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.

1924 and all that

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has Theresa May’s Tories on the ropes. It is unlikely she will be able to hold on to power for long as she tries to patch together a deal with the DUP while facing mounting criticism from the media and her own party. However, the Labour Party must not take the situation for granted.

The result of the 8 June General Election is very similar to what happened in December 1923 and the signs do not augur well if this comparison sticks.

In December 1923 – as now – the Conservatives were the largest party but unable to form a majority government. The Tory Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, managed to hang on for a month or so but eventually lost a vote of confidence that led to Ramsay MacDonald being asked to form a minority government in January 1924.

1924 Daily Herald

This was the first ever Labour government and – then as now – the media and their allies in the Tory party were quick to paint it as the beginning of the end.

At the time, Winston Churchill said: “The enthronement in office of a Socialist Government will be a serious national misfortune such as has usually befallen great states only on the morrow of defeat in war.”

Because Labour did not have a majority and was dependent on support from the Liberals, its time in government was very short – only 266 days. This meant that little of the Labour Party programme was able to be enacted. The government’s main achievement was the Housing Act, which allowed for more local authority housing, before the Liberals called an end to their deal and a new General Election was called in October 1924.

Before the October 1924 election, Labour was under intense scrutiny from the media and a forged letter (the ‘Zinoviev letter’) was ‘found’ that showed links between the Labour government and the Communist Party in Russia. This is the kind of dirty trick that we are so familiar with, however the main reason Labour lost the October 1924 election was it didn’t seem to be a competent government.

Labour’s competence in 1924 was not helped by such matters as Ramsay MacDonald being both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, but the main part of the problem was that the government had its hands tied behind its back because of its minority government status.

Any government with no clear mandate and under intense scrutiny will struggle.

The lesson to learn from 1924 is that any Labour government – but especially a radical one – will struggle to get things done unless it forms a majority government.

While the successes of 8 June had a lot to do with Labour’s positive campaign: the manifesto, large public rallies and the popularity of our leader, it cannot be denied that the Conservatives were very poor.

Theresa May

It’s almost impossible to imagine the Conservatives will not improve in the next election so Labour must up its game.

The party machine, starting with Iain McNicol, must work to create an engine for a membership of one million people that will keep them energised, enthusiastic and active. Campaigning at a local level must be encouraged, the selection process for seats must be opened up and there must we must always be on election alert.

If the party apparatus is unable to bring this change then there must be a clear out.

It would be a tragedy if all the hard work put in by activists to support Jeremy Corbyn were to end up with a scenario like 1924 – we need a majority government that can put into practice the policies this country needs so badly.

 

The trauma is over – victory is in reach

As the General Election exit poll approached on Thursday night, I was fearing the worst. Past elections haunted me. I was traumatised by the memory of nausea inflicted by David Dimbleby at 10:02pm in 1987, 1992, 2015. My head was running ahead of itself, thinking about how sad it was that the public were voting against their own interests again. I thought about the unfairness of the media bias and the inbalance in election spending between the two main parties.

This is called catastrophising, in which a set of negative, intrusive thoughts come up based on former bad experiences.

I don’t think I am alone in this. It is something that I have heard a lot in the last couple of years. ‘Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable’, ‘you can’t get elected with socialist policies’, ‘he’s a nice bloke, but he’ll never be Prime Minister’. These are all negative projections.

Some of the people uttering such statements have been doing so as part of propaganda. They have not wanted Jeremy Corbyn to succeed because they disagree with his principles of engagement and grassroots campaigns. And they’ve wanted to demoralise those who might support him. But, whatever their motives, their voices have mixed with those of the traumatised to form a chorus of ‘Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable’.

Carry on regardless

However, despite this sense of hopelessness, me and many others fought for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party without regard for the outcome. The issues at stake: peace and anti-austerity were too great. This election was not a spectator sport, but one in which many played an active part.

I was in west London on Thursday evening campaigning in a key marginal (Ealing Central & Acton). When I arrived at the Labour Party office, it was like a GP’s waiting room, although the receptionist was a bit more friendly. There were teams of people sitting on plastic chairs, waiting to be called to start door knocking. And every five minutes or so, another team would return with filled out sheets in ring binders. Walking out on Acton High Street, on every block, my team was passed by another team of Labour activists and we would salute each other. I was told by one Labour member that there were 600 people volunteering that day – that’s over 100 teams of five going out and returning to base four times a day.

What was the result from this campaigning in Acton? In 2015, the incumbent Labour MP, Rupa Huq, had a majority of 250 but this is now over 13,000!

This result was not isolated. Similar results happened all over the country. Mobilising members and supporters paid off handsomely.

Unstoppable machine

It is clear that the Conservative Party cannot continue in government for long with no majority and hardly anyone to form a coalition with. We are bound to see a General Election soon. If Labour can continue to engage members and supporters, then we are unstoppable.

We have won seats like Ipswich, Stroud, Bedford, Battersea, Colne Valley, Portsmouth South, Canterbury and Kensington. Now that the trauma from past elections has been healed, we will be able to take Bolton West, Hastings & Rye, Carlisle, Middlesborough South & Cleveland, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes South, both Northampton seats, Corby, Putney and many more.

Soon enough, we will be crowd surfing Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

Time for a comeback

Theresa May messed up my schedule and she will pay for it.

Following the Easter weekend, I had resolved to make progress setting up fundraising gigs for charities and political campaign groups – see my last blog (‘If I can do it for the Labour Party I can do it for anyone’). Sitting in my second favourite cafe in Brentford, I was preparing phone calls to possible clients when I glanced at Facebook and saw: ‘Theresa May to make announcement at 11am’.

At 10:55, Theresa May lost patience with herself and ran out into the street to confirm what had already been leaked – that there was to be a General Election on 8 June. This was obviously a decision that had nothing to do with Brexit – and all to do with favourable opinion polls for the Tories.

So the fixed-term parliament legislation proved pointless. And any long-term plans to modernise the Labour Party will have to wait. We are now in a situation where the party needs to urgently engage and mobilise people.

So what can Labour do to win the General Election?

The first thing to say is that the Labour Party cannot possibly win if it uses the same campaigning strategy it has used for the past 20 years. The basis of this strategy is voter identification with minimal engagement with voters, backed up by glossy leaflets that amount to little more than a calling card. It’s doubtful that the Labour Party machine led by Iain McNicol will come up with anything original to change this. Their skillset is more suited to stopping innovation. If Labour is to have a chance of winning it will have to look outside the party machine.

There are a number of people I have met who are well aware that we have to come up with our own ideas for campaigns. We cannot rely on what the party tells us to do.

Here are some ideas I have picked up since Theresa May’s announcement

  1. Door knocking is important but at least 50% of people do not open their door and, of those that do, many do not want to engage in discussion. Street stalls are an equally effective way of grabbing people’s attention and should be encouraged. I’ve even heard of a drummer joining street stall so that no one can miss them!
  2. A campaign to get up as many ‘I’m voting Labour’ posters up as possible is a great way to counter the media bias that Labour is unpopular. We need to urge as many Labour members as possible to put up posters (or the even grander garden stakes). Canvassers should always carry them or give them out on street stalls. It’s possible to order 100 A3 posters from the Labour Party website for £7 plus postage. The link is here.
  3. Labour supporters on social media must put out more videos of themselves, their family and their friends that express support for Jeremy Corbyn. If we have a wave of ‘I support Jeremy Corbyn’ videos on social media this will again counter the idea that Labour’s leader is not popular. People are far more likely to watch videos of ordinary people expressing themselves than they are of professional politicians saying ‘vote for me’.
  4. We need to put on more events that mobilise and inspire Labour supporters. This will once again show the public that we are a cultural movement.

To make up for the failings of the Labour Party machine, I have decided to put on a tour of Stand up for Labour that will cover as much of the country as is possible in the available time. So far we have dates planned in Twickenham, Nottingham, Cornwall, York, Middlesborough, Bangor, Carlisle, Stoke, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. These events are a fantastic way to raise morale during the last few weeks of the campaign. We will also be putting out lots of social media to show how popular the Labour Party really is.

Each date on the tour will also include a ten-minute section that will feature videos from local film makers. These films will show how ordinary people have been inspired to take part in political campaigns in the past two years. The hub for this set of films is Brit Rocks, which provides a positive perspective on true British values, those of tolerance, compassion, a sense of community and creative flair.

The General Election offers people a rare opportunity to be heard. We should facilitate this not just through giving them a pencil in the polling station.

If you have any ideas for campaigning that you would like to share, please get in touch and I will do my best to share them as widely as possible.

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.

Door Knocking Is Fantastic

There is a misconception among some people in politics that ‘door knocking’ is a chore.

This is mostly because the ‘conversation’ techniques that have commonly been used in the Labour Party have involved not having a conversation at all but simply asking people about their voting preference (voter identification (id)).

Voter id is certainly a useful tool in the last few weeks of an election campaign when we need to find out where are voters are, but it does nothing to increase our vote.

If we are simply interested in identifying our vote (and remember we last the last two general elections), then we will inevitably lose election after election. So, to coin the phrase of Danielle Grufferty’s ‘satirical’ CorbynSuperfan, voter id is ‘Horseshit’.

However, having a real conversation with people and asking people about their opinions is a great way to show we are listening and not just there for electioneering. 

In the new year, I was out doorknocking in my ward and I found that just asking people what their concerns were and actually listening to them was not only good for them (as they felt someone was interested), but it also gave me an insight into what issues are of interest and how Labour locally could frame policies.

I was invited into two houses for a cup of tea just for having this kind of conversation. I was also asked for information about how to get involved in local politics.

Having genuine conversations can be a great way of recruiting more supporters into the party and, they in turn, can inspire more people to do so.

My suggestion to all Labour supporters is to participate in door knocking when they can and to make sure that they don’t just get drawn into the ‘voter id’ conversation. If we actually engage with people a bit deeper and listen to them then door knocking is fantastic.

 

What have we got to fear?

This may go against most people’s idea of a light read, but over the last few days I have been absorbed in Seumas Milne’s account of the miners’ strike, ‘The Enemy Within’. It not only exposes the deliberate plot to destroy the coal industry, but also shows how MI5 was involved in making false allegations against the National Union of Mineworkers. A similar plot was made against George Galloway after the Iraq War but was exposed by him in a court case in which he won substantial damages from the Telegraph.

On both occasions, the mainstream media regurgitated all the false allegations fed to them by the UK intelligence service. The idea was to discredit the NUM as being corrupt, just as it was to discredit George Galloway by accusing him of taking £375,000 in payments from Saddam Hussein.

‘The Enemy Within’ shows that the political establishment in this country will resort to any methods to undermine any challenge to its interests.

This is particularly appropriate when we consider Jeremy Corbyn’s position as a truly socialist Labour Party leader.

It’s obvious that Jeremy Corbyn being Labour Party leader doesn’t sit well with the establishment in this country – the super rich, the media, even some people in his own party.

These people have already put up resistance to his leadership by repeatedly running negative stories, publishing false allegations and, in the case of some Labour MPs, organising a series of resignations to give the impression he was losing support.

So what should we do about this opposition that seeks to undermine Labour’s leader through false propaganda?

Should we look for a compromise whereby we water down policies to curry favour with the establishment?

This isn’t really an option.

The thing that has led hundreds of thousands of people to join the Labour Party is Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity. His opinions have been consistent. He doesn’t change them according to what is fashionable in media circles.

Apart from the fact that he wouldn’t compromise anyway, back-tracking would lose Jeremy Corbyn support just as fast as it lost the Lib Dems support when they joined the coalition in 2010.

So, with a radical set of policies put forward by a principled leader, it is certain that the establishment will use every plot and trick in the book to undermine the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Should we give up our hopes because we have the whole establishment against us?

The pressure on Jeremy Corbyn – and those around him – has been relentless. And it is unlikely to ease up. Is it possible for Labour to win an election under such attack?

This is the fear. And, as with all fear, it begets fear and negativity. We need to stop worrying about the media and whether we can win an election or not. That kind of self-obsession gets us nowhere and also makes us unattractive.

We can get our ideas out on social media and through grassroots campaigns that do not rely on the mainstream media. And we need the Labour Party to do more to encourage these to happen. We cannot allow the MPs or the bureaucrats who are opposed to Jeremy Corbyn to hold this back.

We need to get back to where this campaign started. We need to rekindle that excitement about a new politics where we can open up discussion and be imaginative about how we do things.

Events are key

This means more events – big and small – that will give people things to talk about. I have seen from Stand up for Labour, the #JC4PM tour, Curry for Corbyn, public meetings I’ve organised and the Corbyn Christmas single that having an event to look forward to and be part of gives people a sense of belonging that social media ‘likes’ do not. We also need to work harder on making connections with people that are not just ‘on the doorstep’.

But, above all, when we have the whole political establishment doing all it can to undermine us, we need to encourage each other and keep faith in the new politics.