Jeremy Corbyn's leadership shows us people are fed up with the idea that politicians know best

And that's why I set up a 'rival' Momentum event outside this year's Labour party conference

Andrew Dolan
Saturday 24 September 2016 12:10
Jeremy Corbyn, who won the Labour leadership election after being challenged by Owen Smith
Jeremy Corbyn, who won the Labour leadership election after being challenged by Owen Smith

With two “exposés” broadcast in the space of two hours last Monday, and a host of news segments throughout the week, Momentum is a word on everyone’s lips. Yet despite the focus, clarity is still lacking. Those weren’t sure what Momentum is are are probably even less sure now.

Momentum has almost 20,000 members and no doubt every one of them sees the organisation a little differently, but uniting us are shared beliefs in the need to give new ideas a platform, to bring together people from diverse backgrounds, and to share the experiences of those campaigning in their communities with those doing so in parliament. We want to make politics relevant to people’s daily lives, and do so in a way that broadens its scope to include art, music and other forms of culture.

That’s what motived us to set up The World Transformed – our supposedly “rival” event to this weekend’s Labour Party conference.

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Setting aside the considerable differences between these two meetings – one a stuffy, corporate affair, the other intended as a celebration of politics, art, culture and community –it’s true that we could have held our gathering anywhere, any time. Yet the decision to hold it in the same city at the same time as the Labour Party conference (much like the dozens of other fringe events) does not come from a desire to rival or disrupt it – even if the annual party conference has, in recent years, come to symbolise all that was so frustratingly superficial about New Labour and, later, Ed Miliband.

The presence of The World Transformed is a direct response to the considerable appetite among many party members and supporters for doing politics differently – even if many senior party figures are yet to accept this. This desire for change, symbolised by but not limited to Corbyn’s leadership, comes not only from a widespread rejection of specific policies but also a loss of patience with the debilitating mantra that politicians know best. On the contrary, there is a wealth of collective knowledge running throughout society and it is all too often untapped or, worse, purposefully ignored. The event is about amplifying these voices and providing the opportunity for those attending Labour Party conference to hear the noise they make.

More than just an intellectual exercise, though, many of the ideas and experiences that will be will be shared and generated at The World Transformed will be central to the rebuilding of the Labour Party as an organisation capable of succeeding in a dramatically changed political, economic, social and technological landscape. Talk of a “new politics” may at times sound fanciful—and it can be used to avoid difficult questions—but Labour’s future success depends on its wholesale reinvention. In hosting The World Transformed alongside the Labour Party conference, we hope to help set in motion this process, and offer a chance for those inside and outside the party to learn from each other.

It’s understandable that, when prospect of change presents itself, those who benefit from the way things are today react with confusion and anger. Visions of plotting Trots and ‘Momentum mobs’ are explainable, even if they are ridiculous – is no longer the 1980s and times have changed.

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, especially when it comes to politics, but we hope there is some glimpse of it at The World Transformed.

Andrew Dolan is an organiser of Momentum’s The World Transformed conference and co-editor of Red Pepper magazine

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