Thursday, March 11, 2010
Compass (who claim to be giving direction to the democratic left) are conducting a survey on how to transform the Labour Party after the General Election. They state that -
"Since 1997 Labour has lost over half its members. Win, lose or draw it is becoming very clear that after the general election the Party will need to think about how it renews and transforms itself in the months and years ahead......To kick things off and to get your direct input we've devised a short 10 min questionnaire which we're encouraging Labour activists, members, supporters and stakeholders to take part in."
It took me much longer then 10 minutes to prepare my submission. But excluding the survey's 35 tick-boxes (which is an approach I criticise as being a means of obtaining the answers they are looking for), here is my response -
• If you are a Labour member, why did you join the Labour Party?
I joined in 1957 in the Easington Constituency to qualify to enter an essay competition on nationalisation which was run by the local Labour MP, Manny Shinwell.
NOTE : In the specific questions you ask below I am only in a position to answer less than half of them and have otherwise clicked into the "Neither Agree nor Disagree" options. This is because I disagree with the assumptions which underpin such questions. I can't therefore give "yes" or "no" answers to them. When it comes to internal Labour Party democracy we need to encourage members to attend meetings, to enter into serious discussions at those meetings and to mandate delegates to Constituency Meetings and the like. Delegates then need to be held to account by the members who appointed them. This is not to rule out provisions for one-member one vote avenues in the Party, but it recognises the importance of the dialectics of debate when people meet face to face. We should also stress the rights of the individual members of the Labour and Co-operative Parties and of the members of affiliated organisations. We need to define who is covered in this process and not use the nebulous term "stakeholders".
(Some 35 questions follow which only provide for tick-box style answers and seem to be designed to achieve pre-determined answers. We then move on to the following).
• In terms of your own local Labour Party, could you offer any examples of best practice – have you successfully experimented with new structures? What works and what doesn’t? Have you run any good local campaigns that have been particularly effective? How have you made activities more inclusive?
My own local Labour Party runs political discussion meetings which are open to (a) any member of the Labour Party, (b) all members of the Club where the meetings are held and (c) to others by invitation (i.e. to people not in the Labour Party and to some who have resigned from it). Click into the blog "Dronfield Blather" to see. Some Local Labour Parties also run 20 minute discussions at the start or close of their meetings. Recently a discussion about the BNP was held in-between a Local Government Committee Meeting and a Constituency General Committee Meeting. There were 18 contributions.
• Are there other organisations you are involved in such as trade unions, pressure groups or NGOs where they involve their members, supporters and stakeholders in engaging and interesting ways? If so please outline these below.
The local Labour Party Discussion Group I mentioned earlier has led directly to (a) submissions to Compass, (b) a submission to a Commons Select Committee and (c) to members submitting motions to their Local Labour Parties.
• Do you have any other ideas you’d like to offer for Transforming Labour?
Political Education on the lines I have described in the above two boxes encourages the development of open-minded political understandings (and not dogmas) by its participants. This leads them to press for democratisation and intelligent discussions within both the Labour Party and in the wider Labour Movement. For a fuller explanation of this case see the blog "Dronfield Blather" for 20 February, 2009.