As a doctor, I know that before a patient can be diagnosed, it is vital to first take a detailed history and examine them thoroughly. That’s the challenge we now face in revitalising the Labour Party and taking it off life-support. This is also why, when I decided to run for deputy leader, the first thing I did was contact every single Labour councillor I could find an email address for, as well as every single prospective parliamentary candidate who stood for Labour in the last general election and lost.
I’m not a leader-in-waiting, I’ll be a campaigner-in-chief, and you can be too. I’ve been travelling across the country, to seats where we won, seats where we lost, and even seats we’ve never held, to talk to activists and members on the ground – because I want to hear from the grassroots directly to truly understand what went wrong, what went right, and what we must do better.
Using that detailed feedback, I am now publishing a manifesto called Grassroots Revival – a campaigning action plan that I will immediately start implementing if I’m elected as the next Labour deputy leader.
It starts with changes we must make to our internal organisation. We must overhaul the complaints process. I’ll remove the team from HQ and make it independent, put a time limit on reviewing complaints, and ensure those involved with each case are kept informed of its progress.
I also want to start unlocking Labour’s membership talent. It’s not all about delivering leaflets and knocking on doors – we have social media experts, journalists, policy gurus, videographers and many other talents in our ranks. Let’s start making the most of that!
For new members, attending meetings can feel daunting – we need to make them more enjoyable and accessible for all. We can ensure party democracy and due process are followed, while making meetings a more enjoyable experience. For example, some CLPs still spend up to an hour arguing about the minutes of the last meeting, which turns off new members. We need to streamline the procedural matters and get more political debate into our local meetings.
We can be sociable too! I want to help local groups organise regional social events that break even, instead of looking to make a profit. Quiz nights, continuing the great work of Stand Up For Labour, pub nights, coffee mornings – let’s bring our movement together and celebrate all that we have to offer.
Let’s look at how to grow and diversify our movement even further. I’ll offer reduced membership rates to emergency service workers, to encourage them to join the party and have their say over how we fight to save our NHS. I would support BAME members to hold elected office. I will produce literature to be made available to BAME officers to distribute to new members, “how to be a councillor” meetings will be offered in each borough – not as an afterthought – and I will work with BAME officers to listen to what resources they need.
We must start upgrading our technology and infrastructure. We’re running campaigns in 2020 with two colour printers from the ’80s and ’90s. I’d ensure every CLP has access to a full colour RISO printer (or similar). We can also boost data driven testing of our methods. Comparisons of leaflets, direct mails, e-newsletters, social media and canvassing will allow us to be so much more targeted and effective.
A significant amount of dedicated time went into creating software and apps to revolutionise our digital campaigning in recent years but the party didn’t have the resources to fully roll them out – the door-knocking app, dialogue and chatter could have really helped us but members didn’t know how to use them or didn’t know they existed. Contact Creator regularly broke down during the general election and the user interface hasn’t changed for over a decade. This must all change. Let’s also have a digital team at HQ who goes to every target seat, showing them how to make the most of Facebook ads, emails, Twitter, creating graphics and videos.
Let’s also start looking at how to produce more personalised and localised content. The party produces some great literature and supplies it to key seats, but the vast majority of it is national with no localisation. Some leaflets and letters just didn’t arrive in 2019 for some seats, which left them in the dark, and adequate support was not available to deal with it, because staff were already overstretched. We must be better prepared. The manifesto came out weeks after the print deadlines for seats to order their leaflets and letters. I will ensure the necessary information is available to candidates in good time.
The Labour Party must do better at supporting our candidates – I’ll make sure they all get adequate briefings and lines for use in their own leaflets, letters, emails and press releases. Candidates and their teams are superheroes, but they aren’t invincible, and campaigns can take their toll both financially, physically and mentally. This is why I’ll set up a dedicated team to offer mental health support and advice during difficult times.
Too often, local organisers and staff have contracts that end at 10pm on polling day – this culture needs to change. Organisers put in endless hours to help our campaigns succeed and to dump them when polls close is just simply wrong. I’ll ensure no staff contracts end on Election Day, giving them vital time to find new employment.
I also want to establish a system of sharing best practice amongst CLPs and boroughs. Campaigns shouldn’t have borders: we don’t have to operate solely within our constituency or ward boundaries. We need proper twinning with key seats.
There’s no sugar-coating it – the Labour Party is in a critical condition right now. But with the right treatment, the right approach and the right support from the leadership team, we can get it back to fighting fitness. With the local elections coming up in May, there’s no time to waste.