Tuesday 29 August 2017

Activate Vs Momentum

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though I can guarantee there is nothing sincere about the latest Tory wheeze. For Activate, as well as pinching the name off Liberal Youth's regular campaigning event, is the Conservative answer to Momentum. The modus operandi is not dissimilar - a body independent of the parent party with a campaigning remit and the goal of ripping up the interwebs with sick memes. I mean, just look at the effort sat atop this post - clearly the work of a maestro.

The Tories have to do something to turn their fortunes around. They're staring long-term decline in the face, exacerbated by large numbers of young people spontaneously ill-disposed toward Tory values, Tory policies and, well, Tories. And so copying something that has proved something of an asset to the Labour Party would be a sensible course of action. But only if you ignore everything about the genesis of Momentum.

For starters, readers might recall that Momentum was set up in response to the support for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid that overwhelmed the Labour Party two summers ago. As Jon Lansman noted at the time, here was an army attracted to the party because of Corbyn's left platform. To have not organised it, to make a machine of it would be a dereliction of duty. From the off it earned the ire of established Labour MPs. Tom Watson attacking Momentum as "a rabble" and Owen Smith reckoning it was the second coming of Militant were stand out moments among the grumbles. Meanwhile, sundry Trotskyists outside of Labour were looking for a way to opportunistically grab a piece of the Corbyn action and tried taking over the fledgling formation. Fortunately they failed, even if bureaucratic moves were necessary to get shot. Momentum weathered both, and pulled out the stops mobilising first for the Stoke by-election and then the general election. Momentum now divides its time between organising internally for conference, campaigning, and attacking the Tories with its meme factory.

Activate starts at a disadvantage because it does not have a centre right movement to intersect with. Just read the tweet, "head to http://www.activate.uk.net for more information of our recently formed movement". There is no movement. There's a website, a Twitter account and Facebook page, and a committee. Do they suppose Jon Lansman clicked his fingers and lo, there was Momentum resplendent in the glory of 20,000 highly-motivated activists? You don't found movements like setting up a think tank. It's not a case of Theresa May ploughing up a field of wheat for your baseball pitch and watching the punters flood in. You need lots of like minded people who are moving politically in the same direction and are and have mobilised for action.

The Tories don't know anything about building a movement? Colour me shocked. Because the Tories are a collective of moneyed elites held together by common interests, or a 'movement from above', they can't but help approach these sorts of things in a top down fashion. The mass of the people out there are to be manipulated and hoodwinked, and should definitely not be encouraged to organise themselves. Because they might run the risk of becoming conscious of the interests they have in common, and more often than not it puts them on a collision course with what the Tories stand for. Put it like this. You try organising a mass movement in defence of the entrenched power and privilege of a gilded minority. Activate therefore cannot be the right's answer to Momentum.

What Activate can become is a small network of the already-convinced that bypasses the chummy cliques and ghastly ex-kippers who dominate the associations. It could be a means of replicating the successful but scandal-dogged Road Trip initiative, which managed to concentrate meagre numbers of Tory activists quite successfully in key marginals. However, a more likely - and deserved - fate awaits. This would be one of a brief flurry of press interest, some mocking of their lame propaganda and then a rapid fade into the background. In a year's time Momentum is going to be relevant, Activate's Twitter account silent and the Tories still scratching their heads about their young people problem.


Speedy said...

I suppose the Lib Dem version would be an amalgam of the two - Masturbate

Keith said...

Imitation can be flattering or a sign of a dearth of ideas. I suspect it is the later, and so will be a failure, except as an amusing diversion for those with free time.

Phil said...

Perhaps a sign of the fools and naifs involved, two of the steering committee have resigned already because of the attention.

Thomas said...

"You try organising a mass movement in defence of the entrenched power and privilege of a gilded minority. "

This can be done (e.g. the Tea Party) but I think the time is far from ripe for a movement of this kind.

Lidl_Janus said...

"I suppose the Lib Dem version would be an amalgam of the two - Masturbate"

Sounds more fun than either, to be fair, especially if it solves the Lib Dem's woman problem.

T'other thing about this - if you want to avoid the impression of a top-down, imposed movement, it's probably not smart to title yourself with an imperative. Unless, of course, we're supposed to read the graphic more literally, and the group's real name is Acti 'Square Root of Ate' Half a Union Flag.