Momentum challenges for 'mainstream' Labour conference

By Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter
It says a lot about how much Labour has changed since Jeremy Corbyn became leader that the battle this week is over which conference is more "mainstream".
Is it the official event, with 13,000 delegates shuffling round a secure zone at Liverpool's Arena and Convention Centre, with corporations paying top dollar to rub shoulders with the shadow cabinet, MPs and trade unions?
Or is it the new kid on the block "The World Transformed", a music, arts and politics festival only in its third year expected to attract 10,000 activists taking place next door?The Momentum-organised summit riled many when it was set up in 2016.Former Labour leader Ed Miliband even quipped that year at the official conference of his Marxist father: "There's a session on my dad at the Momentum conference. If your favourite Miliband is Ralph, you're welcome to go."One year on, and he was hosting a pub quiz there.Two years on, and he's back for more."There are examples of people who at the start probably wouldn't have wanted to touch The World Transformed with a bargepole, who now actually think it's a good thing or are even actually involved," Hope, an organiser for this year’s festival, told Sky News.
Momentum challenges for 'mainstream' Labour conference

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband joked about the Momentum festival in 2016
She cites Mr Miliband, who is down to do a session called "the new economic consensus" with the leader of Scottish Labour Richard Leonard, and backbencher Lisa Nandy."That demonstrates and is testament to the fact that it's not that The World Transformed has become more mainstream, but actually the mainstream has been drawn towards The World Transformed," Hope said.She is defiant that the festival is not a "rival" to Labour's official party conference, but designed to be "complementary"."We specifically reach out to delegates to encourage them to attend," Hope said."We specifically programme sessions such that delegates still absolutely do all their delegate conference duties but then get involved in other sessions outside of those hours."We do that for a reason."
Momentum challenges for 'mainstream' Labour conference

The World Transformed expects 10,000 activists to join for its third year
But some are still uneasy about the role a separate conference plays at Labour's biggest, most important annual meeting.Wes Streeting, a centrist Labour MP who has been unafraid to criticise Mr Corbyn, praises the "more vibrant and interesting" programme that "looks like a more fun place to be"."The traditional conference format of having panels just filled with MPs doesn't necessarily let people into the conversation," he told Sky News."I do think one of the things that they have done quite successfully is give a platform to people who not normally have one."But I think if their ambition is to widen the political debate at The World Transformed to include people with different perspectives, I'm not sure they've reached across to Labour's traditional mainstream."
Momentum challenges for 'mainstream' Labour conference

Wes Streeting said Momentum was not reaching out to the Labour mainstream
Mr Streeting suggests that a fractured Labour party would come together better if "people [were] having conversations with each other rather than across each other"."I'm not going to knock Momentum for taking the initiative of putting on a whole programme of events designed to appeal to their members and supporters and to bring new people in," he said."That's what politics is all about, really."But looking at the Momentum programme it does seem to be pretty ideologically purist in terms of who they invite in."They just about extend across to people on the centre-left of the shadow cabinet, and Ed Milliband does a turn. What we don't really see is an attempt to welcome people in more broadly."
Momentum challenges for 'mainstream' Labour conference

If their ambition is to widen the political debate at The World Transformed to include people with different perspectives, I'm not sure they've reached across to Labour's traditional mainstream.
Wes Streeing MP
But Katy Herrington, a 20-year-old bar worker from south London, said her first trip to Labour conference in Brighton in 2015 was "interesting but a bit rubbish".
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