Many people have no doubt submitted far more eloquent, thoughtful and detailed pieces in the past few months, but here’s part of my submission to the Refounding Labour exercise.
The party has pockets of well-structured and competent campaigning – but this is not visible everywhere.
In fact, in areas where we have few (or no) councillors, the party presence is almost non-existent. We need to treat all areas equally, regardless of expectation to win. Why should a young, budding candidate in Liverpool get more support than one in Dartmouth? Why does a win in Liverpool over ‘big names’ get more coverage than Labour gaining a seat in the hard-to-win South?
A regional – or even national network – could be set up, with CLPs ‘partnering’ up to help each other campaign, share advice and resources or generally act as a support network for those who want to increase their presence and visibility.
Target seats and soundbites are not the way forward – as a party, we need to be working in every area to help improve conditions – if we don’t, then what’s the point? Are we a party of the people, or just the party of the people whose votes benefit us most?
The website is useless, irrelevant and out-of-date: impossible to search, dull, and the information people want to find – namely details of local campaigns and events – are obscured by the illogical way in which membersnet was set up.
For many, the first port of call in the modern age is the internet; we should provide all CLPs – and MPs – with the tools to set up their own website and/or blog.
We should have an in-house team that can provide expertise, or even a network of members willing to help out, not a series of disjointed, outsourced sites that not only cost more but give off an air of confusion, non-conformity and the illusion we have a hierarchy amongst our own regions.
Just because an MP has twitter, it doesn’t mean they have a grasp of online communications…
David Miliband was right to say the party does not reflect society. Of the current PLP, a shockingly low number of those under 45 have been elected without having been researcher/SpAd/speech writer. Whilst this doesn’t in any way reflect on their competence, it does give the world at large – and to some extent, myself included – the impression that in order for the party to deem you worthy of joining the ‘elite’, you must have towed the line or known the right people. I could count on one hand the number of MPs within our own party who I personally feel understand what real life is like for people who don’t fit into their carefully controlled focus groups.
For this reason, I would say that open primaries are a good option when it comes to selecting PPCs. Or, at the very least, rules which clearly state any person who wishes to run in an area must have lived in or around for a certain period of time – why is a former Westminster researcher any better for a community than a long-serving local councillor or activist? Who will know their potential constituents better?
And we need to be more democratic. Members should have a say in policy; think-tanks and MPs are not the way to win back public confidence.
Activists know what the problems local communities face are, and so should be consulted. CLPs should be able to submit ideas for debate at conference – if these proposals get get approved by, say, 20% of other CLPs, then the debate should be had and votes should be cast. Although we are a much larger party than the Liberal Democrats, I do believe we can adapt their policy-making structure for conference to fit us.