There are three ways I think Labour can win the next election. The first is to build the party from within; engage its existing members, get new ones and harness their potential. The second is to connect with the public; win back support by aligning their interests and values with ours and showing that we can make a difference. The third is to offer clear, convincing and viable policy alternatives to the coalition.
Movement for Change – Labour’s community organisation – can help with the first two of these. I first heard about this organisation during David Miliband’s leadership campaign. As a lifelong supporter of Labour, I thought that this is exactly what’s needed; training up members and engaging the party, building it up to beat the coalition with energy, direction and shared purpose. There was a vision. It excited me. It made me want to find out more.
A year down the line, I was headfirst into local politics, campaigning across London and milling around the national events too. I went to the Labour Conference in September and, high on coffee, adrenaline and political energy, popped into the Movement for Change’s training session with Jack Dromey MP and others.
It was an inspiring session. It was real grassroots campaigning stuff. Jack had examples of CLPs gaining huge support from the public by demonstrating to them that they could make a difference on issues that affected the community.
In December, Movement for Change came to Ealing. The group who attended were mainly people keen to help out in the GLA campaign, and the session was coordinated by our organiser for Ealing and Hillingdon Labour parties, Dai Peters. But the beauty of community organising – as David Miliband identified all those months ago – is that it can be applied in the context of any campaign, it produces lasting results and is part of longterm strategy to win back the public’s support for the Labour party and what it can achieve.
What’s at the heart of it?
The principle of Movement for Change – and any other grassroots campaigning for that matter – is simple. It’s about developing genuine relationships and trust, and building on those to effect change.
First, it’s about building relationships with existing members. After all, that’s common sense: nurture the supporters who are already there. How can we do this? Movement for Change suggests setting up face-to-face meetings with members, developing relationships, finding out what they are interested in. While doing this, it’s possible to identify leaders, explore issues and share stories and goals.
Second, it’s time to take on the outside world. With this, it’s the simple case of ‘show not tell’. Find issues that concern local people, organise around these, build confidence and identify supporters of the Labour party. In other words, reconnect with people on a grassroots level. If Labour is doing this – if people see for themselves that Labour is making their lives and communities better – people soon draw their own conclusions about what party they want to support.
What can we learn from this?
In Ealing North, we already have a vibrant campaigning scene. We have dedicated members and activists, keen to volunteer their time. Tireless organisers are coordinating canvassing and social events. Our hardworking councillors are out and about and on top of the issues that concern people.
So what can we do now? I think we would benefit from an injection of further strategic thinking and planning. Can we develop our relationships with our members better; understand what they want and can offer to the party? Can we find out what people care about in the community and show them that we can make a difference? Can we carry out listening campaigns? What’s more, can we plan these activities strategically so we make the most impact with the resources we have?
These are key questions that I believe will take us up to a new level in terms of leadership, organisation and outcomes. We have the potential among us. We have examples of other CLP successes to draw on and learn from. We have the energy, enthusiasm and resources. Let’s do it.