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The left-wing campaign group Momentum recently held elections to its National Co-ordinating Group (NCG), its governing council. Members elected 26 regional / national representatives and three Public Office Holder reps (chosen via an electoral college). In addition to these seats, the NCG incudes several representatives from affiliated groups. Two factions stood, with one winning an outright majority of seats. Yet there seems to be a great deal of disagreement over who won, and which faction has a mandate to lead Momentum.
First, the background. In 2020, the “Forward Momentum” slate – pledging to change the organisation, expand internal democracy and place members at the centre – won a landslide victory under the first-past-the-post electoral system, winning 20 of the 20 directly-elected seats. They were opposed by Momentum Renewal, a slate associated with Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who only managed to win the 4 seats where voting was only open to elected officials.
After two years of massive change – in Momentum, Labour and the world at large – neither of these factions stood in the 2022 NCG elections. The major slates were instead:
-> “Your Momentum”: a slate of 20 candidates including four “Forward Momentum” incumbents, YM pledged to “build on the foundations” of the past two years. YM was also endorsed by 14 of the 20 people who ran for Forward Momentum in 2020.
-> “Momentum Organisers”: a slate of 23 candidates, none of whom stood in 2020. The Organisers slate argued that “Momentum has been rudderless, drifting into defeat after defeat” for the past two years, pledging to “put Momentum back on a winning path”. Their endorsements include 8 of the 24 people who ran for Momentum Organisers in 2020. For the sake of full disclosure: I endorsed them too.
The electoral system
In the 2020 election, 20 NCG reps were elected in five regions using first-past-the-post. In addition, there were four Public Office holder reps, with voting open only to elected officials. For the 2022 contest, the electoral system changed substantially.
There are now 26 regional and national reps, elected by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in six regions and the two nations of Scotland and Wales (for a total of eight constituencies). There are also three Public Officer holder reps, chosen via an electoral college of 66% elected officials, 33% members.
Unsurprisingly, with such a dramatic change in electoral system the results were also dramatically different from 2020. Two years ago, Forward Momentum swept all 20 of the seats elected solely by members; this year, the 26 regional and national reps were split evenly between Your Momentum (13) and Momentum Organisers (13). When the three Public Officer holder reps were allocated, the Momentum Organisers faction emerged with an overall majority (15 seats) leaving Your Momentum in the minority (14 seats). Together with affiliated reps, this has apparently proven to be enough for control of the NCG, as the newly elected co-Chairs of Momentum are both on the Organisers slate.
Momentum Organisers described the result as “a mandate to lead” for their slate, but Your Momentum described the result as evenly split and called for a 50-50 division of leadership roles. The Organisers slate rejected this proposal, and appear to have won enough NCG members around to their perspective – as said above, the new co-Chairs are from their slate. So who’s correct? Was it a tie, or did the Organisers slate win a clear victory?
The popular vote
There are a variety of numbers being quoted at the moment, so I’ve delved into the results released by Momentum to establish a single clear set of figures for the two slates.
The biggest issue causing confusion is the Public Office holders section. Momentum only released the combined figures, so we don’t know how ordinary members (33% of votes) voted as compared to elected officials (66% of votes). Additionally, every member who voted in that section could also vote in the regional / national rep section – so including those vote totals in an overall figure simply duplicates the figures.
Therefore, I have aggregated the results from each region / nation into a UK-wide popular vote total (shown in the graphic below). I have shown both the first preference totals, and the results once all preferences were allocated.
As you can see, Momentum Organisers won an outright majority (over 50%) of the popular vote by both measures (first and final preferences), as well as in the Public Office holder section. And ultimately, they won a majority of elected seats. Not only that, there was a 14.5% swing to the opposition.
Having said that, Your Momentum is correct to say that the seats elected solely by members were split evenly (13-13) and the result was quite regionally split. The Organisers slate won the South of England and the North by decisive margins, but Your Momentum triumphed overwhelmingly in the Midlands and won slightly in Wales and in the Yorkshire / Northern Ireland / International region (in Scotland, Your Momentum won unopposed).
This is a change from 2020, when Forward Momentum won a clear majority of votes in every constituency.
As some may know, I backed the Momentum Organisers slate. Therefore I would encourage readers to review the numbers here, and those released by Momentum, to form their own opinions. But if I were to offer my own view, I would say this: Momentum Organisers won an absolute majority of the popular vote, and emerged with an outright majority of elected seats. They laid out a clear plan for Momentum going forward, and I think they should be given the chance to implement it.
That does not mean, however, that Your Momentum should be side-lined. Not only did they win significant victories in Wales, Scotland and the Midlands, but they are a vital part of Momentum and won nearly half the votes in the contest. Respecting a faction’s victory in an internal election is important, but so is respecting the defeated faction’s contribution to the organisation and ensuring that Momentum moves forward as a united front.
Hopefully, with the elections and leadership changes behind them, Momentum can move past these divisions and build an organisation capable of doing what we all hope they can do: defeating the Labour Right and winning power in the Labour Party.