If the Labour Party REALLY wants to be more successful, one way it can do so easily would be to improve its nuts-and-bolts administration.
At Local Level
As readers of this blog know, my CLP has recently conducted a review to try to find out how to make its branches more active.
Among the formal questionnaires and meetings, one thing that came out of the review was the close connection between the activeness of the branch and the quality of the branch secretary. We found branch secretaries who did not ‘do’ email, did not reply to snail mail, did not return information, did not inform their members, and took months even to put an item on the agenda. Some did not bother to call meetings at all; yet people were throwing up their hands in concern and asking why some branches were becoming moribund!
The CLP came up with a string of really good ideas about how to improve branch activity, but my personal lesson was much simpler: if you want an active branch, get an active secretary.
At National Level
For those of us at local level, the national situation seems parallel, only infinitely worse.
Anybody who has been a membership secretary will be able to give you examples of just what a black hole of incompetence the Labour Party administration is.
And today, I have suffered another instance, which is the subject of this rant.
MONTHS ago, I had an idea for how the Labour Party might encourage activism. It came out of our CLP review. It wasn’t a very complicated or even very revolutionary idea. It was simply that the Labour Party should produce single-sided ‘fact/question sheets’ on matters of Party interest and send them to branch secretaries to use as discussion starters. Members could then discuss the issues, send their resolutions back to the Party, and feel that they had some involvement in – some ownership of – the policies that were being created.
I wrote to the Party website asking to whom I should send my idea.
I received a patronising reply saying that perhaps my Regional Labour Party would be more interested.
I replied, saying that it was an idea for a national scheme, and it needed somebody at national level to consider it.
I received an email back telling me to write to Katy Dillon at Print@new.labour.org.uk.
Therefore, on 24 October 2011, I sent My idea for the Labour Party – an open letter to Katy Dillon to the email address I had been given. I also published it, to a degree of approval, on this blog.
No response. Not even a receipt of communication email.
A few weeks ago, Luke Akehurst published four single-page discussion-starter sheets on his blog, and I hoped that my idea had received positive consideration.
No such luck! Today I received an email from an anonymous ‘Labour Party Print’ person telling me that: ‘Katy Dillon is not responsible for the policy review and your comments should be directed to our policy review process whose details can be found at http://www.labour.org.uk/havingyoursayinshapingpolicy'
So there you go – they are still passing me from pillar to post, and more than two months later nobody has even READ my idea, never mind considered it.
Hopeless, useless and VERY annoying.
How are we as Party members supposed to feel that we have any say in the policies we are supposed to campaign for, or any status in the eyes of the people we will be expected to canvass for, when we are so explicitly and brazenly ignored?
The Party is about to appoint six administrative heads – on £66k each – to drive Labour forward to electoral success.
If they want to earn their money, they might begin by knocking the basic office function into shape.