A group of people claiming to be Labour Party members who have become disheartened by the authoritarian nature of Momentum have set up a Tumblr page and posted what they claim is evidence of bullying and harassment within the organisation. Momentum is a grassroots activist organisation that supports Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Shortly after the launch of Momentum was announced, people from all over the country who had been involved in Corbyn’s leadership campaign set up social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter for local Momentum branches. These social media pages were unsanctioned and grew organically, making their administrators de facto Momentum organisers for their local area.
The problem for Momentum’s leadership was that these local social media accounts were largely unaccountable. A Labour Source has told Business Insider that in the weeks following Momentum’s launch, Labour staffers became increasingly concerned and confused by the appearance of these social media accounts as it appeared anyone could set them up.
The people behind the leaks claim that after a while they began coordinating with Momentum HQ to make their social media accounts official. People from the national organisation began to join the local groups to offer their support with organising and were added as moderators on the Facebook pages.
But something odd began to happen. Some of these new moderators began removing people from administrative roles on Facebook and took over the groups for themselves. Complaints were made to Momentum HQ and promises were made to rectify things sensibly and amicably.
Business Insider has reached out to Momentum for comment.
Below is James Schneider, who is often referred to as the public face of Momentum, reassuring activists via Facebook.
Despite the apparent attempt to sort everything out, things continued to be a bit of a mess. The last straw for local organisers appears to have come when a man called Alex Halligan was installed as administrator on some local pages. Despite Schneider’s reassurances, local organisers were not happy about Halligan based on these comments.
It’s at this point that Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum stepped in. He invited some of the people who were at the centre of the criticism into a private Facebook group with the disenfranchised local activists. Below are screenshots of what happened next.
Max Shanly has been described by the political news site Guido Fawkes as an ally of Momentum chief Jon Lansman and is on the executive committee of the Labour youth wing. Remember, he is talking to local activists in this manner right under the nose of Lansman. Note that these screenshots were leaked without context and time stamps.
Momentum has recently been defending itself against allegations that its members want to try and deselect Labour MPs whose politics they don’t consider to be left wing enough.
Shanly appears to be the type of activist who confirms these fears about Momentum. In an interview with the rs21 website, he said that MPs with a different view to Corbyn should be “brutally” brought into line. [Emphasis ours].
I think Jeremy will face problems not just inside the Parliamentary Labour Party, which I think is likely to split if he wins with the Blairites buggering off to form a new SDP, but also from the Labour Party bureaucracy. New Labourism is still a hegemonic force at Brewers Green (Labour Party HQ) and despite having resigned as leader eight years ago, Blair is still the piper who plays the tune many party staff listen to. The Labour left will have to act swiftly and I am afraid brutally in many cases. The PLP will have to be brought into line, some members of party staff will need to be pointed towards the exit.
While this is the first time that Shanly’s posts have leaked, they have previously been seen and reported on by Telegraph journalist Ben Riley-Smith, who also saw an admission from Lansman that he was concerned by the conversations in the group.
I am quite disturbed by some of the conversations in this forum. They certainly do not conform to the code of ethics which states that Momentum promotes the values that Jeremy popularised during the campaign, of fair, honest debate focused on policies, not personal attacks or harassment… Though we may have differences on some issues, including perhaps our views of how Momentum should develop, I hope we are all on the same side when it comes to defending the legitimacy of Jeremy’s election, changing the nature of the Labour Party into a campaigning movement for social change.
Shanly has not been removed from position within Momentum, though he has deleted his Twitter and locked down his Facebook account following the above leak.
Interestingly Ridely-Smith also reported that after expressing concern over the tone of the conversation in this group, Lansdale warned about the danger of Momentum being infiltrated.
We cannot be certain, however, since like many local groups, this group may also have been infiltrated by one or more people who actively oppose us.
This is a completely different perspective on things. There have been frequent reports that members of the Labour party are afraid that Momentum is infiltrating Labour with hard-left political activists who are members of organisations such as the Socialist Party. It turns out that Momentum has the same fear, but the other way around; they are scared of being infiltrated by politically moderate Labour supporters.
This paranoia might go some way to explaining why this apparent bullying and harassment of local Momentum activists had been allowed to happen. Take for example this conversation below in which Shanly accuses activist “D” of voting for Liz Kendall and not Corbyn in the leadership election.
Shanly followed up his threat by posting a screenshot that shows that the activist had posted something positive about both Corbyn and Kendall. Amazingly, there is also a leaked screenshot of Lansman appearing to condone the intimidation of D.
Following complaints about the way internal matters were being handled, the people who leaked the screenshots claim that local activists are no longer involved in discussions about Momentum and a small group of people appointed by Lansdale have now started to run the organisation from behind closed doors.
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