Category Archives: Labour Party

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.

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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?

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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.

Jeremy Corbyn is Prime Minister, 8 May 2020

Below is a report of how Jeremy Corbyn’s grassroots campaign paid off and how the Labour Party established itself as the party of government

‘The people I have to thank most of all for this are those who have worked so tirelessly to campaign to promote a new type of politics in all our communities. This is our victory.’ – Jeremy Corbyn, outside 10 Downing Street, 8 May 2020.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has won a landslide victory at the General Election and the first thing he did was pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of activists who played such a crucial role in campaigning.

Since the Labour leader cemented his place in the party following the leadership election of 2016, the party increased its membership by one million to over 1.5 million. The party had formerly merely mouthed the idea of recruitment as this had not sat comfortably with many MPs elected during the Tony Blair era. While Blair had relied on the support of media moguls like Rupert Murdoch to get elected, Corbyn steered a different course.

In many ways it all started with the trade unions rallying behind Corbyn in 2016. Unions played a significant role in promoting Corbyn’s values with hundreds of thousands of members joining Labour and also taking an active part in local politics.

Rooted in communities

After the party was reorganised so that it was less top-down, local Labour Party branches were encouraged to recruit more people and engage them in campaigning as well as social activity. Labour became part of the community again just as it had been decades before through working men’s clubs. Regular Labour newsletters were delivered to each household, not just asking for votes but keeping local people up to date with the political issues in their community. And people were encouraged to speak about the issues that affected them – public meetings were a regular occurrence.

Labour councils were also part of a shift towards a campaigning party. Councils made sure that the message of what austerity was doing was brought to the public’s attention. The local government rally against austerity in 2017 was a breakthrough with over two million people demonstrating against austerity across the country. Labour councils also made their accounts transparent and easy to read so that all residents could see exactly how little money there was to maintain essential services.

Social media and media platforms were also a vital part of Corbyn’s success. It was now much easier for people to receive information without needing to hear it through the prism of anti-Labour sources. And people were offered a cultural alternative to X Factor and reality TV with exciting shows written and produced by Corbyn supporters from across the arts.

500 activists per seat

What this all meant was that for the past year there have been over 500 activists in each constituency engaging with their community and showing that Corbyn’s straightforward, honest politics was not just a catchphrase, but a new way of doing politics and winning elections.

A phone call from Jeremy Corbyn

On Monday the #JC4PM tour hit Swansea. The date had been planned months ago and tickets had been selling well before the attempted coup on Jeremy Corbyn. But in the week between the coup and the event, sales went through the roof – and the Brangwyn Hall has a very high ceiling!

People wanted to show support for Corbyn. That was clear from the impromptu rally of a few hundred people that assembled outside the venue just before the show. The was already a buzz about the night before it had started.

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Mark Serwotka was a fantastic compere. He not only managed to set the political events of the last two weeks in context, but he was skilled at introducing performers and encouraging audience participation. He was also funny. From the perspective of the audience, it was slick (there is a youtube clip here).

However, backstage, I was in a bit of a pickle. At the weekend I had been informed that John McDonnell couldn’t attend as he now had an important speech to make in London. The way out of all this was to skype John and put it on the projector screen. Easy? We rehearsed it a few hours before the event started and it all seemed straightforward, but at 7pm the wifi signal disappeared.

While I was trying to find new wifi codes for it, I got a phone call. I was tempted not to answer as I was so busy, but I’m pleased I did as it was Jeremy Corbyn. He asked if he could do anything for the night. I was a bit taken aback and said we could try skypeing. He said he would see if this was possible and would call me back.

Then I realised that I was already struggling to get John to skype so I could be wasting a great opportunity if skype fell flat. I texted a message to say that we could do a phone call instead. I then tried to work out how this would work while I was I was also hunting for wifi codes.

The only way possible would be for me to put my phone on speaker and hold it next to the microphone on stage.

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Jeremy phoned me back. While Grace Petrie was on stage engaging 800 people in a singalong, I explained that I would be going on stage with the phone. Mark was going to introduce him as I came on.

What happened was incredible. Jeremy was introduced. All that people saw was a phone in my hand, but the idea of the Labour Leader being on the other end generated more noise in the Brangwyn Hall than decades of amped-up Heavy Metal bands. When I actually put the phone to the microphone I realised it wasn’t in speaker mode so I switched it over and then it only took three words from Jeremy to prompt another roar. And then when he finished a few sentences there was more commotion. People started stamping their feet by this time. On a few occasions people didn’t hear what Jeremy was saying as they were making so much noise. It was incredible.

I thought the night was already made but then I had a message saying John had to be skyped within five minutes as soon he had to go and vote in Parliament.

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At this point, people were going to get drinks for the interval. I asked the theatre management to get everyone to come back as John was speaking. I then tapped in the wifi code and hooked up my laptop to the projector screen – and John was there! It worked well. People were excited that there was a live transmission and that John was there to explain what was happening in the Labour Party. At one point the picture disappeared, but John’s office called back and the first thing John said was: ‘When we get into power we will make sure we improve Broadband connections’. This got one of the best laughs of the night!

  • At short notice a special #Keep Corbyn night has been arranged for the O2 Forum Kentish Town on Tuesday (12 July). The night is compered by Mark Serwotka and features Jeremy Hardy, Francesca Martinez, Michael Rosen, Rufus Hound, Dane Baptiste, Grace Petrie, She Drew The Gun and guest speakers including Jeremy Corbyn. Tickets cost £5/£10/£10 and can be bought online here.

 

 

#JC4PM – a celebration of unity

 

I sometimes like to think I was the inspiration behind the choice of the word ‘Momentum’. I sent a message to John McDonnell in the summer suggesting that we put on a big night of comedy, music, poetry and speakers after 12 September in order to ‘maintain the momentum’ of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. I was worried that if Jeremy didn’t win (as I feared), then all the good feeling and mobilisation of thousands of people would evaporate.

The genesis of the #JC4PM tour was that feeling that we have to keep the excitement going at the grassroots regardless of the result of the Labour leadership election. We want to see more teenagers peeping into windows trying to get a good view of a political speaker and more improvised speeeches on the top of fire engines.

#JC4PM has now put on two shows (in Kentish Town, London and Bristol) and both have felt like celebrations of hope and solidarity. As well as some fantastic performers, over 2,000 people have attended and we have had speakers from a range of progressive social movements: trade unions, Stop the War, The People’s Assembly and Stand up to Racism. We’ve also seen Labour Party members working together with Momentum and the result of all this is that anyone can see that unity is strength.

There were 10 front of house stalls in Bristol. The venue were aghast at the number of tables and drapes that were colouring their foyet; and audience members were greeted with campaign material, petitions and badges galore. It was like a festival of the left.

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Back together

#JC4PM has brought back the spirit of the summer as now we have reassembled all the groups who worked so hard to get Jeremy elected and we are sharing the stage, sitting next to each other and signing each other’s mailing lists.

Those people opposed to Jeremy Corbyn are seeking to divide his supporters: criticising his allies in the party (John McDonnell, Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott) and all the groups that support him (Stop the War, Momentum, Stand up to Racism, CND). They want those elements to be at each other’s throats so that Jeremy has a weaker defence. The best antidote to this is to all get out together and celebrate our unity.

  • #JC4PM has three more dates before April (Edinburgh, Croydon and Newcastle). To buy tickets or find out more, go to http://jc4pmtour.com