CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Are these hardships necessary? (Financial Times)

Samuel Brittan argues that the real argument should be about whether we need unparalleled fiscal austerity or not. All is not lost as long as the US and China stick to quasi-Keynesian policies.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. This Budget is the big test (Guardian)

The Labour leadership candidate David Miliband says his party must take on the Budget with principle and passion to show that it has learned the right lessons from the crisis.

3. After Shannon, what about the other 304,000? (Times)

There are 304,000 children suffering low-level neglect, says Camilla Cavendish. It's impossible to expect social workers alone to keep bad parents on the straight and narrow.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. The dealing room had it coming (Independent)

Andreas Whittam Smith discusses financial reform. Banks have become huge organisations engaged in scores of different activities, some of them more suitable for gamblers than for sober citizens.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. Liberal Democrats should prepare for a bumpy ride (Guardian)

Reading the Lib Dem soul is a tricky business, says John Harris, but there is dissent in the ranks, as most of the people at the top subscribe to a politics very different from that of the party mainstream.

6. West must offer Turkey a proper seat (Financial Times)

Ankara has not turned its back on Europe, says Philip Stephens, but the terms of engagement have changed. Economically vibrant and politically self-confident, Turkey has outgrown the role allotted to it by the west.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Germany won't let the euro train be derailed (Times)

Josef Joffe says that Germany has always been a vital part of the single currency and has far too much at stake to let it fall apart.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Plucky Belgium is leading the way. Today Flanders, tomorrow Scotland (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins points out that however much Euro-enthusiasts wish it were otherwise, the craving for lower-tier self-rule refuses to die. In Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, even the UK, concession after concession is made to devolutionary sentiment.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

9. What football says about a country (Independent)

It is not the fear of losing that does them in, says Matthew Norman. Losing is far too familiar an experience to frighten them a jot. It's the fear of winning.

10. From Russia with Restraint (Times)

The leading article says that although Kyrgyzstan urgently needs outside help, Moscow should not overplay its hand.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am every weekday.

Getty
Show Hide image

Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.