, forcing him to flee California with his hardcore acolytes to set up a commune in Guyana. In this instance, Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, made the mistake of going on national TV for some sitting duck treatment, thus assuring his personal political demise and that of the group he conceived. Memorably on election evening on ITV an emotional Alan Johnson took Lansman and his Bennite Momentum movement apart:
Then along came the knockout blow any grouping always dreads.
Sir Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader in April this year was a rampart too far for Momentum, causing the group to stop rolling and stutter to a stop. Labour’s Blairite right had vanquished Corbyn’s chosen successor, Long-Bailey, and began identifying and disconnecting hard left lifelines. After that Momentum virtually lost all steam – its local organisations, once the pride and joy of Corbyn’s hard left Labour revival, “withered on the vine” according to one Momentum diehard relegated to a Guardian blog.
Covid hardly helped – Momentum, like Conservative Way Forward, was an alcohol-driven social event for the young dependent on physical gatherings and free love. Without Labour leadership backing what could Momentum be but a busted flush? Its future reduced to a skeletal web and social media presence – alongside those other duds of the hard left like Socialist Action and Labour Party Marxists.
After the knockout blow comes a marked decline in membership and income. What cool kid wants to be identified with antisemitism, especially when there’s no free beer on offer to assuage the ignominy?
Momentum membership has inevitably waned of late as the yoof grew less besotted with the Pied Piper’s flute. The group’s coffers are in a far worse position than in 2017. Its campaigns are being scaled back and reduced to focusing on an affordable Future Councillors grooming programme, which Starmer’s office is already fighting back against by stemming the flow of Momentum Trotskyites and other hard leftist placers into party roles and offices.
It is when death becomes certain that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – the 5 stages of grief – are triggered. Denial over at Momentum set in some months ago. It is ubiquitous. The Momentum website these days heralds “this is just the beginning”. Psychological translation: “this, dear comrades, is curtains of Romanov proportions.”
Anger through infighting is discernible wherever you look:
Bargaining – the normal reaction to the helplessness and vulnerability that comes through loss – is an attempt to regain control. Momentum’s defensive PR campaigns are already in full swing and the verbiage pumped out by Momentum HQ is all about a return to core values and revival. Talk is of “reconstruction” of the group, of “relevance” and, poor wannabe Guevarras, about how events have shown that “we were right all along”.
Depression is progressively observable amongst now increasingly miserable Momentum socialists:
The final stage of grief – acceptance – alas seems for some still a way off:
You gave it a good try but you were smashed out of the park. Britain is far too sensible to ever be socialist. Now that you’re heading back into the Jumanji box and we’re left with high-heeled Sturmer, life will be so very dull without you around. Let us light a Cuban cigar and indulge in one last puff for the good old days. No pasaran!