In an article on Labour List posted on 1st September, Leadership candidate Liz Kendall posed four questions she feels are taboo within the Labour Party as she argues that processes and procedures are strangling the party. I offer my answer to each of her questions below;
What change in the world – or even in our neighborhoods – comes about as a result a branch meetings?
Branch meetings as the foundation of many members membership. It is a good opportunity for members to meet, socialise and have discussions. It is the responsibility of the branch officers to make meetings engaging. If organised correctly, branch meetings gives members the opportunity to plan activities and give their views on current affairs. If you take this away or profoundly change these meetings, where would this planning take place? Some members would be disengaged if not part of the small core that organise events and share ideas.
What are we doing electing each other to internal positions every year when we could be spending that time and energy talking to the electorate?
The fundamental question here is why do people join political parties? I joined in 2008 but only went to one meeting for a year because 99% of what was happening was done by one person. I wanted to do something, so I was not really that interested in listening to one other person getting to do all the fun stuff. Electing someone to a position may be a facade, but if that keeps them doing things on a voluntary basis then so much the better. Since my own CLP disbanded the General Committee structure, which meant branch delegates were no longer in post, main CLP meeting numbers fell dramatically. A similar thing happened when the District Council disbanded. This is not a co-incidence. It is very easy for Liz Kendall to say internal promotions are meaningless whilst she sits atop everything as MP, a role no-one else can do whilst she is in post, which given her age may be a long time. You simply must give people a reason to be involved.
Why should the central party have such a grip over every aspect of campaigning and messaging when it is local people who often understand what works best in their area?
This is simply untrue. The central party does not control messaging. We designed all of Pat's leaflets, every word of it and the central party checked it for overall policy compliance. This is fine because national policy cannot be regionally fragmented and if no checks occurred there would be the inevitable contradictions in messages. There is always a box left blank in our election literature for local issues. Suggesting there is no local input is simply wrong.
Can we really call asking three uninspiring and one-sided questions of the electorate a "Conversation" and if not, why did we ask members to have 5 million of these interactions?
Elections are won and lost on simple messages. If you don't believe me, think about effective it was for the Tories to ask the electorate "Do you want Ed Miliband as Prime Minister and if so, do you want him controlled by the SNP?" That one question swung everything. Regardless of what you think of spin, it's a combination of arguments presented in a form that is understood by the electorate that causes a uniform reaction that decides elections.