Jo McCarron, a leading activist in Bath CLP, describes the context of Movement for Change’s recent work in the city.
In 2007 I instigated and led a large-scale community campaign called Response2route. Our campaign, against a road development, aimed to protect hundreds of people’s living environments from unjustified Tory plans. A large number of those affected were people living in social housing and sheltered accommodation for the elderly. The council was bulldozing the plans through at the expense of the least affluent communities, and without any meaningful consultation. This showed a complete disregard for local opinion and highlighted the barrier which often falls between politicians and the public.
I decided to take action, so started knocking on doors and leafleting. Our campaign gathered support from thousands of residents and through sheer numbers, we put immense pressure on the council and against the odds, we won our campaign. This played a large part in ousting the Tory administration from the council in Bath – but more importantly, it made our community strong and united. This has had a lasting effect. Many people have become friends and we now know we have a database of reliable people who we can mobilise should our community need to gear into action in the future.
Because of this previous experience, I am pleased our local CLP is working with Movement for Change. I identify with the objectives of this movement and understand how valuable non-party political engagement in communities can be. Party politics often gets in the way of the real issues.
Kathryn Perera has worked hard with our local Labour Party and already we are starting to see positive changes happening as a result of her advice and workshops. Bath CLP is now tapping into various local residents’ groups and other non-party political organisations to improve community involvement.
To strengthen ties within our own CLP, we have had informal get togethers in order to get to know each other better. This is helping us to identify people’s individual strengths and has increased activity within our local party.
Kathryn also ran a workshop which the CLP found very useful. The workshop aimed to show how united communities could work together effectively in order to win campaigns. The focus was on giving all members of the community (kids included) a voice – and arming local people with the right skills to make positive changes by themselves.
Bath CLP is continuing to use methods advised by Movement for Change. We plan some neighbourhood walks in order to identify local issues. We are also meeting with Fawcett Society’s Bristol Branch to discuss cuts and other local policies which will impact specifically on women in our communities.
The Labour Party are naturally community minded and I believe it is time to get back to our roots and tap into our communities. Then our party can make great headway regaining the trust of the electorate and get to the crux of what really matters to people.