Choosing the football team you support, the University will study at, when and with who you will lose your virginity to, buying your first house, selecting a long-term partner to marry or the person you will have children with are all decisions that are monumental within a person’s life. To me, and others, they stand on the same par as joining a political party.
You don’t get to do over the decision without gaining the ire of your former colleagues and the distrust of your new bedfellows. It is with this maxim that I wished to understand where my political compass pointed nearly three years ago. Since then I have been through a strange but progressive journey to the heart of Labour’s grassroots activism. Becoming Youth and Students’ Officer for my local CLP earlier this year at our AGM, and being elected as a Councillor in May, now more recently being elected recently as Secretary of a county-wide Young Labour group.
This is because once I had made my decision that Labour was the party that supported my collection of views the best I joined and got involved. I hesitated like many new members who are afraid of what awaits them behind the door of their first branch or CLP meeting for a couple of months but bit the bullet and went to my first meeting. I am not the only one who will be in this position.
The Labour movement outside; through Twitter, Facebook, Conferences and Training sessions; have helped support me and my transition from regular elector to Labour member and activist and it will be helping many others however it seems that my experiences are not exclusive to me as other contributors have provided a window into their connection with the Labour Party. Tom Callow’s article How to lose members and alienate people touches on a number of conflicts I have witnessed since joining and Grace Fletcher-Hackwood’s eloquent piece on how she was saved by Young Labour.
This is why I supported the Refounding Labour proposal’s at Conference, despite some obvious concerns, because I know that the Labour Party being a Party for the new generation cannot take any more stories of how Aunty Edna used to stick it to the man when she was a Councillor thirty years ago or of how Labour used to control the Council before 1997 or of what the NEC will or won’t do with regards to local CLP strategic direction, thanks to the old disputes caused by the militant tendency.
We cannot be a Party that thinks it is acceptable to tell our new and/or young members that they must listen and learn from older and/or experienced members before they do anything because then we will miss the idealism, passion and most importantly the diversity the Labour Party needs to embrace to revitalise both its membership and its message.
Ed Milliband’s Shadow Cabinet reshuffle has been welcomed by many Labour members as a step in the right direction because it’s energising and developing the 2010 intake, promoting many women to senior positions based on their record and preparing to govern again under a Labour Party focusing on the next generation, the promise of Britain and the new politics the country desires.
I voted for David, unashamedly, but Ed is delivering where no other candidate from either Labour or the Tories’ leadership election can. He is outlining a vision of fairness and equality based on what the majority of the hard-working people of this country already expect from politicians and society. Focusing on young people and the aspirations not only of education but also success and to get on in life. When was the last time a party focused on young people with a straight face? But Ed is not going to deliver this at PMQ’s. He’s going to deliver this by inspiring members and through the Refounding Labour process and aftermath that will ensue.
When our CLPs become revitalised with active young or inexperienced, passionate and willing to learn members who want to make our country a fairer and better place for all then we’ll be half way on the road to recovery and ready to challenge for Number 10. We won’t get there if Refounding Labour doesn’t take the bureaucracy and petty politics from Branches, CLPs, LGCs (or LCFs). We won’t get there if we don’t prepare our new members to be the future of our party in four years time.
We need not only to take the rule changes that were voted on but the spirit of Refounding Labour:
A Party for the New Generation.