I learned something amazing at Stand up for Labour in Aldershot on Thursday (pictured above).
During the show, I found out that Jennifer Evans was the longest serving member of the party in the room and rewarded her with a bottle of red wine.
While she was on stage, I asked Jennifer what it was that led her to join the party in 1968.
‘I was new in the area and I wanted to meet like-minded people. So I joined Labour,’ she said.
This made perfect sense to me but was something I’d never heard before.
What better way is there to find friends who share common values and interests than to join a political party – and, especially, the Labour Party?
There are many people in the country who want to feel part of a social group and to meet like-minded people. People join clubs for just this purpose. And there are thousands and thousands of Labour voters who fall into this category.
So why can’t Labour convert more voters into members?
The only thing holding back such a recruitment campaign is a lack of appetite from people in positions of power in the party.
As things stand, there is hardly any recruitment drive. And the recruitment drive is more about asking for money than offering much in return.
There is a bizarre situation where the bulk of any new subscription money goes to the central party and not to the local party – where new members would feel the benefit. That the central party receives the bulk of the money, doesn’t give them much of an incentive to recruit more people – and the local CLPs hardly find a financial carrot for recruiting people because the returns are so small.
Because of the small amount that CLPs receive per subscription and the ongoing costs they face with room hire and elections, local parties spend more time trying to raise money than actually creating a Labour community.
What is ‘political’?
Stand up for Labour provides a fun, social event that gives members a good opportunity to meet new people and also promotes the Labour Party as a family. It also helps local CLPs to raise money without charging members a fortune. It would seem nonsensical for the Labour Party not to support this, however I have been informed by the head of conference services that it will cost me £2,000+ for me to have a small stand at this year’s conference in Liverpool. This decision was approved by Iain McNichol just before he resigned as General Secretary.
There may be some people who think Stand up for Labour is not significant because it is not ‘political’.
However, this is to forget that the Labour Party is all about being social(ist) and bringing people together. Stand up for Labour not only offers a night out that can raise people’s spirits, but it mobilises supporters.
If Labour is to make a difference by winning elections and energising local campaigns, then it can only achieve this with a large number of people who feel a deep affection for the party and fellow members.
We should be making it known to the public that joining the Labour Party not only provides more money for the party to campaign, but that by joining you too could find like-minded people, just as Jennifer did some 50 years ago.