Author Archives: crispinflintoff1

Why I won’t be on ‘Daily Politics’ again

On Monday morning, I received an email at half past eight from the BBC asking if I would come on ‘Daily Politics’ to ‘chat about how Stand up for Labour tour makes politics more accessible and what these events can bring to political parties’.

My cautious mind thought ‘this sounds too good to be true – and if it’s too good to be true then it’s too good to be true’. Were the BBC really giving me an opportunity to plug Stand up for Labour for nothing?

I decided to consult my friends on Facebook to find out what they thought and the overwhelming response was that I should take up the opportunity to appear on the programme. So I replied to the BBC to say that I would be there.

I arrived at the studio in good time. The studio and its associated office took up the whole floor of a big building near the Houses of Parliament. I reckon there must be at least 50 staff working on the programme. The money and resources that the programme has at its disposal is mind blowing.

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It’s such a shame that with all its financial backing from the BBC, this programme dedicated to politics does very little to make political activity seem attractive or accessible. Its agenda is so Westminster focused that it seems to imply that all politics happens there.

I found out that the promise of a discussion about how Stand up for Labour can make politics more accessible was nothing of the sort.

When I saw the board outside the studio, I found that the title of the short spot on the show in which I would be featured was called ‘Jez Festival’. This was clearly a reference to a music festival that the Labour Party were gingerly suggesting may happen in June in North London. The ‘Jez’ bit was an attempt to make it seem like a celebration of a personality cult, whereas the Labour Party press release was talking of something called ‘Labour Live’.

So the ‘Daily Politics’ had made a press release about a possible music festival for Labour that would engage people through a mix of music and speeches into a personality cult story and it was in their ‘fun’ slot at the end.

Under the spotlight

I was rushed into the room just before the last segment of the show and the presenter, Jo Coburn, asked me: ‘What is the aim of this festival?’

I was a bit dumbstruck.

‘I don’t know anything about this festival’, I had to reply. I then tried to make light of this by saying that ‘this must be another BBC blunder’.

While Coburn tried to laugh this off, it was actually true.

I felt for her so I tried to add something about who I am and then to drop in a plug for Stand up for Labour (as my brother had advised), but this interview was moving away from me.

Coburn never seemed to listen to anything I was saying and always seemed to be on the point of cutting me off. She even started asking the Tory MP on the show what he thought about Labour Party festivals.

At the end of the show, as I went to leave she said: ‘see you soon’ and then turned to me and said ‘I don’t mean you. I won’t be seeing you again’.

I found that a bit unfair as I had only gone to the studio to talk about Stand up for Labour so it could hardly be my fault that I didn’t know anything about the festival.

Stand up for Labour travels all over the country with the aim of energising people who support the Labour Party, promoting political activity and a sense of community. On the other hand, ‘Daily Politics’ is firmly based in Westminster and promotes division between political parties and within political parties; makes politics seem cliquey and often misrepresents good ideas in order to suit its – frankly, very negative – agenda.

Rather like Clark Gable (or really more like a child trying to cuss back), I turned to Coburn and said: ‘And I’m glad I won’t be seeing you again.’

  • You can see the clip from Daily Politics here.

We have a duty to stop factionalism

I was put off party politics for nearly 25 years because of factional infighting.

In 1987, I was an enthusiastic Labour supporter studying ‘A’ Levels and reading extensively about history, politics and culture. Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone spoke at debates at my school and I was excited when my dad stood for Labour against David Owen in Plymouth Devonport. I joined the Labour Party as soon as it was possible for me to do so.

At the time, Labour had just won a famous by-election victory against the Tories in Fulham and I was looking forward to my first meeting at Harold Laski House.

When I arrived in the small hall, I was told that we had to ‘get through the business’ as quickly as possible. I wasn’t entirely sure why this was the case until I was told at the end of the meeting that if we didn’t then ‘The Militants’ would arrive and we would end up with ‘some motion about Nicaragua’. The meeting took about 10 minutes and then everyone decanted to the Durell Arms across the road.

This was really not the best introduction to the Labour Party. I wanted to discuss ideas and learn about campaigning and how the party works. I wanted to get involved, but all I was seeing was a party where people were more obsessed with stopping expression than encouraging it.

I was not a Militant nor was I particularly opposed to Militant. I was a Labour Party member. I didn’t want to be forced into making a choice between these factions.

The experience of being denied a discussion because of factionalism was enough to put me off going to any Labour meetings until I rejoined the Labour Party in 2010. I hate being pigeon-holed.

I am certain that I am not the only person who has been put off Labour Party meetings because of factionalism.

What’s wrong with discussing ideas?

Nobody agrees with anyone else about everything. Disagreements are inevitable, but we must find a way in which we can meet and discuss things. And the power of ideas must be tested by rigorous debate, otherwise policies that are drawn up may not have been properly scrutinised and be found lacking later on.

Unfortunately, however, intellectual arguments are ignored within factional politics as we are given a list of ‘slates’ for elections. People are instructed to vote for who is in their faction (this could be at a local level or something like the NEC) and the level of debate has been reduced to ‘labelling’ (as Chuka Umunna wrote recently).

The Labour Party cannot provide a welcome platform for enthusiastic young people or politically reawakened older people if it is divided between factions that play out battles in this way. There may well be some great talented politicians of the future who are being discouraged from participating.

Political participation should be a right for all and those who join the Labour Party should not feel marginalised if they do not want to join a faction (this is especially true when we consider that the Labour Party has a membership of nearly 600,000 yet the largest faction, Momentum, has only 30,000 members).

There may be some people who suggest that these factions are good and that these drive change. I contend that the main change they drive is towards the personal power of those within them. And it is often the case that those with a propensity for factions will end up with further factions within factions so that the only drive is towards further division.

There are also people who think factions are inevitable and that there is nothing that can be done about them. But this doesn’t wash with me. Just because something has happened for a long time does not mean that it is inevitable – whether it is votes for women, the founding of the NHS, the Good Friday Agreement.

Unity is strength

The first step towards ending unnecessary factionalism in the Labour Party is for all the groups within the party to come together. Avoiding each other (like in my first meeting in 1987) leads to groups drawing up ridiculous caricatures of each other and working on their own agendas – rather than the good of the party as a whole.

The Labour Party was created with such a meeting in 1900. The Fabians, the trade unions and the Independent Labour Party all agreed to work together. These groups realised that they were stronger if they combined and focused on what they have in common. By creating the Labour Party they put their differences to one side. This wasn’t to say that they didn’t continue to express their own opinions and speak up for issues that were close to them, just that they knew that ‘unity is strength’.

breaking naan FB event photo v4

To facilitate a modern day meeting of groups, I am inviting all Labour members, from across the party to come to a curry night and discussion, on Sunday 4th March.

Already I have had positive feedback from the following groups: Blue Labour, CLPD, Compass, Tribune, Labour Future, the FBU, the BFAWU. I have contacted a number of other groups and have yet to hear back but will continue to chase them and to invite their members.

We will all have an amicable discussion about how the Labour Party can win the next General Election. Everyone will be invited to speak but there will be clear rules that have to be followed: only those people holding the microphone are to speak and no one is to make personal attacks (and only to talk of issues).

The chefs at Mumbai Square can cater for meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans; those who like it mild and those who like it hot. Just as with the Labour Party, they appreciate we all have slightly different tastes, but this does not mean we cannot eat together.

  • ‘Breaking Naan’ takes place at Mumbai Square restaurant (7 Middlesex Street, London E1 7AA) on Sunday 4th March (starting at 6:30pm and ending by 10pm). Tickets are available through the Stand up for Labour website here.

Can the Labour Party come together?

One of the reasons why politics gets a bad name is that politicians will argue about anything. It’s as though they are looking for reasons not to get on, rather than seeking to do the best for their community or the country.

Put simply this is called looking for the differences and not the similarities.

I suppose this wouldn’t be a big issue if we were just talking about Labour politicians disagreeing with Tories. But it does become a problem when it is people from within the Labour Party attacking each other.

Personalities not principles

Factions can be created from votes for positions within the party. Some people become attached to one candidate against another and make this into a matter of principle. This certainly was the case with Jeremy Corbyn standing for leader of the Labour Party and with the second leadership election. Since he was elected, many members of the Labour Party have fallen out – just over a vote for who is the leader of the party.

But it doesn’t just have to be a leadership election, some people have built up resentments against each other for elections for positions in the Labour Party, for council selection or MP selection.

It’s as though every internal election causes more division and, in doing so, makes unity harder.

Show of hands

Everything goes to a vote

Another reason why there are rifts is that every decision in the Labour Party has to go to a vote. In Labour Party branches and CLPs people will vote on anything from whether the minutes are correct to how much money should be spent on the Christmas Social. This isn’t actually always necessary and can lead to unnecessary divisions.

Consensus decision-making is a method of including the input of all so that decisions may address all potential concerns. This creates a greater cohesion within the group. With this method, because everyone has their voice heard, those who are uncomfortable with a particular decision can be persuaded by the force of the argument of comrades and not by the number of hands in the air (often many are not persuaded that something is right or wrong because they lost a vote).

Divisions built on fear

The consequence of factions being formed on the back of votes – whether for positions of power or for any other issue – is that these factions start to distance themselves from each other. This involves talking negatively about the other faction and finding a solidarity with others solely on the basis of this animosity.

So the rifts start to feel intractable.

This seems to be happening in the Labour Party now with a few groups arguing in public about issues like the composition of the National Executive Committee.

What’s being done to unite the party?

There are a few people saying ‘the party must be united’ if we are to win. But there is nothing being done. And the Labour Party itself isn’t going to admit that there are factions as it is not in its interest to do so.

In fact, many of the factions within the party are actually holding meetings in which they are quite publicly saying they wish to take control of the party or take back control. This is only going to escalate divisions.

Laughing audience

Finding common ground

My experience of Stand up for Labour has shown me that social events are a great way to get people together. At Stand up for Labour,  people from all sides of the party are united in laughter and we find our common cause within the Labour Party family. We are able to see that we are a broad church and that we all want to work towards Labour coming back to government and winning local elections.

I believe that Labour members actually agree about most things.

We all want a society where there is no need for foodbanks, we all want the NHS to be properly funded so that everyone has access to good healthcare, and we all want our education system to provide an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We believe that jobs should be available that are well-paid and secure and we also believe that we should have decent, genuinely affordable housing for all.

Issues that are disagreed about, such as defence and foreign policy, fiscal policy, PFI schemes and nationalisation should be discussed openly and the weight of arguments should make the difference not tactical manoeuvres at meetings. I’m sure that if all members felt that their opinions were taken into account then there would be no fallout from policy decision making.

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A unifying event

On Sunday the 4th of March, I am putting on a curry evening that will involve a discussion on how people see the future of the Labour Party. This discussion will include policy matters as well as party campaigns and organisation. I am writing to all of these groups to invite them:

Blue Labour, Chartist, CLPD, Compass, Co-Operative Party, Fabians, Labour First, Labour Future, LRC, Momentum, Open Labour, Progress, Tribune and all the affilliated trade unions.

The rules of the discussion will be that no one is to speak without using the handheld mic, that no one hogs the mic and that there are no personal attacks or heckling. We can then have a proper discussion and not get indigestion from the curry.

My hope is that some headway may be made towards party unity through the act of being in the same room and breaking naan together.

  • Tickets for ‘Breaking Naan’ will be available to all Labour supporters in the next two weeks.

 

 

 

‘The Jungle’ is massive

It’s important that we find new ways to express our opinions and our stories. Social media is definitely helpful as are newspapers and leaflets; demonstrations; gigs and attempts to get songs into the charts. But the oldest method for circulating ideas has largely been ignored. There are not many political plays being written.

I have seen a few ‘political’ plays recently that seek to explore the drama of power and principles. Mostly these have been admirable productions, but there has been an academic or philosophical air to them that fails to fire me up about issues affecting us now. That is not the case with ‘The Jungle’.

‘The Jungle’, which is sold out at ‘The Young Vic’ until 9 January (with only returns available) is the story of the refugee camp in Calais that became home to over 6,000 people.

The first thing that makes the play so notable is the staging.

We sit within a room (the auditorium) that is a massive mocked up cafe. We are seated in zones (‘Afghanistan’, ‘Sudan’, ‘Libya’) just like the occupants of the camp. Each seat includes a counter table in front with condiments (salt and pepper shakers, ketchup). Underfoot, there is dusty earth and bits of bark. To get to our seats, we pass mocked up shelters and a small cafe. Before the play even starts, we feel part of the camp.

Jungle audience
There is no gentle introduction to the play. It starts with the camp facing up to the police imminently coming to clear away the land. Face masks are given out to audience members and advise about dousing yourself in coca cola if hit by teargas.

It’s then that we meet the main character in the play, Safi. He is the chorus who decides how the story is told. While we are caught up in the upcoming drama of the police breaking into the camp, he stops the scene and tells us that we must go back to the beginning of the story.

Safi’s interjections remind us that this is not a production that we can daydream in, but a performance in which we are grounded and present. To funny effect, later on, he suddenly announces: ‘I think now is a good time for an interval’.

It’s not just Safi who engages with us. Members of the cast put their hands on our shoulders as they talk, or apologise if a prop nearly hits an audience member. And, once during the first half, a cast member wipes the counter in front of me with a cloth.

As we watch the development of the camp, we see how refugees from different countries built up their own communities in different zones, how they sometimes argued but, ultimately, came together. It is an exciting place to be and it shows humanity at its best: building a vibrant community, with music, dancing, restaurants, children’s and women’s centres, churches and mosques. All this, even when there is a traffic jam in Calais most of the camp runs out in an attempt to find a way into England.

Jungle Play image 2
Despite the fact that the Theresa May and the British government were not admitting refugees from the camp, ‘The Jungle’ shows that there were many good intentioned British people who came to the support of the refugees. At first this is amusing, but the longer the play runs, the more noticeable it is that these people had compassion far beyond anything the French authorities could muster.

To contrast with the humour and the music, ‘The Jungle’ also tells the story of the migrants and their traumatic passage from their homeland. We hear about the people who died and the perilous journeys across sea. It is impossible not to feel compassion for all migrants who have been forced to leave their countries.

The play lasts two hours and 45 minutes and, when I was told this before it started, I had thought this seemed very long. But the power of the production showed that an audience can have a long attention span – there really is no need to dumb down.

The play has been written with an urgency to tell the story. There is an earnestness to it that defies convention. And I was not alone in feeling deeply moved by this. Most of the audience stood up to give a standing ovation and there were several people in tears.

‘The Jungle’ will make a big impression if it is given an extended run and tours the country. It gives people an insight into the world of refugees that cannot be found elsewhere. And it exposes the cold brutality of countries that carried out military operations in the Middle East and then failed to look after those whose lives were destroyed.

I hope that ‘The Jungle’ gets the financial support it deserves and that it encourages a wave of new political plays that transform our culture.

What good can we be if we don’t forgive?

Last week my nine-year-old daughter, Lily, asked me a tough question:

‘Why would someone let off a bomb that would kill them and other people?’

The best way that I could explain how someone could think – and act – in that way is that they cannot forgive. They have become so angry that their rage matters more than its consequences. I asked Lily to imagine the angriest boy in her class being given weapons like knives and bombs. Would they use them when they lost their temper? Possibly.

Online rage

Although it had a less violent effect than terrorism, I encountered another case of rage online yesterday.  An administrator of the facebook page, Nye Bevan News, raged against almost everyone around him. I tried to persuade him that his hard work on the page was appreciated and that it was no use attacking those who worked with him, but he couldn’t stop himself. And now he has dropped out of being an administrator and has hurt several people with aggressive posts. He was unable to forgive people around him for what he perceived as their failings and a lack of respect for him.

Interacting with the man from Nye Bevan News, I could see that I had also felt these feelings of anger towards people in the Labour Party. I never really acted on them except to write a fairly spiky blog or two about how I had been unfairly treated. But I certainly felt resentful towards some people who had seemed to block me from making Stand up for Labour a thriving success.

The conversation I had with my daughter and the experience of the man from Nye Bevan News made me realise that I have to forgive if I am to be of any use. I also believe this is key to Jeremy Corbyn’s success as a Labour leader: he has always been able to forgive people who may have worked against him in the past.

It is clear to me that there is a lot of simmering anger within some people in the Labour Party. There are people who have opposed each other for positions within the party that have not been able to let go of the rivalry and I believe there is still some fallout from the leadership elections in the past two years.

These resentments are doing nobody any good: not the person who holds the resentment (sleepless nights), their family and friends (constantly being bad tempered) or the party itself (no solidarity).

Time to unite

It is clear that the Tories will not let go of power easily so unlikely that there will be a General Election in the next two years.

Now is a good period for everyone in the party to make a concerted effort to forgive each other and move on. Resentments and anger are poisonous and take people away from the sunlight of the spirit – from which we can fight campaigns and win more voters over to our side.

We can get over resentments by stopping creating cartoon images of each other, labelling each other (‘Tories’, ‘Trots’) and by actually getting together for social events that don’t involve sniping.

Stand up for Labour is close to reaching its Crowdfunder target and to starting a tour of CLPs that will engage and unite members behind our common purpose: fighting for social justice and winning power. Our events will chip away at the resentments and bring people together in a way that will be very helpful to the party.

Over 125 people have donated £5 or more to the Crowdfunder. In return they will receive badges, t-shirts, mugs, tickets, signed posters and curry.

Click here to read about the Crowdfunder.

Are the Tories really ‘facing oblivion’?

On the eve of the Conservative Party Conference, John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, has revealed that membership of the Tory Party is set to plummet to 100,000 (and even lower than the Lib Dems). He says that in 300 constituencies, Conservative Party membership has dropped to 100 people or fewer.

‘The party is facing oblivion. If you take the fact only 10 per cent of the membership is likely to be very active they will not have enough people on the ground to fight an election – they won’t even have enough people to man polling stations on the day.’

This may make for pleasant reading for the Labour Party, but I feel Mr Strafford is over-egging this.

Behind the figures

The disparity between the Conservative Party and Labour Party membership figures has a lot to do with leadership elections.

These were certainly the driver behind Labour’s membership reaching over 350,000 in 2015 and nearly 600,000 last year (it’s actually not moved much since then), while Theresa May was elected unopposed last year. People joined the party to support a candidate (mostly one called Jeremy Corbyn).

Were the Conservatives to hold a leadership election before the next General Election, their membership will increase significantly as the candidates jockey for more votes.

Bricks and mortar

The Conservative Party has a far network of party offices that Labour does not have. In many constituencies the Labour Party does not have an office and only sets one up in a shop front during an election campaign.

Another advantage that the Conservative Party has on the ground is its collection of support through nearly 200 Conservative Associations, which offer communities a space for social functions and keep association members in touch with the local Conservative Party. The Labour Party equivalent of this (the National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs) numbers under 50 in England, Scotland and Wales.

Camper van

The fact that many Constituency Labour Party (CLP) groups are cash starved does not make the situation better. The General Election left CLPs in a situation where many had to start crowdfunders to get delegates to Conference and I know of one CLP that had to sleep in a camper van.

The Labour Party centrally offers £2.50 per year per member to CLPs so this situation on the ground won’t change very much.

Labour’s higher membership offers an opportunity for a strong army of volunteers but it will need more than this if it is to see off the Tories election after election. We need to reach out to those members and keep them engaged. If we don’t have community resources like offices and clubs then we must look for alternatives.

Local parties also know best about the campaigns that matter and so would be best equipped to spend money on social media advertising and other campaigning materials. I spoke to a member of Aldershot CLP at Stand up for Labour’s conference event in Brighton and he said the Labour Party nearly doubled their vote through the use of social media focused on local people. If they had more cash to spend, it could have led to Labour winning an ‘unwinnable’ seat.

I set up Stand up for Labour to support CLPs. It is a way of bringing local members and supporters together in a social setting and creating a sense of community. It also raises valuable money for their campaigns. With other initiatives like this, Labour can transform its advantage in members into something significant and, potentially, wipe the Tories out.

  • Stand up for Labour has set up a Crowdfunder to support a tour of the country that will energise CLPs and raise valuable funds for them. In return for contributions, Stand up for Labour offers tickets for shows, t-shirts, mugs, signed posters or, even, curry!

Energise the CLPs that will win the election

Background

I began my journey in stand-up comedy after a therapist said it would help me get over the trauma from the Tavistock Square bomb on 7 July 2005, where I was 50 yards from the bus when it blew up.

I always enjoyed making people laugh and cheering people up. I took a comedy course and then performed at any comedy club in London that would have me until I was quite good and became a runner-up at the Hackney Empire New Acts competition. I also appeared on Paramount Comedy Channel performing my routine about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables.

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At about the same time as a possible comedy career was taking off, I became a father for the first time. Having a daughter made me suddenly feel more socially responsible. I stopped doing comedy gigs and got a nine to five job in sub-editing articles in magazines and  journals.

I joined the Labour Party the day after Michael Foot died. When I saw the news, it brought tears to my eyes when I reflected on how such a good man was treated with such jeering contempt by the media. It made me aware that Labour had an uphill struggle as party leaders would always be ridiculed by the papers and TV if they ever put forward policies that promoted socialism and peace.

I believed it was important that I make a stand and no longer see politics as something played out for me but as something I can shape myself.

I had a background in politics as my dad had been a Labour councillor in our ward in North Kensington in 1970. He also stood in the general election against David Owen in Plymouth in 1987. He was good friends with Tony Benn, who I used to see a lot in Notting Hill Gate, and my dad also fought for Labour to have a dedicated Arts Policy (something he campaigned for within a group called Arts for Labour).

Labour Party recruitment

When I got to my first Labour Party meetings, I was disappointed to see that there were not many people and also that there was no drive to encourage more recruitment.

I suggested to my local Labour Party branch that we put on a comedy night to raise money and raise our profile in the local community. One or two people said I should give it a try, but generally it was seen as an odd idea.

I booked comedians that I had worked with before, and I called the event ‘Let’s laugh at the Coalition’. We had an audience of about 100 people in a theatre in Brentford and managed to raise a few hundred pounds (it would have been more if I had realised the venue was far too expensive). I also managed to get at least 20 or so people to attend who were not Labour Party members and had never been to a Labour meeting before. Some of these people later joined the party.

Arthur Smith and me on stage

The first Stand up for Labour event came about in June 2012 in Chiswick. The headline act was Arthur Smith and the guest speaker was Ken Livingstone, who had just lost the Mayoral election. I put up posters and flyers all over west London and, because of this (and the line up), the turnout was incredible. We sold all 200 tickets in advance and the room was buzzing with excitement. It was nothing like any other Labour Party event I had ever been to.

The first Stand up for Labour was such a success that other constituencies stared to ask me to put on events. I set up a website and social media pages and this brought with it more and more requests for Stand up for Labour all over the country.

I took as many requests for Stand up for Labour events as I could manage: in total this came to over 200 between 2012 and now.

Putting on these shows involved a lot of work: liaising with constituencies about a date and venue, booking comedians, designing flyers, posters and printed tickets as well as promoting the event on social media, comedy listings and via the Stand up for Labour website.

I also had to buy a durable PA system and stage lighting that I could transport all over the country. I wanted these events to work in any room in any town. We’ve worked in pubs, community centres, night clubs, even a couple of converted churches.

I am proud that I have been able to book over 100 comedians and offer them not only employment but an opportunity to perform to politically savvy audiences. I’ve never asked anyone to perform for free.

However, I did Stand up for Labour as a volunteer.

Mugshot of me 2

How did I do it?

For each event I would cover my own travel expenses and the cost of promotional material through box office revenue. To pay my own bills and support my family, I was working nine to five in freelance sub-editing jobs. I had no job security but this worked for me considering the number of days I had to take off to do Stand up for Labour.

Sadly, I received little help from the Labour Party for these shows. In fact, when I asked if I could have a stand to promote Stand up for Labour at the Brighton Conference in 2013, I was told I would have to pay £1,800 to do so. And I did – with some help from a crowdfunder – because I thought it was important to let as many delegates from CLPs to know what Stand up for Labour could offer.

The way in which my attempts to re-energise the Labour Party were marginalised led me to stand for the Labour Party’s NEC, campaigning primarily for a concerted recruitment drive to take place. I believed then – as now – that Labour can only win with a large, energised membership. I wasn’t standing on an ideological or policy platform – the NEC should be about improving the way the machine is organised. However, I was not ‘on a slate’ so I had no chance of winning – but I certainly made my point.

Jeremy Corbyn leadership

My parents are both Quakers and I was brought up as a pacifist. I didn’t approve of bombing Iraq and I knew from Tavistock Square how traumatic violence is to those who experience it. For this reason, I supported Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be Labour Party leader as soon as he was on the ballot paper. I organised the first big event of his campaign at the Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden and it was a huge success, with more people inside than was strictly legal. It showed me how much energy there was around his campaign and I had not seen anything like this in the Labour Party before.

People were excited about the idea we could change the way we do politics and that is why there was a massive increase in Labour Party membership.

The surge in membership gave me great hope but I knew that there would be attempts to topple Jeremy Corbyn and undermine this movement. So I thought up #JC4PM, a tour that got big names in comedy, poetry and music to perform in support of Jeremy Corbyn. I wanted to help inspire more people to get active politically.

JC4PM smiling shot

We won sponsorship from Unite the Union and the CWU and, working in a team, we set up gigs in big theatres in England, Scotland and Wales. Over the course of twelve shows, we had 1,200 people attend in Bristol, 900 in Sheffield, 800 in Swansea. These were massive events to organise and I managed to do these at the same time as organising CLP events in places like Banbury, Camberley, Gainsborough and Hertford too. The demand for Stand up for Labour had not stopped.

I followed up some of the #JC4PM shows with a tour during last year’s leadership election. #KeepCorbyn dates were set all over the country (also with some sponsorship from the TSSA and the FBU) but we encountered a problem with attendance as Labour were not promoting these events and the budget constraints on the ‘Jeremy for Labour’ campaign meant that Jeremy Corbyn could not be seen to promote them either. So we lost a lot of money in ticket revenue.

At around the same time as we took a hit from the #KeepCorbyn tour, my freelance jobs dried up, one in  part due to the time I was giving to guess what? Stand up for Labour!

Despite unsuccessful applications for Labour Party jobs in events and fundraising (which I thought I might have stood a chance at?), it hasn’t stopped me believing in the Labour Party and I continue to strive for it to change and improve.

On the phone

General Election campaign

When the 2017 General Election was called, I wanted to do as much as I could to support Labour’s (supposedly doomed) campaign. I drew up a list of constituencies that would be off the beaten track and not in Labour strongholds. Having taken pointers from some #JC4PM shows, we offered a more variety show bill with music and poetry alongside comedy. We also incorporated films from local Labour Party activists who were also filmmakers in a screening slot called Brit Rocks.

A team of us went from Cornwall to Cumbria with projector, projector screen, comedians, poets, singers and a van full of Jeremy Corbyn t-shirts. We filmed all these gigs and shared them widely on social media so people could see that Jeremy Corbyn’s message was popular all over the country – not just in Islington.

Stand up for Labour has improved a lot since 2012. I’ve learned from my mistakes: I learned I had to keep events short as audiences get tired and it’s now less of a comedy night and more of a variety show. The other thing I’ve noticed is that members of the party are often far more entertaining than any of the performers once they get warmed up. As I am the Compere, I have been able to extend the time I spend interacting with the audience.

What next?

I want to continue to energise Labour members and raise funds for CLPs all over the country but I am now overdrawn and am close to reaching my credit limit.

I also have monthly direct debit payments for Stand up for Labour that I am struggling to keep up with. These include: storage for the speakers, mic and other equipment £156.20pm; Adobe creative suite for flyers, tickets and memes £50.57pm, Mailchimp for emailing over 10,000 subscribers £117.29pm, accountancy services from Tax Assist Accountants £183pm and a Registered Office address £23.99.

Over 40 CLPs have written asking me to put on events but I simply cannot afford to do them. The revenue from ticket sales covers the costs of the show and the rest goes to the CLPs. But I have always kept ticket prices low so most people can afford to come. The acts I book would often cost a lot more to see in a comedy club. This model doesn’t leave any slack to pay me and, to be honest, I would feel guilty taking money when the CLPs need it so badly.

My plan therefore, is to raise the money to cover my wage and the costs of the gigs through sponsorship. That way, all of the revenue from tickets can go straight to the CLP. The only cost I am asking the CLP to cover is the venue hire and the reason I am doing this is so that fundraising teams in CLPs take some responsibility for making these shows happen. Often CLPs do not have fundraising skills and, if they are encouraged and guided in this they will push to get the best rate (or for free), pick a venue size they think they can fill and then push to fill it. On this model, the more people the CLP get down to the show, the more money they make.

In order to get this backing and sponsorship, I’ve spent the last month contacting trade unions and other potential donors and asking them to cover the costs of a tour. I am making some progress and have already got the performers’ costs sponsored for the Brighton conference gig. But this process takes time and I need to fill the gap or I risk going under.

People are now talking about two years until the next general election. If I can put on Stand up for Labour shows during that time, particularly in key marginals and previously labelled ‘unwinnable’ seats, I believe this will help win the next general election for Labour. By building membership, energising and boosting morale, helping Fundraising Officers to improve their entrepreneurial skills, raising money so that CLPs have the resources they need to fight the strongest battle they can, I see a role for Stand up for Labour in forging a victory for the Labour Party. But I need your help to do it.

Please contribute as much as you can so that I can reach my fundraising goal of £7,000 and, if you are unable to contribute, it would be really helpful if you could write a testimonial about your own experience of Stand up for Labour, or share the crowdfunder via social media.

The crowdfunding site is here:

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-tour-for-stand-up-for-labour

Thank you.

Crispin Flintoff, 22 September 2017