Although I’m a relatively new member of the Labour Party, I joined just in time to be able to help out with campaigning during the local elections in May last year. Hopes were high that with the increasing negativity towards the Government (and in particular the Liberal Democrats who are extremely popular in Bath), this election could be fought on level ground for the first time in decades.
This of course was not the case; the Liberal Democrats increased their number of seats in the council and our all-out mobilisation of candidates and leaflet drops seemed wasted. In subsequent branch meetings our solemn admissions of defeat had one thing in common; whilst our campaigns were fought on a logistical par with the Lib Dems, we lacked the strong community relationships that are vital in creating a strong campaign force. Whatever their opinions were on national issues, voters still turned to the Liberal Democrat candidates as they were seen to be ‘true locals fighting for local issues’. No matter how strong our campaign efforts were, without a strong local presence we Labour campaigners were seen as a foreign force fronting a foreign cause.
Enter Movement4Change. I attended the training because, as a community organiser for one of our target council wards, I felt that although our team was eager to begin campaigning, we lacked a clear direction. We knew all about the local concerns but couldn’t identify how best to fight for them. As part of our plans to create a consistent grass-roots campaign team, the training offered by M4C was invaluable. Not only did the session help our team to better understand one another’s motivations, but it also reminded us of the real importance of community relationships; it’s not about finding policies to fight for, but about creating bonds with the groups which are vital to the community. Not a minute had passed after the end of the session that, armed with a clear strategy, we set about planning our next steps, designating our target groups and starting to build a presence within the local community.
Movement for Change has given our campaign team a much needed push in the right direction. With a straight-forward list of tasks to complete that will begin to shape our operations within the local community, we are energised and focused, ready to bring Labour principles to the heart of Bath.
Tom Chivers is a member of Bath CLP and a ‘community organiser’ for one of their target wards. Follow him on Twitter: @wronglets