Sandra Bracegirdle of Manchester Labour Party describes a ‘call to action’ from Movement for Change’s Chair, Mike Kane, at the weekend’s North West Labour Party Conference:
Community organising took centre stage at the North West Regional Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. National Chair of Movement for Change, Mike Kane, chaired a full session of Conference on community organising and how this can help Labour connect better with their communities. The session started with Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary, speaking to the conference about the importance of the North West to the Labour Party. He emphasised the need of the Labour Party to be a broad campaigning movement – a movement for change – where community activists could change the world by starting with our own streets and estates. He saw the challenge facing us as a binary choice between standing like a monument or bending with and embracing change. Quoting Martin Luther King he challenged us to be “faced with the fierce urgency of now”
Before the traditional Q&A session the delegates were asked to have a quick 1-2-1 with someone sat near them who they didn’t know. After the initial surprise the hall became a buzz of conversation which was hard for the Chair to pull to a close. Some of stories shared included a man who had recently left the Conservatives to join Labour and a woman who had become a socialist at the age of 5 when she realised she had shoes but her friend didn’t.
The Q&A of a panel containing Mike Kane, Iain McNicol, Cllr Kieran Quinn, the Leader of Tameside Council, Penny Martin of Wyre in Lancashire and Jay McKenna of the NW TUC and Spirit of Shankly campaign. Delegates brought up a range of topics including examples of engagement with voters using non-traditional methods, the importance of listening and connecting to communities, the role and significance of trade unions and examples of harnessing passion and even anger in communities.
Finally Iain McNicol was asked for a commitment from a delegate from the floor – George McNamara “doorstepped” him about the importance of Lancashire to the national party. Without winning Lancashire Labour won’t win Britain – George asked Iain to commit to supporting Lancashire’s campaign and was pleased with a response that not only would Iain himself support the campaign he would bring Ed Miliband and other shadow cabinet members as well. A successful session all round.