Our Party must be of our communities, not some distant organisation; that was the gist of what Ed Miliband told the audience at the Progress Conference last month. Among others he cited the innovative work Movement for Change has led, for example in CLPs such as Walthamstow and with Labour Students on their successful Living Wage campaign.
In Streatham and Lambeth, members have also grasped the importance of connecting with and understanding our communities. Working with Movement for Change, several members set out to meet and engage our local community in order to bring about practical change – working with local groups, community leaders, individual women and others to give evidence to the Council’s Licencing Policy Review next month.
Listening to local women’s experiences around safety on our streets over the past year, Labour members heard frank and honest stories of sexual harassment and violence. One told of how her sister had been assaulted in view of a doorman who had done nothing to help, many described harassment and others spoke of how they couldn’t recall a night out when one of them hadn’t been groped.
Lambeth, a South London borough with one of the highest incidence sexual violence in London, has instigated a Council-led “Real men know the difference” campaign to tackle the issue. The campaign reaches out beyond traditional awareness-raising and targets young men in the ‘hot spot’ areas of Clapham and Brixton. The campaign makes clear what consent is, highlights the differences between harmless fun and sexual harassment and looks to change the attitudes of those who visit the areas.
But our members have heard from local women about how more can be done at a community (rather than Council) level to make the night-time economy a safer place to be.
This was echoed by other testimony given to the Labour Women’s Safety Commission event we organised in the Spring. Shaping our focus out of people’s lived experience, a local campaign with national significance is growing. Next month, we expect to start negotiations with local nightclubs, in partnership with other local community groups. Based on what we’ve learned from building relationships with local women, we’ll be asking the clubs to sign up to small but important changes that will make a practical difference to women’s experience of the night-time economy in Brixton. We’ll be posting further details here as the negotiations develop!
This is exactly where our Party should be. Not a distant organisation, not even a distant organisation that might seek to listen, but a Party truly based within our communities where concerns can be heard, solutions sought and action for change taken together.
Dulwich and West Norwood CLP & Lambeth Activist