There’s been a flurry of social media activity surrounding the disastrous Tory attempt at rivalling Momentum with their (imaginatively named) ‘Activate’. This has intensified after a leaked Whatsapp group chat, which has been described as a ‘precursor’ to ‘Activate’ 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 on a large base of grass roots activists, achieved by Labour being a mass membership organisation, and by casting the net wider than the Labour Party in its formation in 2015 to 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 as ‘Activate’ wish to achieve, is only possible with a message of hope, not one of division, fear and regressive policies.
However, a more poignant factor behind ‘Activate’ being doomed to 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, from 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 it’s very 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 on tolerance, but it is driven by a sense of morality that wants to provoke action to seek out intolerance and injustice wherever it rears its ugly head and quash it. ‘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, for an end to homelessness, for a fully-funded NHS to remain in public hands, for 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 nature regressive, and only progressive policies can catch the tailwind 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 cozying 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 it’s shoulder. ‘Activate’ won’t even make it out of the starting block.