Asked if he would campaign for Labour in elections, he said he would if the party changed its approach. He favours more political discussion, pluralism – involving other parties such as the Greens – and being engaged in social movements. “Pounding the streets is only appealing if you feel you own the policies,” he said. “I did not campaign for Sadiq Khan [elected London mayor in May] but I would have if I had had a say in policies.”
Part of the confusion, according to Momentum, is that new members do not want to be used just to ratify decisions made by MPs and to send out leaflets and go door-knocking. They want political discussion, they want to engage with other groups outside the party and they want to pioneer new ways of campaigning.
Another new member, Alice, 29, who did not want to give her surname, became a Labour party member the day Corbyn was elected leader in September last year. Originally from Manchester, she lives in London and is a Labour member in Camberwell and Peckham.
She has attended four meetings of the constituency Labour party and was surprised by the reaction of her local MP Harriet Harman, who she had hoped would have been excited to see a hall full of new members but instead reacted with caution and wariness.
She was attending a Momentum fringe event but is not in Momentum. She does, however, share its belief in becoming more involved in local campaigns and has taken part in picketing in support of junior doctors at Waterloo. “I will get stuck in,” she promised.
Sarah 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 …”
I fear that there is also a danger that we will focus the new training programme on technical skills, when what we are really lacking are the “soft skills” needed to build and maintain a voluntary organisation. How to run Vote Source or how to complete an election expense return can be read in the manual. What we need, however, is to support our Association Officers and volunteers in rediscovering the organisational and communication skills that we once took for granted. These “soft skills” include:
- Building a team (making people feel involved and valued, harnessing their skills to maximum advantage and, importantly, identifying and developing future leaders).
- Building and retaining a campaign framework (in particular the importance of internal communication: ensuring that every offer of help is acknowledged and used).
- Learning how to campaign and why – not simply how to canvass, but why the data gleaned is important, how it is used, and the importance of targeting (voters, wards and constituencies).
- Learning how to make an emotional connection with those whose support we need, including identifying and “weapononising” (sic) issues for political advantage.
- And yes, the basic nuts and bolts of how to run an efficient, campaign-focussed Association, legally compliant and fit for purpose in 2016.
The following is a below the line comment to the above which is an extract from this piece:
“Good points, particularly on fund raising – it wasn’t just about the money – it was a way to keep people involved and to have a wider spread of arms and legs to call on at election times than the very few political zealots. In a digital age campaigning takes place in a different way, but in my view “new” campaigning methods are largely in addition to the “old” ones and do not always just replace them, particularly when there is such a diverse electorate and a reaction against some of the techniques we thought were new and exciting a few years ago. There really is no substitute to face to face campaigning and the value of having an elections expert in each constituency on the ground.”