Brighton, United Kingdom | AFP | In a former church, 40-odd activists are learning how to become effective frontline troops in the battle to sweep Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn into power.
“The next campaign is already going on,” said 19-year-old Connor Hodgson-Brunniche, a student at York University, who came down especially from northern England to the south coast resort of Brighton, where Labour is hosting its annual conference.
The trainees are taking their task seriously, even though the next general election does not have to be held until 2022, following a June snap poll in which Prime Minister Theresa May’s governing centre-right Conservatives lost their majority but remained the largest party in parliament.
Those on the course are learning how to deliver positive messages, speak effectively in front of the media, make the best use of social media and draw in new recruits.
Following the June vote, which saw left-of-centre Labour take seats off the Conservatives, the campaign is out to “take the momentum that we got during the election… and expand it to be able to reach even more people,” said Hodgson-Brunniche.
The political-science student joined Labour in 2015, when veteran leftist Corbyn surprisingly swept to power on a wave of newly signed-up supporters.
Around 100 debates, lectures, workshops or musical events, often packed out, are part of the political and cultural festival titled “The World Transformed”, taking part on the Brighton conference fringe.
TWT is organised by Momentum, the political movement born out of the campaign to sweep Corbyn, 68, to the party leadership.
“Momentum have opened up the party so people don’t have to be political animals before they become activists,” said Justine Cooper, 55.
– ‘Peaceful revolution’ –
Initially accused of being a cadre of Trotskyists, Momentum have quickly gained a lot of influence within the Labour Party. They have more than 23,000 members and 150 local branches.
They notably convinced delegates to keep Brexit off the list of topics set for debates and votes on the Brighton conference floor.
“It’s a peaceful revolution,” said Jamie Driscoll, a Momentum training coordinator.
A short distance from the church, in a meeting room, activists discuss politics while others take part in a workshop to come up with rallying slogans or buy red badges sporting leftist messages.
“Our job now is to be working every day to campaign against the Tories… until we win,” via meetings, social media and door-knocking, said Cameron Ball, a TWT spokesman.
Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at Nottingham University, described Momentum as “a very efficient Corbyn fan club”.