Momentum supporters have given an insight into the policies they would like Jeremy Corbyn's Labour to run on in the event of a snap election in 2017, ranging from abolishing Trident and the monarchy to nationalising energy companies and introducing a "citizen's basic income".
Away from the backroom policy machinations on Labour's National Executive Committee that were unfolding a mile and a half away at the party conference, a group of about 60 activists took part in an event at Momentum's own conference, The World Transformed.
The fringe meeting in Liverpool's Black-E building, organised by a group called Talk Socialism, saw members and supporters draw up the policy platforms on which Labour should stand if prime minister Theresa May decides to go to the country next year.
Explaining how the session would be run, host Carl Kennedy told the participants: “If we have our way in the party that’s how policy will be made” – a reference to Momentum's attempts to make processes within the Labour party more democratic and give more power to ordinary members.
A slide then appeared on the wall, quoting a passage from Labour's 1945 manifesto:
“Public ownership of the coal and power industries will lower charges, prevent competitive waste, open the way for coordinated research and development and lead to the reforming of uneconomic areas of distribution. Other industries will benefit.”
Encouraged to think of similar policies, the activists were split into seven groups, meant to think of ideas based on the economy, defence, the environment, housing, education, health, and constitutional reform.
The small groups went to different corners of the room, and had around half an hour to think of a flagship policy and an appealing way of selling it to the electorate.
One of the most popular sectors was defence, which united just over 10 people of varying age and gender.
"Under Ed Miliband, we didn’t challenge austerity," a woman in her thirties said. "To me, we have to counter that false narrative that you have to be safe: How would a nuclear bomb have stopped the 7/7 bombings? On Trident, we have to bust that narrative. It does nothing to protect us at all."
A middle-aged man agreed, suggesting that the policy should be about scrapping Trident to then spend the money on counterterrorism.
The woman disagreed, however. "As a headline, as a Labour voter, I don’t particularly like that – people against Trident would rather see that money being spent on education," she said.
Elsewhere, half a dozen older activists and teenagers talked about constitutional reform, a subject on which they were far more radical that the mainstream Labour party.
"We should dismantle the House of Lords and abolish monarchy," said one of the two young men.
The other agreed, adding: "We should have a Citizens Constitution Assembly, so if the Commons vote on something outrageous it could be overturned."
The half hour was soon over, and a representative from each group was invited to take to the stage and present their flagship policy to the room.
In a nod to recent speeches given by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the economy group argued in favour of the universal basic income:
“A Citizen’s Basic Income will provide economic security for everyone and abolish poverty. By building a progressive taxation system and closing unfair tax loopholes, CBI will cut through welfare bureaucracy and allow people to take back control of their lives, in a world where work and wages are more precarious than ever.”
Others, like the constitutional reform group, were impressively thorough and not lacking in ambition:
“New democratic constitution, including: proportional representation, abolition of the House of Lords, lowering the voting age to 16, local assemblies, a Citizens Constitutional Convention, economic and educational democracy, anti-trust legislation for the press, and transparency in government.”
A few were also a bit vague and lacking in detail, as well as very far from current party policy, such as this sweeping statement from the energy group:
“The Labour party will run a centralised national energy board after taking back control of our entire energy grid and all commercial energy producers. This will empower the new government, enabling us to guarantee that we exceed the 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025, which was set by the Climate Change Act.”
Once the seven groups finished their short presentations, the organisers took it in turn to pretend to be journalists attacking the policies.
"Trevor A-Hole from the Daily Fail" was one of them, asking the economy team: "Don’t you think Britain will just become a benefits destination for people from places with no basic income?"
The spokesperson replied that "immigration is a great benefit to this country. Those who come here as refugees or economic migrants would have access to means-tested benefits and the basic income."
The "Daily Fail" also had a question for the housing group, who planned to scrap Help to Buy and build millions of affordable and council houses: "This all sounds brilliant, this leftie utopia, but what will happen to the value of my house?"
"Your house value will probably not go up at the same rate it’s been going up for the past 20, 30 years, it’ll stabilise," the representative admitted.
There would, however, be other benefits to it, they argued: "Your neighbourhood will improve vastly, people will be more house-proud and maintain their houses and gardens, burglary rates will go down."
Not all questions were serious. "Rachel from the Torygraph" got up to ask the environment team: "We found that one of your junior ministers had previous employment in fossil fuel lobbyist Seashell. How can we trust you on policy?"
The "junior minister", one of the men sitting at the back of the group, stood up and facetiously announced, to cheers from the room: "I’ve learnt the error of my ways, I’ve found Christianity, and decided I want to help my fellow man, so I joined the Labour party and became a socialist!"
As the event came to an end, the organiser asked the groups' representatives: "Have you considered becoming prospective parliamentary candidates? You’ve proven that you know what you’re talking about."
"Yes!" one of the young men cheerfully replied. “You’d need to be masochistic to do that,” the middle-aged woman shot back.
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Marie Le Conte at email@example.com.
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