Momentum has just launched a new website, MyNearestMarginal.com, which is intended to help Labour activists find the nearest place where they are needed to help to defend Labour marginals or to take Tory seats. Obviously this also gives us an interesting guide to the seats that Corbyn’s personal Revolutionary Guard think are in need of defence.
What’s surprising is that, when I plugged in a few postcodes for various parts of northern England, there are several genuine marginals missing. Has Labour given up on defending various seats already?
For example, plug in a Durham postcode and the nearest marginal it will offer you is York Central (Labour majority 6,716) – 60 miles away. But there’s no invitation to campaign in Bishop Auckland (Labour majority 3,508), a mere ten miles away.
Type in a Middlesbrough postcode, and York Central is again the closest seat offered to activists. But Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Labour majority 2,268), literally on the doorstep, doesn’t come up.
It’s the same story in the North West. Use the site with a Barrow-in-Furness postcode and it will urge you to go to Lancaster and Fleetwood (Labour majority 1,265), a 50-mile trip round Morecambe Bay, rather than staying right there to defend the Barrow and Furness seat, held by Labour with a majority of just 795 votes.
One element of this seems to be a question of Momentum wanting to choose which parliamentarians survive on the grounds of ideological purity: the MPs for Barrow and Furness and Bishop Auckland have both criticised Corbyn publicly, while Cat Smith, whom they are aiding, is an enthusiastic Corbynite loyalist. Rachael Maskell, in York Central, has a more mixed record – she resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, but she did so in opposition to Article 50, a decision for which Momentum has some sympathy.
Whatever the internal machinations lying beneath, it’s intriguing to see that Labour’s grassroots movement appears to be giving up on a variety of marginals across the North of England.
There’s some suggestion from Labour circles that they may add more activity in other seats later on. Nonetheless it’s still telling that they thus far don’t appear to have any activity planned or promoted in these marginal seats. It’s fair to say I’ll wait and see if they do indeed encourage activists to go and campaign for John Woodcock, arch-critic of Corbyn, in Barrow and Furness…