No, Momentum didn’t cost Labour a victory in the local elections

Trafford Labour Party leader: Momentum campaign was 'a massive help for us' in winning back Tory council.

The right-wing commentariat are out in force this morning – unusually confident that Momentum ‘put off’ voters in the local elections. 

We’ve seen guff like this from Dan Hodges:

According to the latest results, Labour are down one council overall. Labour are up by 37 seats, as of 9am.

But let’s look at where Momentum were most active – using what little non-anecdotal information there is available.

The left-wing group held several ‘#Unseat’ events in the course of the election campaign.

Wandsworth

In the inner London borough of Wandsworth (home of Wimbledon and Battersea Park), the Momentum action day saw over 150 of their backers on the ground. While Labour failed to take the council, Labour gained seven new councillors – a strong result.

Trafford

Attempts to take over Tory Trafford council were aided by an #Unseat event, with Momentum activists take to the doorstep for election day and in the weeks before.

The area also witnessed one of Labour’s biggest victories of the night, with the Tories losing control of Trafford council after 15 years – and Labour becoming the largest party.

Trafford Labour Party leader – and soon-to-be council leader – Andrew Western told Left Foot Forward:

“We’ve been out twice a day for past 6 weeks, including with Momentum activists”

“We saw a Momentum campaign where 200 of their activists turned out, and it was a massive help for us.

“I’ve never met a voter yet who could tell a Momentum activist to a general Labour one.

“We had a very clear strategy and worked together…We all work hand in hand, you wouldn’t know [the difference].

“I haven’t seen the national results yet, but I certainly don’t feel that Momentum did any damage here in Trafford – they were a great help, and the Unseat event was well attended.”

Westminster

In Westminster, the Momentum action day saw around 140 activists attend.

Although there were (perhaps over-ambitious) hopes for a Labour win, the party gained two seats.

Kensington and Chelsea

Labour failed to take Kensington and Chelsea, gaining only one seat. But is the Momentum turnout to blame?

The party saw a surge in its vote in Labour-held wards. But Conservative scare tactics were reported to have shored up their vote elsewhere in the borough. The Momentum action saw around 60 activists turn out.

Barnet

Momentum’s ground campaign appeared weakest in Barnet, with around 50 activists reported to attend. Labour’s failure to take Barnet has largely been attributed to the party’s anti-Semitism row – not Momentum activists joining the Labour doorstep effort.

Labour lost three wards in West Hendon, home to a large Jewish population, with the Conservatives taking back the council from no overall control.

The overall picture

There is nothing from the results to suggest that the Momentum campaign hurt Labour – with the party making the biggest gains in #Unseat areas where the Momentum turnout was strongest.

Unofficial Momentum actions saw significant turnouts too. This from the BBC’s Peter Henley:

Indeed, the group was actively welcomed by wide sections of the party – including ‘centrist’ Labour politicians:

Momentum added to Labour’s on the ground campaign: they weren’t some special, separate unit – they were welcomed by local parties. Whatever you think of the group, they delivered hundreds of activists to areas they were needed. Not giving out special Momentum materials but core Labour messaging.

All the action days – except worst-performing Kensington and Barnet – were co-hosted by the official local Labour parties, suggesting the local parties welcomed the extra support.

Labour’s election results are about much more than Momentum activists on the ground – but more ground troops is very rarely a bad thing.

It’s easy to look for scapegoats in the aftermath of an unimpressive election night. But there’s usually more to the picture than simply who’s on the ground.

Either way, it was arguably the Liberal Democrats and Greens who had the best results last night. 

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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