Rebuilding the labour movement

To really renew our movement, we need to remake it.

If we want people to vote for us, they have to be able to see our values in action. Speeches, slogans, rhetoric, aren’t enough, and too many others – the SNP, Respect, Greens, are trying to steal our heritage.

Our movement is already modernising. The affiliated supporter rule change is renewing our union link, and the Co-Operative Party is full of innovation and ideas following the recent AGM win.

We need to create new labour movement institutions to solve new problems.

There have been a number of new organisations in the Labour family over the past few years, from Progress to Class, and a scattering of socialist societies, but, with the exception of Movement for Change, they are more talk than action.

Stella Creasy’s campaign on legal loan sharks inspired us all. The community organising campaign groups, campaigning on issues from debt to community safety, built by Labour people, should be able to sign up online and get an automatic voice in to our policy making progress, with a say in the future of our party, not dependent on individual shadow ministers or short lived initiatives.

Winning political power is vital, but we are going to be out of Westminster for five years, and we are in opposition in Scotland and in parts of local government across the country too. I care too much about my country to be willing to just protest and campaign.

We have to devolve to Scotland and Wales, London and local government, but devolution cannot stop in town halls, assemblies and parliaments – it needs to go beyond to a vibrant civil society. We need to build the organisations that are needed, with the people that need them, and we need to keep them as part of our movement, so they have a say in our decisions, from policy to leadership.

In Tower Hamlets, where I live, huge numbers of graduates, who worked hard, got good exam results, play by the rules, remain unemployed. Why not put the weight of the Labour Party behind my MP Rushanara Ali’s idea of a million mentors for young people, drawn from the ranks of our members and activists? The best answer I’ve heard to the question of why young people should bother voting – if we support them, we might be heard when we ask for their support in return.

The energy price freeze was a regulatory answer to an important question of spiralling fuel bills.   Caroline Flint’s work on collective switching energy providers was great – can it be built on, as a collective solution to uncertainty in household bills, sharing risk?

Yes we have to be experts in winning political power, and continue to modernise with the best possible targeting, canvassing and communications techniques. But our election winning infrastructure will continue to atrophy if we do not prove to the people we rely on to donate to us, canvass, deliver leaflets, that we have a purpose beyond running state machinery that is itself not fit for contemporary challenges.

The labour movement will represent you in you are in trouble at work, the labour movement will get you a loan with fair repayment terms, the labour movement will run shops, funeral homes, banks, that have people not profit at their core, and we should shout about that more. And we must build the new organisational solutions to the needs of the people of this country, not wait for Whitehall to do it.

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About Rachael Saunders

Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets
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