Category Archives: Curry

Data rules must be a wake up call for Labour

‘Let’s stick together’

‘We don’t want to say goodbye…please keep connected’

‘Do you still want to hear from us?’

In the past couple of months we have all been receiving desperate-sounding emails from companies who want us to stay on their subscriber list.

New EU data protection regulation aimed at safeguarding our personal data has left many businesses in a panic that they will lose contact with their customers.

The data rules do not only apply to business, but also to political parties.

The Labour Party – and all the elements within it – are now asking their members to opt-in to their emails and it doesn’t look good.

So what’s the problem?

For the past few months, several bodies within the Labour Party have been sending out masses of emails asking for support without any co-ordination between them. This has mostly concerned the local elections and members have been receiving almost daily emails from the national party, the regional party, the constituency party and all the factions within the party too. These have mostly been asking for support with canvassing, petitions or donations.

The upshot of this is burnout. People are being put off reading yet another email from Labour.

This is probably the worst time for Labour to ask people to opt-in for more emails.

Too many emails

Damage done

The sheer volume of emails from so many different Labour email accounts is having a negative impact on everyone who is trying to promote anything for the party.

A recent Stand up for Labour’s email listing the month’s events received an open rate of just over 20%, which is about half of what would have been expected a year ago.

‘Labour Live’, the festival in London next month, is reportedly not selling as many tickets as had been hoped. Unsurprisingly, the upshot of this is further emails to members!

What can be done?

Now is the time for all groups within the Labour Party to re-evaluate how they behave with the membership. We are not just part of a big number from which we are bound to get a percentage of replies.

There must be a more co-ordinated approach to improving member communications.

The best place to start is with the local CLP. This is the key area for communications as it is here that the General Election will be won on the ground. So it would be helpful if emails from the central or regional parties were kept to a minimum.

It would be very helpful if CLP secretaries were given training in email technology like Mailchimp as well as in how to produce good subject headings. As an example, I’m not sure how many people in my constituency missed Jeremy Corbyn’s recent visit because the email telling them about it was entitled ‘Campaigning update’.

Building relationships

A healthy and harmonious relationship between the party and the membership is crucial if we are to win the next General Election as we cannot rely on the media to put our ideas across.

East Hampshire

Rewarding the longest serving Labour member at Stand up for Labour in East Hampshire

Members should be welcomed in person more than through being bombarded by emails.

Putting on good local events is a great help. When we meet people face to face (such as local party officers), we are more likely to sign up for email updates. Barbecues and quizzes are great, but there are also good social events like Stand up for Labour and curry discussion nights like ‘Breaking Naan’.

In the next week I am putting on a ‘Breaking Naan’ event in East London, a #JC4PM variety night in Manchester and a Stand up for Labour show in Blackpool. These are all examples of how to bring people together, get people more active and make people more likely to opt in!






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.