The Labour Party needs to:
- become a mass participation progressive movement
- empower members, activists, and supporters with the tools and resources to transform their communities
- invest authority in the people and groups that deliver this change
1) Become a mass participation progressive movement
The average local Constituency Labour Party now has a membership of just under 300, far lower in many rural areas. Where Labour is represented, elected councillors engage in the local community through casework and through their official roles on the council. But in many places there is limited party engagement with the everyday life of local communities.
If Labour is to be the party of the many not the few, it needs to involve the ‘many’. The Labour Party should again be a mass social movement, which is always working for change in local communities. We need to expand the number of groups engaged in our movement, such as unions and faith and community groups, and increase and diversify the pool of people that Labour can draw on at every level.
It is direct contact with our neighbours that makes for successful politics and delivers results. That means being visible and alive in our communities. It means knowing what we have to offer – what’s in it for them – when we knock on somebody’s door. Labour needs to be about community campaigning first and foremost – the party should be delivering change at the local and national level, whether or not it is in power.
The roots of the party are in community organising and social networks. The future needs to be about re-discovering those roots, and mixing them with new techniques and technology.
2) Empower members, activists, and supporters with the tools and resources to transform their communities
Experience of the party varies, but it can be hard to get involved. Labour should value all its members, activists and supporters – a new approach should be based on their interests, needs and backgrounds. That means providing a much greater variety of ways for people to engage with Labour on their own terms. For example, people should be able to get involved with the party where they work, as well as where they live. There need to be a variety of clear routes towards more responsibility for those who want to become more active within the party.
The party should see the creation and support of effective and committed campaigners as part of its core purpose. This means providing training, tools and resources, so that people and groups can be both more effective advocates for the party, and successful community activists.
Being a member of the Labour party should be rewarding and fun – we need to acknowledge and thank people for the work that they do, and provide spaces where people can become friends as well as colleagues.
3) Invest authority in the people and groups that deliver this change
Some of New Labour’s successes were based on a command-and-control operation managed from the centre, but the limits of this approach are clear. Labour members often feel that their voice is not heard, which has been a factor in declining membership.
As Labour members become more engaged in their communities and active in campaigning, they need to be more involved in the party’s decision-making at all levels. We should encourage more ‘all member’ meetings to take important decisions at local level. We should give priority to proposals that are backed by strong community support. We should change the way we select candidates and hold them to account. We should ensure that the way we make decisions about policy, strategy and leadership is transparent and democratic. And the party must also devolve more funding and fundraising to local groups.