Inside the Momentum echo-chamber

November 24, 2016 23:11

The gothic Black-E building in the centre of Liverpool may have been impressive, but the welcome inside could hardly have been less so.

This was the home of The World Transformed, the pseudo-conference run by the hard-left, pro-Jeremy Corbyn Momentum group.

Just a 10-minute walk away from the main Labour conference, it was billed as the place to be this week.

Friends and family had warned me to keep a low profile, as if I were a Mossad agent entering an Iranian nuclear facility.

But for all the talk of harassment, bouncers and intimidation, activists were too busy munching on toast or rushing to sessions advising them on the best ways to organise a phone bank to worry about infiltrators from the Zionist media.

The event was, of course, unashamedly socialist in its outlook. Banners hanging from the gallery included those calling for justice for Jean Charles de Menenzes, supporting for the Liverpool dockers, and promoting the Global Justice campaign.

Activists wandered around wearing Palestine Solidarity Campaign lanyards and pensioners bought T-shirts and posters celebrating Mr Corbyn to give to young relatives as birthday presents.

The book store was a veritable feast of feminist literature, warnings about misogyny, and guides aimed at helping asylum seekers.

Alongside them was a small but impressively varied section on religion and the Middle East. A pamphlet by Leon Rosselson in which he labouringly struggles with his identity “as a Jew”, was positioned next to MP John Mann’s collection of speeches and essays on antisemitism. A cynic would say many of Mr Corbyn’s supporters would find a greater need for the latter tome, but at least it was there on sale.

Jackie Walker, whose suspension from the party earlier this year for claiming Jews were responsible for the slave trade and an “African holocaust”, mingled in the main hall with the look of a woman thrilled to have been turned into a cause célèbre and who perhaps yearns for another shot at martyrdom.

Paul Mason, the former Channel 4 News journalist turned unashamed hard-left campaigner, chatted to supporters. A woman had fluorescent pink hair.

At one point the lights went out, but it would be too easy to make a joke about a three-day week.

It is no crime to take a non-mainstream approach to life. Many may see it as peculiar that Mr Corbyn finds himself idolised here. Certainly Momentum has a cultish feel to it.

But this was not a hotbed of raving antisemitism. Nor did it appear to be a crowd hankering to run out into the streets looking for Blairites to lynch.

The reality was quite different, and should probably concern the Momentumites more the rest of us.

The World Transformed was, at best, a larger-than-usual fringe meeting, packed with campaigners speaking to no one other than themselves and promoting nothing other than issues they are already engaged in and committed to. An echo-chamber par excellence.

Mainstream Labour voters and ordinary citizens would have wandered in, picked up a couple of flyers, had a cup of tea, and left again.

It was genuinely impressive that such a marginal group felt sufficiently strong and important to organise a four-day event to run alongside a major, mainstream party political conference.

But beyond that, there was little to appeal to the wider audience. And it is in their belief of imminent electoral success that Momentum activists carry their greatest delusions.

Transformed? No. Instantly forgettable? Probably.

November 24, 2016 23:11

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