Category Archives: Labour Party

Labour must campaign earnestly everywhere

The Labour Party is now in a position where it can build solid foundations in every city, town and village in the country. With a commitment to grassroots activity, Labour could create strong community ties that will last generations and provide a firm bedrock from which we can flower and grow.

To achieve this, Labour must ditch some of the short-term thinking that has undermined its support in many towns and villages.

For decades, Labour concentrated all resources only on ‘key seats’. This has meant that Labour supporters in ‘unwinnable’ towns and villages have been asked to ditch their local concerns and campaign in a neighbouring, more marginal constituency.

The rationale behind focusing on ‘winnable’ seats was purely a lack of numbers on the ground. A party with under 200,000 members simply did not have enough active people to attempt to win every seat.

Seats – or even wards in council elections – have been identified as ‘unwinnable’ and ‘paper candidates’ have been put up (ie not really a serious candidate – just there on paper).

Why bother to put up candidates when there has been no campaigning on the ground and there is no expectation of winning (especially when this costs a fair amount of money)? The answer is that it is good for Labour’s image to be seen to be standing everywhere regardless of whether they win and so people have a choice to vote Labour.

I now think it’s time to move one step further with this approach. 

Why don’t we stand candidates in every ward and seat and actually earnestly campaign in those wards and seats – so that people in those communities know that Labour really does have a presence everywhere?

We now have over 600,000 members and many of those members are in ‘unwinnable’ seats. We need to energise those members and not make them feel like they are simply paying a subscription that will help Labour win in marginal seats.

Last year’s General Election saw many new towns – and villages – emerge as possible Labour strongholds of the future.

Bournemouth, for example, has a large Labour membership that were inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and is now working hard to overturn two formerly ‘unwinnable’ Tory seats. Young local activists like Henry Land are enthusiastically campaigning during the local elections as they build up to the next General Election. The Stand up for Labour event in Bournemouth had an attendance of over 150 people and it was supported by three trade unions plus a local business (Unicorn) (see picture above).

Henry Land is not alone in wanting to transform Labour’s fortunes in formerly ‘unwinnable’ seats.

In Aldershot, Hampshire, Alex Crawford and Hashim Hassan promoted a very successful Stand up for Labour show in March and, in May, Stand up for Labour is putting on shows in Minehead (West Somerset) as well as North Walsham (North Norfolk) and Alton (East Hampshire).

Policies needed

It would benefit these CLPs if the party could also push forward policies that would benefit rural areas. The recent Fabians report, ‘How Labour can reconnect with the countryside’, shows that Labour has a poor image in these communities. The report calls for commitments to improve transport, broadband and supporting small business. These policies would not only increase Labour’s popularity in these seats but would pressure the government into improving services that would benefit local residents for generations to come.

With a combination of ‘rural-proof’ policies and a large group of activists Labour can potentially win everywhere.

  • You can buy tickets for Stand up for Labour through the website.

McNicol’s ideal replacement

Now that Iain McNicol has resigned as General Secretary of the Labour Party, people are asking who should replace him.

I know the right person.

The new General Secretary would mirror the inclusive politics of Jeremy Corbyn and make the Labour Party into an electoral force.

This would require a change in culture at Labour’s head office and regional offices.

To start with, appointments would not be based on cronyism or on employing someone who does what they are told, but would be on seeking inventive members of staff, excited about being part of the largest party in Western Europe.

With the money and resources at its disposal, the Labour Party could attract talent that would be the envy of many multinational companies.

The General Secretary would encourage people to come up with new ideas and energised, gifted staff would be able to promote the party in such a way that we could stay financially rich as well as phenomenally popular.

Building a mass membership party, with at least one million members would be a priority for the new General Secretary.

And this would necessitate a rethink about how we give value to members.

Like other membership organisations, we would have to be more interactive and would need to have a far larger customer relations department for members.

All members would be sent details about where and when their local meetings are as well as a copy of the party rulebook and a guide to the party structure.

The new General Secretary would not tolerate any violation of the party rulebook and the Compliance Unit would be changed from investigating members to investigating any rule breaking. This would give members more confidence about the party’s procedures and structures.

Raising money

Party fundraising is vital and a mass membership party will go a long way towards that. Crowdfunding with over one million members would prove far more effective than old-fashioned and elitist projects like ‘the Thousand Club’, in which Labour’s richest donors are given exclusive access to meet MPs and party officials.

The new General Secretary will offer groups that campaign within the Labour Party a free stand at the Labour Party Conference. Instead of asking for £2,000 to promote their ideas, the General Secretary will help to strengthen campaigners who we work with.

With this new General Secretary in place, the Labour Party will be in a position to take power and stay there for decades.

  • What do you think about this vision of the new General Secretary? Why not come along to ‘Breaking Naan’ in London next Sunday to put your ideas forward. Members from across the party will be attending so this will be a great discussion. Tickets are available 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.

Curry for Corbyn picture 1

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.

 

 

 

Five reasons to support Stand up for Labour’s Crowdfunder

The Stand up for Labour Crowdfunder will kickstart a comedy/variety tour of the country that will see 50 shows put on in towns across England, Scotland and Wales every year between now and the next General Election.

Here are five reasons why Labour Party supporters should support the Crowdfunder.

1. Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) are skint

In the past few years, CLPs have had to pay for local election campaigns, the EU Referendum campaign, the General Election as well as some Mayoral elections. The situation for CLPs got so bad that many were not able to afford to send delegates to conference and one CLP even had to use a camper van as accommodation for their representatives. Were there a General Election called in the next two years it will be very difficult for CLPs to be able to afford the basics in campaigning literature, let alone anything as beneficial as social media advertising.

Each Stand up for Labour event would be able to raise between £1,000 and £2,000 for CLPs involved – this would depend on how much support/sponsorship we can get from trade unions and other potential sponsors (this sponsorship would cover the costs of the performers/travel/accommodation/promotional material)

2. Many CLPs need support with events and fundraising

Although some CLPs have energetic teams of volunteers who are willing and hard working, most are ill-equipped to organise events that will pull a crowd.

Stand up for Labour has proven experience of putting on successful events all over the country. We literally have the equipment (PA, lights) as well as list of contacts (comedians, poets, singers, even a magician) who are willing to perform for the Labour Party. We also have experience in promoting events and can support CLPs with promotional material (both printed and online).

With the support of sponsors we can also arrange events that would not involve CLPs incurring any financial risk or putting forward any money.

Steve Gribbin 1

3. We offer performers an opportunity to perform political material

In the past five years, Stand up for Labour has booked over 100 performers in over 200 events. Stand up for Labour offers an alternative to ‘Hen’ and ‘Stag’ night crowds where material is often coarse and designed to shock. This has allowed performers to develop thoughtful, political material that has improved the culture of the comedy circuit.

The importance of culture on the political landscape cannot be underestimated. It is often artists and performers who lead the way in changing accepted thinking.

4. Labour needs events that bring supporters together and promote party unity

Stand up for Labour is not allied to any particular faction in the Labour Party. Our aim is party unity. We believe it is vital for the party to unite behind the leader if we are to win the General Election.

Because our events are affordable, we are more accessible than other fundraisers like Gala Dinners and we have succeeded in uniting CLPs in laughter and promoting camaraderie that is sadly often not apparent in business meetings.

Uniting the party

5. We need to keep our spirits up

Most of the country is under a cloud that is far more threatening than the odd Orange sky.

The level of debt is higher than ever, the shambolic reform of the welfare system through Universal Credit has led to more people dependent on foodbanks. And public services, such as schools, hospitals and the emergency services have been run down to the ground by the government’s economic policy.

As well as holding rallies and meetings that direct our anger at what is happening, we also need to lift our spirits.

Light-hearted, entertaining events that bring people together and promote a sense of community and solidarity help to prevent depression and a feeling of hopelessness.

If we have not got the spirit to fight, then we will never win.

Click here to support the Stand up for Labour Crowdfunder.

 

Strengthening CLPs is key to future victory

The results from 8 June showed that a strong presence on the ground is the perfect counter to biased, pro-Conservative media. What I saw on the last day of the campaign was incredible numbers of activists out in west London, bringing with them amazing victories in Ealing Central & Acton and Brentford & Isleworth.

At the Curry for Corbyn discussion last week it was clear that London was very well served by activists. Kensington, Battersea, City of London, Croydon, Chipping Barnet – Labour members from all of these seats talked about the same numbers on the ground.

We have to replicate what happened in London in other areas of the country.

Stand up for Labour is asking Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) to get in touch (contact admin@standupforlabour.co.uk if interested) if they wish to put on a fundraiser. The General Election has depleted funds and there is a strong possibility that another election is on the way in the next year.

A comedy night with local films, poetry and music is also an ideal way to re-mobilise members and supporters. And it’s a great introduction for the thousands of people who have joined since the General Election.

One of the most uplifting aspects of the last General Election campaign was the return of party unity. Labour delivered a fantastic set of policies that we could all be proud of – and were very popular. It’s now time that we talk up party unity and the programme put forward in the manifesto and start to turn marginals into Labour gains. A good way to do this is to bring all members together for an affordable social that raises valuable funds.

My heart is broken

I know I can be melodramatic at times, but the past three weeks have been emotionally challenging. I have struggled to sleep, over-eaten, listened to Mahler on repeat and generally felt as though life has no meaning. Like Young Werther in Goethe’s novel, I have been hoping and praying that the object of my passion will see me heroically and that I will win her heart. Everyday I have hoped to receive an email about a fundraising events role within the Labour Party. And now I have – only to be told I will not even be getting an interview.

Let me explain.

For nearly five years I have put on fundraising events for different Constituency Labour Party groups. I’ve travelled all over the country (England, Scotland and Wales), organising over 200 gigs. I’ve lost paid work through doing it and only covered my costs. My family has suffered not only the financial side but by my absence and my fatigue. And I’ve put on weight, written off a car and acquired more grey hairs. All for my adored Labour Party.

I welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the leadership elections because we now have a party with a continually growing membership. I decided to put all my energy into supporting Jeremy Corbyn against the negative media by putting on big #JC4PM events and these were, by and large, very successful. I even went further than this by producing a 7 inch single by Robb Johnson and the Corbynistas!

So when it was pointed out to me that the Labour Party had a job vacancy going for ‘Development Manager – Fundraising Events’, I was hopeful that all my hard work would be acknowledged. Not only did I have all the essential skills required (project management/IT/communications), but I know how the Labour Party works and have met so many MPs and members from all over the party. I filled out the application form as though it were written for me and sent it off.

And now three and a half weeks later, I received this email.

Rejection letter

I ask myself why I haven’t even been given an interview for the job. Is it because I have written about how frustrated I am by the lack of support for Stand up for Labour? Should I have been more stoical? But then I think that it is better to speak up if you see something is wrong – or how will anything change? Would it be better if I didn’t support the leader of the party?

I think about the time I had to pay £1,800 to have a stand at the Labour Conference in Brighton just to advertise the fact I was raising money for the Labour Party. And I think about how I was given half an hour in a kitchen at the Labour headquarters when I asked for help two years ago. And then I think about how I have helped raise over £150,000 – even without a job for the Labour Party.

This is unrequited love.

What would you like for Christmas?

jc4pm-for-me-cover

This year has been tough for Labour Party members and supporters. There was no let-up in campaigning from January to September: first, with the local and mayoral elections; second, with the EU Referendum; and, finally, with an unnecessary leadership election. And then, we find that – after all that work – we are left with a post-Brexit culture of xenophobia and economic uncertainty, topped off with the election of Donald Trump as US President. It’s hard to take. Now that winter has arrived, we really need something to cheer us up.

The Jeremy Corbyn Christmas single, ‘JC4PM for me’ was thought up as a means of brightening up the end of the year and also raising money for foodbanks (through the Trussell Trust). Robb Johnson’s original lyrics had been a highlight of the ‘#KeepCorbyn’ tour dates in September. The chorus about voting Jeremy Corbyn was so catchy that I was singing it most of the way home from gigs. And it was at that time that I was thinking how a Christmas single would be a novel way of countering negative media about Jeremy Corbyn. It seemed incredible that Robb Johnson had written this song at a time I was thinking about it.

Robb was enthusiastic about the idea of putting together a Christmas single. I had no idea how this worked but I was willing to help with getting it off the ground. Robb adapted the lyrics to include a Yuletide theme and as many seasonal musical references as were palatable were added (sleigh bells, xylophone, children singing, a big chorus). We decided to make the single overly tacky as that is what the whole Christmas single genre is about. But, having said that, we also wanted to pass on a message of support for Jeremy Corbyn and include some policy references.

The most uplifting aspect of the past year has been Jeremy Corbyn’s courage in the face of the plot against him. He has shown great leadership in keeping the Labour Party together and everyone agrees that he has really found his feet with the media and in the House of Commons. His behaviour throughout has been inspirational. If anyone deserves a tribute single this year, it is the Labour Party leader.

We decided that the Christmas single should centre on Robb Johnson. That he should front it. He didn’t like the idea and he took some persuading as he thought it was a collective effort. That’s what makes Robb such a fantastic focal point: like JC himself, he’s a lovely man with no ego. We also needed to acknowledge the other people who contributed to the single (Attila the Stockbroker, Fae Simon, Joe Solo, Maxine Peake and about ten singers in the chorus) so we needed a band name. The word ‘Corbynista’ is often used as a kind of insult. However, if we adopt it, then it loses its power.

Along with the incredibly methodical graphic designer Jason Harris, I worked on the artwork. We decided we wouldn’t use a real image of Jeremy Corbyn but would show something that represented him instead. The Jeremy Corbyn Doll/Alternative Xmas tree topper by SnorkersImaginarium was perfect. We wanted to make it clear that the tackiness of the single was not related to the real Jeremy Corbyn. Jason also enjoyed finding an outlandish typeface!

We made the video about Robb. So the scenes are all shot in places that he is familiar with in Hove: his house, the roads around it and his local pub. We mobilised a group of Jeremy Corbyn supporters to appear in the final scene, shot in the Laines in Brighton and I was tasked with distributing santa hats and dropping the fake snow. Roland Denning has made an hilarious video that is due for release at the end of the month and Liam Scully filmed a video of the video being made and this was to be our teaser for when we announced that a single was to be released.

The reaction to the short teaser video for the single was unexpected. It had over 50,000 views on Facebook and 500 retweets within only a few days. This was greater than any video I had released for the ‘JC4PM tour’ (including exclusive footage of Jeremy Corbyn himself). Soon enough, BBC Radio 5 Live, The Wright Stuff, and The Daily Politics all asked for an interview with Robb.

The Daily Politics asked Robb to appear to discuss the single with former DJ Mike Read. Robb was against this and wanted to pull out as he wasn’t prepared to share the same studio as a man who had spoken up for the xenophobic policies of UKIP. I told the producer that he wouldn’t appear unless someone else replaced him and they agreed (Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick took his place).

There have been negative comments about the single. I expected that. Mostly it has been from people who don’t support Jeremy Corbyn, but there have also been people who do support him who have said it is a bad idea. There have been comments that it is ’embarrassing’ or ‘cringeworthy’. I’d say this is a response to Christmas itself: a time of the year when people gaudily light up their houses, wear silly jumpers and blow up inflatable snowmen in their front gardens. There have also been comments suggesting ‘this will backfire’. I imagine this is referring to the very pro-Corbyn media, who will suddenly turn on him for a Christmas single released by his own supporters (I’m being sarcastic by the way).

One of the performers on the single, Joe Solo, is also releasing a Christmas single, ‘Merry Christmas from Hatfield Main’, which raises money for independent foodbanks that cover shortages in the Doncaster area. We are working with Joe and the team behind him to push for two Christmas chart toppers and both Robb and Joe will be appearing at a #JC4PM gig in Wakefield next week (tickets are available here).

Some newspapers have said that they think ‘JC4PM for me’ could do well in the Christmas charts. The Guardian wrote: ‘It’s as cheery a political campaign song as you’re likely to find’. And now bookmakers are offering odds of 80/1 on the single becoming the Christmas number one.

Does anyone remember the odds on Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader in 2015?

‘JC4PM for me’ is available for download on 9 December. CD and vinyl versions are also available.

There is a launch party at the Kingsway Banqueting Restaurant in west London on 9 December. Tickets for a three-course curry costing £20/£12 (concessions) can be bought here.