By Vijay Riyait.
There was a general acceptance, after the general election defeat in 2010, that Labour needed to listen and reconnect with the communities it claimed to represent. In constituencies such as Leicester West where Labour has held the seat as far back as anyone can remember it would be easy to say the Labour Party did not need to change or do anything differently. We have some great local councillors and activists who are deeply rooted in their local area but as with many CLPs we rely on a relatively small number of key people to do the campaigning and other work.
But since we starting work with Movement for Change we have been working hard to build a community organising-based local Party. This is both to build our skills in community organising and to engage more widely with local Labour Party members and ultimately to make a difference in our streets, our neighbourhoods and our communities. We do not underestimate the challenge but if we are to change the view that many hold of politics then we must tackle this at grass-roots level.
This first began several months ago when we invited Movement for Change to deliver a training workshop, which introduced members to the model of community organising based on a bottom-up as opposed to a top-down approach.
It has been this approach which has seen Leicester West members use listening campaigns to identify the issues that are at the heart of every community, and begin to work with local residents to deliver tangible change.
We began by selecting two areas in which to focus our efforts which have relatively high unemployment and low participation in the electoral process. Residents in these areas often feel they are neglected and not listened to and issues remain unresolved for long periods of time.
However, a listening campaign was able to show that the majority of residents were, although apathetic, largely content with the local council, and this enabled us to reassess the priority areas for the Party and direct our resources to areas of real need.
As such, we’re now focusing on Beaumont Leys, an area of the city which has a considerable number of challenges facing the community, many of which fall under the 40% unemployed bracket.
But through using organising techniques we’re confident in the coming months that we can build links with residents and enable them to deliver a number of successful actions. All of which will help the local CLP strengthen its roots in the community and make the Party a more relevant, representative vehicle.