By Lisa Rossetti
Last Saturday, we saw huge mobilisation across the country for Labour’s Care for the NHS campaign day. Momentum’s 150 local groups, over 20,000 members and over 200,000 supporters, played a vital role in the day’s success.
A week beforehand, Momentum re-launched the Calling for Corbyn phone canvassing website as part of its Grassroots Now campaign. The website enables Momentum supporters to call to inform each other about how they can get active in their local Labour Party and go out campaigning for Labour. In its first week Grassroots Now focused on mobilising as many people as possible for Labour’s NHS day, particularly in key marginal constituencies, including City of Chester.
By hosting pop-up phone-banks, calling from home, and working with Constituency Labour Parties to plan street stalls and door-knocking sessions, Momentum groups and members made a significant contribution to the NHS campaign day.
When Jeremy Corbyn announced Labour’s Care for the NHS day, my local group, Momentum Cheshire West and Chester, put out a call to action to our Momentum members and within our Constituency Labour Party.
People responded with ideas and enthusiasm, volunteering to set up stalls, to provide free hot drinks and mince pies, to perform poetry and street theatre depicting a mock funeral for the NHS, resulting in a dynamic day of campaigning across the constituency.
In just nine days we organised seven street stalls, including one of the biggest ever mobilisations in Ellesmere Port, joined door-knocking sessions with Debbie Abrahams MP and Chris Matheson MP, and obtained nearly 3,000 signatures for Labour’s petition calling on the government to give the NHS the funding it needs.
This is an example of the kind of creative campaigning that Momentum has fostered, enabling us to reach out to our communities in imaginative ways to raise awareness about Labour’s plans to bring our NHS back into public hands, as a high-quality, publicly funded health service, available to all.
Momentum Cheshire West and Chester have been campaigning on the NHS for the last two months. We held a rally for the NHS in October, followed by a screening of Ken Loach’s film Spirit of ’45 celebrating the founding of our welfare state under Attlee’s Labour government.
We decided to go out into the community to talk to people about the Government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which are forcing further privatisation and £22 billion in cuts through the back door, without any statutory basis or democratic mandate.
We planned street stalls at the main shopping locations in Chester and Ellesmere Port, collecting signatures in support of our Labour councillors who are opposing the implementation of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan, and promoting the Countess Counts campaign launched by our MP, Chris Matheson, against the closure of our local hospital.
The people of Chester are passionate about the NHS, and we love our local hospital. Hundreds have expressed outrage at the secrecy and lack of consultation around the STP in our area. But the Government’s attempts to divide our communities and scapegoat vulnerable people has had an impact, with too many people accepting Tory and UKIP narratives about health tourism.
It is the Government, not migrants, who are running our NHS into the ground, cutting our services to the bone, attacking staff pay and conditions, and selling off our services to private companies, which are profiting from our NHS at taxpayers’ expense.
This is why going out into our communities, having conversations about local issues and building support for Labour’s policies, is so vital – not just on national campaign days or in the run-up to an election, but every week.
In the lead up to Labour’s NHS campaign day, Momentum members made over 1,800 calls and 27% of those who were called agreed to attend their local event. This shows the vital role Momentum can play in harnessing Labour’s mass membership, forming a strong campaigning force to build support in our communities for Labour’s plans to rebuild and transform Britain.
Our CLP Campaigns Co-ordinator, Richard Beacham, said “after a period of internal reflection in the Labour Party, Chester members (new and old) are emerging as a unified force and the NHS campaign day on Saturday was the foundation for a collaborative, effective and outward-looking future for our CLP”. This is a model for how Labour can organise across the country: working together to build the movement that will win the next general election for Labour.
Lisa Rossetti is a Momentum activist from Cheshire West & Chester and a senior researcher at University of Chester.