Thursday, 31 March 2011

Improving the Grassroots Labour Party

The document 'Refounding Labour'  was launched a few days, beginning a period of consultation by The Labour Party to look at the the issue of party renewal. All submission ends in Friday 24th June.

I will be submitting my own ideas on renewing the grassroots. They are the heart, the soul and the foot soldiers key to electoral success.

Here is my submission:

"The basic units of the Labour Party are Branches and Constituencies. They are, in my view, currently unfit for purpose. Members should be the campaigners, the community activists and the foot soldiers. People join the Labour Party because they believe that by working together, we can achieve more. They join  Labour because they believe in Social Justice and fighting inequality. They join Labour because they share the belief that Labour best represents the interests of ordinary people.

In my experience Branch and Constituency meetings are too often dull, bureaucratic and do not engage with members. Members should be talking about how the recent rise in Tuition fees will be stopping children from ordinary homes from getting the education the privileged take for granted, and how Labour could do it better and differently. While the Coalition is uprooting the basics of our society that we value - the NHS, education and care for the needy, branch meetings are taken over by 20 minutes of debate over when the local Co-Operative pay their affiliation fee, and who the cheque should be sent to. Councillors reports can take over the meeting for too long. After such a long reports, the vital debates over critical, national issues are given little if any time.

This makes ordinary members lose interest in the party, as their main motivation for joining is unsatisfied. How many meetings have the same people attending, working to the same bureaucratic agenda for years, wondering why the new members do not come?

I propose the following changes:

Constituency Parties

1. The part of Constituency business such as payments from Affiliate Organisations, and other minor managerial matters should be handled by a small executive on an ad hoc basis, away from the main meetings. Such matters should perhaps be summarised in document offered to meetings every quarter at the most.
2. The Constituency meetings every other month should be dedicated to debate and policy discussions. These should be broad reaching and involve independent expert speakers from outside the party, who can offer a full, rounded picture. The meeting should conclude with an agreed submission to offer up to the policy-making process.
3. The social aspect is very important. Alternating with policy meetings guest speakers, such as Cabinet Ministers and other MPs and Community Leaders, should be invited to address the party. These events should be social, with good quality refreshments available. These meetings would ideal opportunities for fund-raising and bringing people together.


1. The key function for the branches should be local campaigning.
2. Every branch should be able to identify local issues on which to focus: school field closures, dangerous junctions and so forth. The branch should lobby on behalf of the local community visibly to improve matters all year round. This will wed the party firmly to the local community and create a strong bond between Labour and other local community organisations.

These changes would revive Labour, build strong local communities and be a platform on which to win a General Election."


  1. Absolutely ... I pleaded for and won a discussion at a meeting the day before GOs CSR and it transformed the energy of the meeting... but the officers were very uncomfortable and put off the discussion until 9.55 and moved standing orders at 10pm. They just drive people away and then wonder why attendance/enthusiasm has gone west !

  2. Brilliant blog I can see some ideas here that could liven up local party meetings.

  3. Thanks for the feedback.

    This consultation is a chance to make things better, so I will be submitting ideas personally and through the CLP.

    I imagine the same criticisms could be made of most political party meetings and group.