Why Activate can't replicate the success of Momentum

4 Sep 2017


There’s been a flurry of social media activity surrounding the disastrous Tory attempt to rival Momentum with the (imaginatively named) Activate. This has intensified following a leaked Whatsapp group chat - described as a ‘precursor’ to Activate – which included tasteless jokes about ‘gassing chavs’ and ‘shooting peasants’. Much of the left was shocked. I wasn’t.


The whole premise of the Tories attempting to strike up a counter-balance to Labour’s not-so-secret weapon is flawed on many levels. Momentum relies upon a large base of grass roots activists, something made possible by the fact that the Labour Party is a mass membership organisation that has, since 2015, cast its net wide to reel in the young, the disillusioned and the disengaged.


The Conservative Party is not a mass membership organisation and I can’t see it ever being one. Furthermore, appealing to the young, the disillusioned and the disengaged is only possible with a message of hope, rather than one of division, fear and regressive policies.


However, a more poignant factor behind Activate’s inevitable failure is the intolerance of the Conservative Party. I was not shocked to hear the disgraceful comments made in that Whatsapp group. I’ve heard similar rhetoric passed off as ‘banter’ by many a young Tory activist. It comes from a deep-rooted sense of intolerance and privilege spread by those who have never experienced hardship and sneer at those who haven’t been so fortunate in the lottery of birth and circumstance.


Momentum has managed to capture the imagination of so many not only because of the well-documented appeal of Jeremy Corbyn’s refreshing brand of leadership, but also because its foundations are built upon tolerance. Tolerance for ethnic minorities, tolerance for the LGBTQ community, tolerance for ideals that are rooted in social justice. Not only is Momentum built upon tolerance, but it is driven by a sense of morality that wants to provoke action to seek out intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head. Activate will never win hearts and minds like Momentum because it doesn’t seek to eradicate intolerance, it encourages it.


Since its formation, Momentum has campaigned for a fairer education system, an end to homelessness, a fully-funded NHS to remain in public hands and a genuine living wage. What will Activate campaign for? A hard Brexit? Austerity? Tax cuts for the super-rich? Somehow, I can’t imagine those campaigns achieving mass appeal. Activate is by its very nature regressive, but it is only ever progressive policies that catch the tail-wing of populism.


Anybody who believes Theresa May’s Conservative Party has more morality than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is confusing morality with intolerance. From May’s xenophobic ‘go home’ vans, to her stance on gay marriage, to the Tories cosying up to the DUP, the Conservative Party embodies the very essence of intolerance. Activate wishes to ensure electoral success for that entity. That is why it is doomed to fail.


A grassroots member-led political force will never succeed on a mandate of intolerance. It will never breed hope. It will never generate sufficient support. Only a positive vision for a future Britain that is inclusive, open and equal can sweep the electorate. That is why Momentum can rest easy without looking over its shoulder. Activate won’t even make it out of the starting block.

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