By George Disney
“Yet we’ve got to embrace change and new ideas if we are to ensure that Labour continues to reflect the aspirations of the majority of the public, rather than those of us who turn up at branch meetings. We need less of a meetings culture, and more of an action culture.”
To truly gain the ‘change’ that Jessica Asato refers to, and that seems to be a common thread in all Young Labour discourse, we, as young Labour supporters, need to properly follow through on Jessica’s call for the development of an action culture rather than a meetings culture. It is only through different forms of activism and development of new ideas that the Party will change.
However, I believe that it is vitally important for the Labour Party that this change starts to happen now, and comes from the bottom up. Rather than us waiting for the much talked about letting go of party structures and just hoping that will solve all our problems.
Since October 2008, when I first joined the Labour Party, I have been making efforts to try and establish something new, something different that would add value to the way my CLP engages with the local community.
In order to become more informed, and out of my own personal interest, I attended the recent Progress conference on the Labour Party and Web 2.0. There were plenty of interesting speakers and debates during the day.
I even managed to drag a friend along to the event. Between us we could see the potential for the day to act as a call to action. We left Canary Wharf armed with a load of new ideas, energised by seeing that there are substantial amount of people who are singing from the same hymn sheet as we are. These thoughts are summed up nicely by my friend, on his work’s blog.
But the call to action has brought few immediate results. Maybe this was because that wasn’t really the aim of the event. However I felt that this would have joined the dots and ensured that there was real progress from the day’s conference.
So I decided to go away and try and replicate one of the examples of action presented at the conference: Stella Creasy’s example of a weekly email newsletter. Stella is the parliamentary candidate in Walthamstow and has been collecting email addresses for a while now. However, it is what she does with these email addresses that impressed me most.
Using her model and listening to the advice of my friend who has learnt that conveying a sense of urgency is key to getting things done, I have set up a fortnightly email newsletter sent from the CLP since the Progress conference.
So, to tie everything that I have said together, and to heed my own advice of the importance of action and conveying a sense of urgency, find below some of the more general lessons that I have learnt in establishing the newsletter in the context of a CLP.
* Accept the Party structure isn’t going to change by tomorrow, but don’t let that stop you pursuing your ideas and converting them into action now. Your actions today will shape the culture of the party in the future.
* Present your ideas as something new and different rather than as an attempt to improve what is already being done. Sometimes, if you frame your idea as an attempt to make improvements rather than establishing something new, members might interpret this as a criticism and be quite dismissive. But you will be surprised how receptive people are to good new ideas, framed as being supplementary rather transformative.
* Try and use an example of good practice. This will get people on board, as you can show them that your idea is already working somewhere else.
* Importantly, follow through with your ideas that you talk to people about at meetings etc. If existing older members, Councillors, Candidates and the MP see that you have set the wheels in motion they are more likely to contribute in the future and you will succeed in improving the way your local party communicates with residents.
* Finally and most importantly, don’t become disheartened if you feel like you are receiving no help or your idea hasn’t developed into something big in a short period of time. If you send a newsletter to two constituents (like the first one I sent!), for example, people will see your good work and will eventually come on-board and contribute to its success in the future.
Jessica is right. But I would like to add that urgency is what is needed if young people are to improve the way we, as a Party on a local level, engage with the public today and in the future. You can convey that urgency by turning your ideas into actions.
Don’t wait for the party to change so you can come up with new ways of communicating with your local community. Put your ideas into action and the change we need will come.