Funding the grassroots – urgent appeal

 

In the past few weeks I have been inundated with messages from Labour members concerned about the state of their CLP’s finances.

A stark example of this was one CLP with only £50 in the bank and no office or premises after the General Election.

And a survey of over 700 Labour members across the country found that under 50% of CLPs have any premises at all.

Something definitely needs to be done about this.

There have been several articles written about how Labour must rebuild in its heartlands through better interaction and engagement with communities. These are just a few: Labour’s Way Forward: The Only Way is (Bottom) Up, Rebuidling the Red Bases, Labour has problems in its ‘heartlands’ – but only grassroots work can rebuild trust.

There are plenty of ideas for how Labour could go about re-engaging and winning back support, but none of them mention how this can be paid for.

Labour’s existing model does not give the grassroots the funds to make any impression with local communities. Every year, the central office of the Labour Party takes £47 per member while the CLPs take £2.50. 

CLPs need to take a fair share of their members’ subscriptions to make things work at grassroots level.

That’s why I am putting forward a constitutional motion to this year’s party conference calling for 50% of members’ subscription money to go to local parties and the rest to go to the national office.

The motion is here:

Replace Membership Rules, Clause IV, 7. with

‘7. In order to support CLP’s community engagement, while also providing for national and regional resources, each CLP will receive 50% of their member’s subscription fees.’

The deadline for all constitutional motions is Friday 12th June so there is very little time to get this idea out to CLPs across the country.

Would you like me to visit your CLP to talk about the motion? In the next six months I am planning visits across the country and am also writing a book about the state of Labour’s grassroots.

Can you help with the costs of this campaign? I have set up a Patreon account, where I am offering exclusive updates on the campaign in return for monthly contributions, and have also set up a Paypal account for anyone interested in making a one-off donation.

The Patreon page is here and the Paypal link is below:


Donate Button with Credit Cards

80% want a fairer distribution of party funds

The Labour Party’s financial structure is opposed by 80% of members, according to a survey of 800 people conducted by Stand up for Labour.

The present allocation of funds sees only £2.50 a year per member go to the party’s grassroots, while the central party deposits over £47.

Under 50% of Labour members across England, Scotland and Wales reported that their local party (CLP) had office space and 70% said that their CLP had no permanent meeting place.

Some 20% of respondents reported that their CLP could also not afford to send two delegates to party conference.

With this lack of resources on the ground, it is very difficult for Labour to make an impression in boroughs, towns and villages and 93% of those surveyed said Labour should do more campaigning outside election time.

The results of this survey show that there is a definite need to ensure Labour’s grassroots are properly funded. See all the results here.

50/50 now campaign starts here

Over the coming months, I will be campaigning for a constitutional amendment to be passed at this year’s party conference that would give CLPs a fair share of their members’ subsciptions. I have been invited to speak at several CLPs and I am receiving positive feedback from members who are submitting the motion to their CLP to put forward to conference.

To read about the motion, see More important that the party leadership.

I have been contacted by a few people who have questioned the reallocation of party funds and I will address their concerns here:

  1. CLPs won’t know what to do with more money
    From my experience, most CLPs have a great collection of local members, many of whom are already working on community projects. The decision to allocate money more fairly is just the start of the transition. Along with it will come advice and support as well as a best practice guide. The new funds would not kick in straightaway so there’d be plenty of time for CLPs to get ready for the change to their circumstances. Most CLPs also already have strict accounting procedures in place.
  2. Volunteers can’t be relied on
    CLPs are full of people who are already volunteering. And, with more funds, would be able to hire a paid Community Organiser who could project manage the whole operation. Ideally these Organisers would be appointed by two or more neighbouring CLPs to share the cost. These Community Organisers would almost certainly be local people who know their area and would be appointed by CLPs themselves.
  3. Changes to the financial structure would lead to super-rich CLPs and poor CLPs and would be unfair
    This is totally untrue. Every CLP would be better off. At the moment, the central party does not donate any cash to CLPs to rebalance resources. The only funding given to CLPs is through paying half the wages of an organiser, or giving free literature (which is often so generic that it would have been better for local parties to design it themselves).
  4. The present system targets resources more effectively
    Evidence from the 2017 General Election shows that several CLPs that Labour could have won were left with meagre resources and manpower (Hastings, Broxtowe, Southampton Itchen are just three examples). If all CLPs are self-sufficient this will avoid this.
  5. Why should seats with big Labour majorities or Tory majorities get funds?
    Labour cannot rebuild if it takes seats for granted or if it retreats in the belief that any seat is ‘unwinnable’. Scotland and many of the ‘Red Wall’ were lost because of this thinking. And Labour won Kensington in 2017 so anything is possible – but it’s far more possible if CLPs have resources.

If you have any queries about how redistributing Labour funds would work, or any concerns, please write to through the contact me page on this site. I welcome any feedback.

As this campaign is going to take up a lot of my time as well as costing a lot in fuel, I have set up a Patreon page and am looking for donations.

If you are able to contribute anything from £5 per month, I will be offering exclusive access to updates on the campaign as I work towards the Party Conference and the book publication. The Patreon page is here.

Eddie Milne – Labour Hero

I recently finished a book that caused a storm when it was published and attracted 36 libel writs – with the costs and damages associated with it close to bankrupting the publishers.

‘No Shining Armour’ was written by a former Labour MP, Eddie Milne, who exposed a corruption scandal in the 1960s and 1970s that poisoned local and national politics.

Background

An architectural designer, John Poulson, was bribing elected officials as he sought to win building contracts from local authorities. Bribes included creating jobs for family members, paid holidays or just plain cash.

In return,  Poulson won lucrative deals for massive developments even when his bid was far from cost-effective or short of the necessary quality.

Although a Tory minister, Reginald Maudling, was implicated (and later had to resign) as well as another Tory MP, most of the corruption involved Labour councilors, MPs or officials.

This bribery and corruption was especially prevalent in the Labour-dominated North East.

Having been bribed by Poulson in the mid-1960s, Newcastle Council leader Dan Smith brought Andrew Cunningham on board.

Cunningham wielded unbelievable power and influence, locally and nationally in the Labour Party. His list of roles was laughably long: Chairman of the Northern Region Executive of the Labour Party, Head of the Northern District of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (now the GMB), Member of the Chester-le-Street town council, Chairman of Newcastle Airport Consultative Committee, Member of the Northumbrian River Authority, Member of the Tyneside Passenger Transport Authority, Member of the Peterlee New Town Development Corporation, Alderman of Durham County Council, Chairman of Durham Police Authority and a member of Labour’s NEC.

Cunningham was the father of Jack Cunningham, who became MP for Whitehaven at the age of 29 and later went on to be a major figure in Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair’s inner circle.

Cunningham senior’s network was a gift to Poulson. He had allies at the very top of the Labour Party. Deputy Leader, Edward Short, who was also an MP in Newcastle turned a blind eye to what was going on. And, because he did, so did Housing Minister Bob Mellish.

Rocking the boat

However, Eddie Milne, Labour MP for Blyth since 1960, voiced his concerns about how local planning decisions were being carried out in his constituency and elsewhere. In 1965 he spoke to Prime Minister Harold Wilson about this but nothing was done.

Milne was an Aberdeen-born socialist, inspired by firebrands like Jimmy Maxton. A former USDAW union official, he was appalled at the idea that Labour was implicated in grubby scams and doggedly pursued more open and accountable decision making within local government.

He wanted an inquiry into how these housing developments had come about but the response to him from party bigwigs was to say that he was dirtying Labour’s name by airing these concerns.

Eventually the whole scandal broke as Poulson was declared bankrupt in 1971 and, within a year, his detailed accounts were pored over by the Police. These revealed the extent to which he was bribing officials and Smith and Cunningham, among others, were charged with accepting bribes.

You would have thought that Milne would have been congratulated for his tenacity in challenging these powerful party officials.

Get Milne Out!

What actually happened shows just how sick corruption can make any organisation.

Several party officials in Milne’s Blyth constituency were implicated in earlier housing plans involving Smith and Cunningham.

They wanted Eddie Milne out as their local MP. He was smeared for being too controlling and impossible to work with. His wife was called interfering and allegations were made about his mental health.

These lies about Milne started to pay off as he was put up for deselection.

Milne did his best to win over the local party but he was voted out as Labour’s candidate for the election in February 1974. His union, USDAW, deserted him too as he wasn’t the Labour candidate anymore.

Instead of giving up without a fight, Milne decided to stand against the candidate who Labour’s NEC parachuted in.

The election campaign saw Labour threw everything they could at Milne, including one Labour MP accusing him of fiddling expenses (for which Milne won substantial libel damages) and further smears about his mental health.

However Milne had a few hundred local activists behind him who campaigned hard.

The election result in February 1974 saw Milne beat Labour’s candidate by over 6,000 votes. This was one of the few occasions that an MP has stood and won as an independent against the party that originally elected him.

Despite this and the fact that Milne’s concerns about corruption had been proved correct, Labour would not admit him back as a candidate. People like Short and Ian Mikardo, who played a major role in the NEC, saw Milne as a traitor.

It was seen by some people in the party to be worse to stand against a Labour candidate than to stand up for honesty in public office.

Labour was forced to hold another General Election in October 1974 and Milne was once again an independent candidate.

He was up against a London barrister known for his love of fox hunting and fine wines.

It wasn’t just Labour who put everything into defeating Milne. The police called on him a few times accusing him of receiving stolen goods (this after two local senior officers had been implicated in a scam involving discounted houses).

His son-in-law lost his job with Trafford Authority, two days after his boss was informed he was a relative of Milne’s.

Milne lost by just 78 votes.

He was later shown a bundle of postal votes that had gone missing and one of the polling stations inexplicably changed its location a couple of days before the ballot took place. His appeal to have an inquiry into this was turned down.

He died in 1983, obviously bitter about the whole experience. And, as far as I know neither he nor his family have received any apology from the Labour Party.

His story was told in the 1996 BBC series, ‘Our Friends in the North’, in which the character Eddie Wells, played by David Bradley, was based on Milne. The series is availablle on Youtube.

More important than the party leadership

Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates are making noises about how we need to re-engage with communities. I’ve read that we have to listen more or we have to hold hustings in towns Labour lost so we can listen even harder. And both Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy have said we have to devolve power to local communities.

The most obvious way to get the ball rolling is to start devolving power within the party.

Let’s lead by example.

We need to give CLPs the resources to go out and earnestly campaign – to provide a support network within their boroughs, towns and villages.

The situation as it is does not reflect well on Labour.

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This graph isn’t even strictly true. In reality, CLPs receive £1.50 to £2.50 per member as that’s just the standard rate.

The only redistribution of funds that the NEC provides is in the form of some freebies (one conference pass, access to Membersnet, election insurance). These all amount to no more than £1,000 (or the subscriptions of 40 members paying the standard rate).

The financial imbalance in the party is shameful and hardly devolved.

Were the existing financial model of the party proving successful – either in election results or benefits to communities – then I wouldn’t be writing this. However, we have not seen any increase in recruitment or engagement since the last leadership election in 2016.

To move things on from this dreadful situation, we need to balance out the amount allocated to CLPs and to head office so it is a 50:50 split.

This is not only something that would be of benefit to local communities but it is the most just way to distribute membership subs. Almost all party activity is made at a local level so it is only right that local parties receive their fair share.

In ‘Here’s how we win again’, I wrote about how giving CLPs their rightful share of money could bring immediate benefits. In short there could be:

  • Local hubs in each constituency
  • Support for foodbanks
  • Meals offered to the homeless
  • Legal advice for people in debt
  • Cheap venue space for Recovery Groups
  • Cheap venue space for social groups
  • A space for toddler playgroups
  • A space for coffee mornings for isolated, older people
  • Cheap studio space for film makers
  • Cheap studio space for musicians.
  • Music gigs
  • Comedy nights
  • Film nights

These are just some of the ways that extra funds could be used to engage local people and to re-energise local parties.

With CLPs becoming energetic local enterprises, there would be a noticeable increase in party membership and this would bring further financial rewards to local parties as well as the national office.

In order to achieve this, we don’t need to depend on the goodwill of the next leader or the national office. That is unlikely to happen.

What we can do is effect change through the party rule book.

I have been advised that a constitutional motion debated and voted for at the next Labour Party conference could transform the party for the better – regardless of who the leader is.

This is a model motion:

Constitutional motion for Conference: for CLPs to receive 50% of their members’ subscriptions
This CLP agrees with Appendix 1 of the Labour Party Rulebook (2019), which states:
‘We do not believe that social change can be delivered solely by a top-down approach.. It is our members who can inspire and engage local people and communities.’
Having lost a fourth consecutive General Election it is now time for Labour to earnestly pursue a recruitment and engagement campaign that can reinvigorate our party and our local communities.
To achieve this, we must place CLPs at the centre of a bold campaign and move our party’s focus away from the headquarters in London.
Local parties can be pivotal to local people and local community groups and campaigns but they simply cannot achieve this if they have no money.

This CLP therefore agree to send the following amendment as a rule change to this year’s Labour Party conference:

Delete Appendix 8 – NEC Statement – A minimum guarantee of support to CLPs

Replace Membership Rules, Clause IV, 7. with

‘7. In order to support CLP’s community engagement, while also providing for national and regional resources, each CLP will receive 50% of their member’s subscription fees.”

Please consider putting this forward at your next party meeting.

Here’s how we win again

Labour’s ‘People’s Vote’ policy on Brexit was the principal reason for the catastrophic General Election result. This was the main difference between the 2017 and 2019 manifestos and was key to Labour losing MPs in ‘Leave’ seats such as Sedgefield, Bishop Auckland, North West Durham, Barrow and Furness, Workington, Stoke-on-Trent (Central and North) and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

These are all seats where I have organised Stand up for Labour shows and it was very sad to see that the hard work put in by local activists was to no avail.

However, the Brexit policy was not the only reason for Labour’s defeat.

Polls taken since the election have shown that our poor performance had much to do with the unpopularity of our leader. The cause of this was undoubtedly a daily barrage of negative media that has been bolstered by Labour MPs disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn since 2015.

But Jeremy Corbyn is not unique in being an unpopular Labour leader.

With the exception of Tony Blair, ALL Labour leaders standing in General Elections since the 1970s have faced a biased media. James Callaghan was quoted out of context about the Winter of Discontent (‘What crisis?’); Michael Foot was ridiculed for his appearance and his age; Neil Kinnock was dubbed a ‘Welsh Windbag’ and photoshopped into a lightbulb; the media tore apart Gordon Brown for his appearance (especially his fake smile); and Ed Miliband was painted as a soft touch (despite his ‘tough’ protestations) who couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich.

So it was no surprise that after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, he was ridiculed for the way he dressed and for having an allotment and, more seriously, was accused of being a ‘terrorist sympathiser’ and a ‘racist’.

Some post-election commentary has suggested that Jeremy Corbyn should have handled the media better, or that there should have been a stronger ‘rebuttal unit’. I don’t believe this would have made any difference at all. No Socialist leader is going to receive a fair press.

There will always be negative media about any Labour leader who sets out a radical programme.

Now that Jeremy Corbyn has decided to stand down, we are seeing new leadership candidates come forward and people are suggesting that a new leader will be the answer. There have also been suggestions that tweaking or dropping policies (ie conforming to the media’s preferred policy positions in some way) will turn things around. This is wishful thinking. Just look at what happened in 2015.

The only way Labour will not struggle with the media is if the leader and the party go to bed with Rupert Murdoch and other billionaire media moguls. This is what set Tony Blair apart from the other leaders. And it really is a revolting thought.

So, we have to accept that we cannot rely on the media to provide fair coverage of the Labour Party.

Does this mean that the political system is rigged?

It certainly supports the status quo, but this shouldn’t mean that we give up or that we cannot work constructively towards a fair society where people look out for each other.

So how can we fight for our communities when we are not in government?

Before and during the election campaign, much was said of the strength of our grassroots and our membership. It certainly was heartwarming to see hundreds and hundreds of people out canvassing in Putney, or Chingford, or Kensington. However this was mostly around the election period and the general public are rightly cynical about people knocking on their door a week or two before a vote.

Between 2015 and 2019, Labour did not do nearly enough to harness a grassroots movement.

The fact we have the largest membership of any party in western Europe has often been repeated but the reality is that most of these members are not active – and most only joined to vote in the leadership elections of 2015 and 2016.

And although we do have more members that other parties, we still don’t have enough. We really should have at least one million members. This is not even 2% of the population.

To reach one million members and to increase activism, we need a new vision of how what our grassroots does and what membership can offer.

A fundamental change needs to be made to the party’s financial structure.

We need to move our party’s focus away from the headquarters in London and need to properly fund local CLPs.

Local parties could be pivotal to local people and local community groups and campaigns but they simply can’t achieve this if they have no money.

There is no point employing Community Organisers if the groundforce has nothing to offer in resources.

At the moment many CLPs cannot afford to send delegates to the party conference and I have heard that there are branch meetings where members have to pay to take part (for a business meeting!). During the General Election, Stand up for Labour, Grace Petrie and Atilla the Stockbroker worked hard to plug the gap in local party finances but this is never going to be enough.

The graph below shows just how ludicrous Labour’s financial structure is.

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We need to balance out the amount allocated to CLPs and to head office so it is a 50:50 split. This is not only something that would be of benefit to local communities but it is the most just way to distribute membership subs. Almost all party activity is made at a local level so it is only right that local parties receive their fair share.

This would mean that each CLP would receive £25 for each member paying the full membership fee. A CLP with 1,000 members would, for example, receive up to £25,000 per year.

With this amount of money, local parties would be able to start thinking creatively about how they can support people in their boroughs, towns and villages.

CLP meetings would no longer be dull or acrimonious, but would be buzzing with positive ideas about what members can do practically.

With money behind them, CLPs could set up hubs that would be a centre of support for local people. These could also be run with the support of local trade union branches.

Foodbanks could be given a space, meals could be offered to the homeless, coffee mornings could be provided for isolated, older people and legal advice given to people struggling with debt.

Recovery groups could be given a cheap place to hold meetings; play groups could be set up for parents who want to get out with their pre-school children and meet up with other sleep deprived mums and dads. Yoga groups, meditation groups, the list goes on.

These could also be creative hubs, offering workspace for local people with studio space for local musicians or film makers.

And the social side of the party could be buzzing as CLPs would be able to hire venues and put on gigs, comedy nights, film nights and theatre productions. These shows could also generate a revenue of their own and offer more money for promotion via social media platforms.

To back these CLP initiatives, the national party could provide a networking platform. With this, CLPs could be twinned so that a CLP with a large membership (many London CLPs have over 2,000 members) would be able to help another CLP that needs support (I heard of a CLP in Derbyshire with under 500 members). This networking platform would give members all over the country information about where to go when they visit other CLPs as well as recommendations about where to stay, or even which tradesmen are recommended in a particular area.

All of these initiatives would make Labour a very attractive club to join. And would, in turn, generate more revenue from membership subscriptions. Local parties would be very keen to recruit more people as they would benefit with £25 per person who signs up.

With this new financial structure, the Labour Party would be able to extol the virtues of Socialism in practical ways and not just through pious speeches.

I’m certain this will bear fruit in future elections and, with steady progress, we could become the dominant party for decades to come.

To achieve this, all we would need is an amendment to the Labour Party constitution, setting out that CLPs receive 50% of all membership subscriptions.

The central party in London and regional offices could find that they lose no revenue at all if we double the number of members and, in the interim, they would still receive union affiliation money and be able to crowdfund from emails to all members across the country (as was done so successfully during the General Election campaign).

I am in the process of drawing up a model motion that can be put forward at this year’s Labour Party conference.

If you think that the proposal to change the Labour Party into a dynamic, grassroots organisation is worthwhile pursuing, please get in touch and I will send you the model motion so you can put it forward at your next CLP meeting.

 

 

 

Why Stand up for Labour is people powered

Labour nearly won the 2017 General Election because we were able to inspire and mobilise great numbers of people to get involved in canvassing. And we need to do exactly the same now.

Just like now, the opinion polls were unfavourable in 2017 and Theresa May went into that election with the attitude that it was a formality she would win.

She wasn’t alone in this outlook as even some Labour bigwigs had given up before it had even started. As we saw in the BBC documentary ‘The Summer that Changed Everything’, MPs felt that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was going to fail dismally and were caught with gaping jaws on election night.

The result of the election was down to activists, not the top guns in the Labour Party.

People in Labour’s headquarters undertook a strategy of minimising losses in seats and they didn’t even attempt to win seats that Labour ended up as victors (ie Hastings & Rye, Kensington, Bedford, Canterbury).

Luckily for us all, activists knew not to trust party officials and we just got on campaigning.

My spirit at the time – reflected in many others – was that it didn’t really matter what people said about our chances, I was going to do all I could to push for a Corbyn-led Labour government. It was a matter of fighting for what we believed in regardless of the consequences.

I feel the same now, even though we are supposed to be in a party run by Corbyn-supporting officials.

Top-down doesn’t work

From what I’ve seen – both from my own experience and that of other members – is that we still have a top-down party structure. The party have thrown significant sums of money at employing organisers who they believe can win us key marginals. This strategy was used in 2015 and did not pay off because the party was too complacent.

It’s not just about organising people, it’s about creating a buzz around the party. 

Inspiring people in this way is what paid off so much in 2017 and I want to be part of this again with Stand up for Labour.

Between 2015 and 2017, I put on over 100 variety shows all over the country and these played a part in bringing people together and also encouraging them to canvass, deliver leaflets, share social media and donate to the party coffers.

The only way I have been able to keep these shows going is through a combination of union sponsorship (from Unite, the CWU, the FBU, Aslef, TSSA and the Baker’s Union), and retaining some ticket revenue from shows.

This strategy has been hit in two ways: firstly, government restrictions have significantly reduced the amount of money that unions can donate to political parties and, secondly, CLPs are so skint that it is not really possible to keep ticket money to cover my costs.

As much as I’d like to protest against this situation and bemoan the lack of fight, I have had to accept it.

That is why I have started a crowdfunder.

I am asking for £7,000, which will cover all the costs of the performers as well as my running costs for up to 10 shows. So far, nearly 60 people have donated over £1,600 and, in return for this, I am writing an epic poem including a line dedicated to each generous donor.  You can hear this poem here.

Donations can be made through clicking this link.

Revolutionising Labour membership

Living with no job security, hardly any safety net, no savings for the future, worries about healthcare and monthly struggles with bills is tough.

But feeling there is no chance of changing this situation and that politics has nothing to offer makes things even more depressing.

This is the sad reality for millions of people in this country. There may be some people who vote in elections, but putting a cross in a box every few years is hardly participating in politics.

Our adversarial political system favours political parties, so it is only by joining a political party that anyone can really make a difference.

And the stark reality is that only 1% of the UK population have signed up with a party.

It should be a requirement of all the major political parties in this country that they reach out to as many people as possible and increase the level of participation. That this hasn’t happened is down to a collective failure to open up politics to more people.

It does not fill me with joy that the Conservative Party membership is under 125,000. This means that fewer than 0.25% of the population participate in shaping the governing party of this country. This leads to less accountability and less opportunity for people to influence local and national policy.

I could just point the finger at the Conservative Party and say that their situation is deplorable. But I’m not enthralled by the level of participation in the Labour Party either.

More than just the leader

A recent smear campaign by hostile media has suggested that Labour has lost over 100,000 members in the past year or so (so down to about 500,000). It has been spun as an indication that Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity has waned. This has been rebuffed by party officials, but the question is why should membership of a party appear as an endorsement of the leader?

Are members of a political party just fans of the leadership? If this is all party membership is about, I totally understand why people are unwilling to pay a subscription to join. It’s a lot of money to pay for just that.

I think this illustrates why so few people have joined political parties.

For some reason, the parties can’t think up ways to encourage people to join them.

As someone who has met thousands of members across the country since I started Stand up for Labour, I have ideas that would not cost the party much (if any) and would:

  • lead to a massive influx of members
  • improve democratic participation
  • build stronger communities
  • improve people’s mental and physical health

Attraction of members

The first thing that strikes me about the Labour Party is the number of decent, warm and friendly people who are members.

Labour members are incredibly attractive people. I see this at every Stand up for Labour show. These are people who are good to be around: friendly, decent, considerate of others.

And there are real heroes out there who make the party an attractive place to be.

The problem with the Labour Party – as it is run – is these kind, warm people are really only given business meetings in which to express themselves.

Business meetings are not only terribly formal and antiquated, but they also promote conflict as they are full of votes on this and that. Anyone who is introduced to the Labour Party by a business meeting is likely to see a room full of formal – sometimes pompous sounding – people who tend to argue and bicker about anything and everything.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t have business meetings as these are vital to party democracy, but they shouldn’t be anything like the be-all and end-all of local party activity.

Local parties offer some alternatives to business meetings. These are usually fundraisers such as dinners, or there may be a social every few months (like a barbecue in the summer). These events are run by volunteers who often have no experience of running events and are not seen as a priority by the party locally or nationally.

These social events should assume far more importance and there should be more of them. Through social events, people will see the real qualities of Labour members and, if these are well run, people will want to join the party to be part of their local Labour fellowship. For these to work, local CLPs need support from people who have experience of running successful social events.

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Spreading the net

The Labour Party has a fantastic network. This has a lot to offer but we are totally neglecting it.

As an example of this, I had a summer holiday booked in Suffolk a few years ago and I had no idea what activities I could offer my young daughter. As I had put on a Stand up for Labour show in Lowestoft earlier that year, I wrote to the candidate there and asked if he had any advice for where to go. What I received was local knowledge that would be the envy of any holidaymaker: the best fish and chip shops, the best local excursions and the best beach.

If Labour were to create a mechanism for members to communicate across regions and share information about all areas of life, this resource would be in heavy demand. To further illustrate this, there would be opportunities for members to list recommended local plumbers, mechanics, etc (some of whom may be members themselves). These would, in a sense, be ‘Labour approved’. And this information would only be known to members.

There could even be a ‘Labour Airbnb’, where Labour members could be assured they were staying with like-minded people and those hosting others would be confident that they would get on!

This network of Labour members could be bolstered further by having ‘Labour Hangouts’ in every constituency (or branch).

These would be cafes, pubs or restaurants where local Labour members were encouraged to spend time. If a list of these were available to Labour members then they would feel confident about where to go when they were in another town or city. They would also fill a hole in our communities, where many people feel isolated and stay indoors rather than go out. We would also build a rapport with local businesses this way.

Creating a booming network creates endless opportunities. Sports and recreational leagues could be set up: 5-a-side football, darts, snooker, even a fundraising marathon set up by the Labour Party.

members only

Exclusive online content

Labour’s online presence could benefit from reinforcing the positive image of the Labour community. This could include features on real Labour heroes in different communities, biographies of remarkable members and Labour figures from the past. This would be a relentless output of positive content about what the Labour Party has achieved and the fabulous people who shaped the party through history (like ‘Labour Heroes’). These videos should only be made available to Labour members (I support Fulham Football Club and I can only watch highlights of their matches and features if I pay a membership fee).

With a focus on the positive aspects of the party and promoting the Labour Party network, the Labour Party will see membership soar. And membership figures will not fluctuate according to who is the leader – or be open to that interpretation. People will join Labour because it is the best social club to be in and because we have such brilliant people.

A more harmonious party structure

None of this can be achieved by the grassroots alone. The branches and CLPs will need support through an improved party machine and there will need to be more communication with the central party.

A revolutionised Labour Party will bring real benefits not just to Labour’s chances of winning future elections, but will also prompt the other political parties to emulate us. We will then achieve a far healthier democracy and society.