Not content with its readers making up over 40% of the Labour Party’s membership, the Guardian is now running a “weekly series, led by Ewen MacAskill and guided by you, turning a spotlight on the Labour Party. It is an experiment in collaborative reporting: we need you to contribute ideas, suggestions and feedback as Ewen visits Liverpool – bastion of Labour and lens through which we hope to understand the party – in the run-up to September’s party conference in the city. Weekly reports should keep you updated but not inundated.”
Some of us might call the Guardian’s activities as interference in the internal affairs of the Labour Party, but what the hell, everyone else is having a go, so why not the preferred broadsheet reading of over 40% of the current Labour membership? I bet Ewen wishes he had anticipated that Owen Smith and not Angela Eagle would be the candidate challenging Corbyn for the Labour leadership.
“Joining a party is one of the few ways ordinary people have to participate in the politics which affect their lives. If joining means only attending meetings which are unpleasant and ineffective, we are left with a democratic deficit.
1. Clarify the meeting’s objectives. Are we here to listen to a report from our MP and a councillor and have a discussion on each? Maybe that is more than enough for two hours and little else should be scheduled. Perhaps the reports could be emailed in advance to allow time for more discussion.
2. Consider ward meetings for all wards so that there is extra opportunity for engagement and discussion. Smaller meetings could help develop friendlier relations between members and thereby facilitate friendlier, less confrontational CLP meetings.
3. Consider an online forum for the constituency and/or ward so that debate can continue after meetings.
4. Consider topic-based meetings or organised debates so that members have further opportunity to learn about and discuss wider political issues. Some ward meetings (eg in Chester) have 45 minutes of a topic-based debate added into each ward meeting. Members take turns researching and presenting for the debates.
5. Ask for feedback from members on meetings in order to facilitate continuous improvement on how we communicate and organise.
6. Offer welcome/induction meetings to new members to get to know them, find out why they joined and give an introduction to current issues, how the party operates and how they can get involved.
7. Consider alternative ways for people to volunteer and engage other than leafleting and canvassing. To some members this seems to be an old-fashioned way to campaign. Could there be a use for those with skills in research, presentation, event management, social media etc?”
Sarah, who wrote the above, which is an extract from this article, describes herself as a marketing manager and “a very ordinary working person”. Seemingly not that ordinary that she sees leafleting and canvassing as amongst her likely contributions to Labour campaigns, as is evidenced by “If I were to ever consider knocking on doors …”
To be fair, Sarah makes some valid points, but out of seven bullet points, six are about Labour talking better with itself and the last is about how some members, many new ones it would seem, may avoid having direct contact with Labour voters and potential Labour voters. The last thing the Labour Party needs is to further widen the gap between the membership and voters to public office.
Sarah, joined Labour, after being a member of the Green Party. She may, Sarah says, soon be moving on from Labour. I wish Sarah well in her quest to find a political party in which there are people who will not resent the idea that the heavy lifting of campaigning is for them, but not for ordinary working people like Sarah.