Read my latest Comment is Free post on the Guardian website about ways Labour might change following its electon defeat.
The idea for the piece first came to me after I went to a local Labour Party meeting, following the election; like many people, the election itself and Labour’s relatively narrow defeat reminded me of where my political values and ultimate loyalty lay ( not that there had ever been any real doubt, as those who know me well often complain!)
I had not been to a local Labour Party meeting for decades, and although I was impressed, as ever, by the stoic commitment of activists and councillors and the fact that the party was holding the meeting on the local estate, I soon felt defeated by the proceduralism and nit picky aspects of the meeting. I wandered home, thinking about the many ways that the local Labour party might connect up with other groups and campaigns, and draw on the enthusiasm and willingness of many who have limited time. Most people just can’t or won’t make the space for endless meetings when they have work/kids etc. Although I have always been politically involved, one way or another, I know I am one of them.
I talked to a few people I know who are far more involved in local party campaigning than I am and it became clear that these ideas are taking off post election around the country; also that many local parties are already implementing similar proposals. They know it’s a case of change or die. But it was a close friend with a sharp political brain, and limited patience, who read my last draft and rang me to say, ‘you can’t really talk about local democracy without mentioning the way the leadership have marginalised and ignored views they don’t like, despite the National Policy Forum’, a body often derided as toothless.
I knew my friend was right. If I didn’t mention this more brutal political reality, the ideas in my piece risked appearing anoydyne. Put another way, activism is pointless if it a) doesn’t put pressure on those with power and b) there are mechanisms to make those in power take note aka political accountability.
So that’s a bit of the background, for those who are interested………..