The Effective Activist

The Effective Activist (v22 – January 2019)

by Charles James A135679

CONTENTS:

SECTION 1 – The Structure of the Labour Party and the initials

SECTION 2 – Your task as an Activist

SECTION 3 – Building the Leafletting Team

SECTION 4 – Fundraising

SECTION 5 – Canvassing

SECTION 6 – Psephology

SECTION 7 – The Importance of Differential Turnout

SECTION 8 – Writing a High Quality Leaflet

SECTION 9 – Helping Elsewhere

SECTION 10- Reading Pads and WARP and Knocking Up and Marked Registers

SECTION 11- Labour Party Staff

SECTION 12- Raising Labour’s Local Profile

SECTION 13 – The Media

SECTION 14 –“People Don’t Come to Labour Party Meetings”

SECTION 15 – The Election Process

SECTION 16 – The Count (And After)

SECTION 17 – Boundary Reviews

SECTION 18 – Diversity

SECTION 19 – Training Yourself and Others

SECTION 20 – Charles James’ Credentials

My thanks to Jeremy Cuss and Bob Vant of Colne Valley CLP for their observations on an early draft. Thanks also to Norman Rimmell of Labour International CLP for additions to the self-education section. Linda Christensen a Danish comrade gave helpful advice.

Any failings are my own.

SECTION 1: The Structure of the Labour Party and the initials. (Skip this bit if you like!)

The most important parts of the Labour Party (“LP”) are the Annual Conference (“AC”) which is the supreme body of the Labour Party, the National Executive Committee (“NEC”) which runs the Labour Party between meetings of Conference, and the Constituency Labour Parties (“CLPs”) to which every Labour Party member belongs.

The Labour Party is composed of individual members grouped into constituency labour parties based upon where they live, trade unions that have affiliated to the Labour Party, and socialist societies that have affiliated to the Labour Party.

The National Executive Committee is composed of representatives from every part of the Labour Party including Youth, MPs, etc.. There are sub committees for different purposes.

Policies are arrived at in different ways. There is a series of policy forums including the national policy forum. Motions to Annual Conference on policy are usually referred to the appropriate policy forum. After a recent democracy review there is doubt about the future of policy forums.

The Conference Arrangements Committee runs the Annual Conference. In 2018 they took only six hours working with nearly two hundred delegates to take nearly two hundred resolutions on Brexit and turn them into one composite motion that could be almost unanimously agreed.

The Labour Party is part of the Socialist International, the worldwide organisation of social democratic, socialist and labour parties. The logo is a rose in a clenched fist (look at your Labour Party membership card).

We are also a member of the Party of European Socialists (“PES”). Within the European Parliament Labour MPs are members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (“PASaD”).

The Labour Party is broken down for administrative purposes into regions, and every region has a Regional Party. Each Regional Party has an Annual Conference, and an Executive Committee. Wales and Scotland have more autonomy than English regions have reflecting their national status and devolution powers. Northern Ireland is a blank spot for the Labour Party organisationally because the Social Democratic and Labour Party there is in PES and in the Socialist International.

The Labour Party staff in each region work to their Regional Organiser who works to the General Secretary who works to the National Executive Committee.

For every council where Labour puts up candidates we have a District Party, a County Party, or similar which has annual conference, an executive committee, and some sub committees including “the panel”.

People who would like to become candidates have to be approved by “the panel”. Nowadays the panel that sits will often have a majority of comrades from outside the district or county to try to bring objectivity to the process. We help our neighbours likewise.

Election Campaigns are run by a committee that is technically a subcommittee of the District / County Labour Party but may have people elected directly to it by constituencies.

Where we have Labour councillors we have a Labour Group composed of all the Labour councillors who usually work together in a comradely manner. Similarly our Members of Parliament are in the Parliamentary Labour Party (“PLP”). The Labour Lords work together and with the Labour MPs.

Each constituency has a General Committee (“GC”). The GC in some constituencies has delegates from Branch Labour Parties, affiliated trade union branches, and affiliated socialist societies. There will often also be delegates from the Youth section, the Black and Minority Ethnic (“BAME”) section, Labour Students, and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) section.

Other constituencies operate on All Member Meetings (“AMM”) where any member who turns up may speak and vote.

All constituencies have an Executive Committee.

Branches usually cover one electoral ward. They also have an Executive Committee. In most branches the Executive Committee and those who turn up to branch meetings are the same people so the Executive Committee never meets.

Alongside this structure are regional and national committees and conferences for Youth, BAME, Students, Women, and LGBT sections.

You will hear mention of Momentum, Progress, Labour First, and other groups. They are often restricted to Labour Party members but they are freestanding organisations that are not part of the Labour Party.

SECTION 2: Your Task As An Activist

You are not alone!

There are comrades now deceased who suffered more, risked more, and worked harder for socialism than you ever will. You stand on their shoulders.

There are comrades not yet born who will take up the banner when you begin to falter. Remember to let go gracefully and gratefully and before you think the youngsters are ready. They never will be ready unless you stand back.

There is nothing sadder than newish activists having to mount a coup against the octogenarian control freak that you have become.

The great discovery you will make is that there are tens of thousands of unselfish helpful really decent people who give their time and efforts to the Labour Party. I have worked with comrades in strong Tory areas who fight election after election without expectation of winning but always with hope. I know Labour councillors who doggedly work their patches for decades.

Your task as an activist is to work with the comrades and with the potential comrades who are here today. And in time to train up the new generation of activists.

The effective activist is analytical and clinical rather than being tied into the current political rows within the Labour Party. The activist looks around, notes what is being done well, what is being done poorly, and what is not being done at all. The activist decides which strategically is the most important problem and addresses that.

Working within any political party is a continuous effort to improve the quality and the capacity of the organisation.

Note the huge difference between the activist and the careerist or ladder climber.

I once saw the CV for a potential Labour MP. He was simultaneously on the National Executive of Amnesty International, the Fabian Society, Liberty, another worthy national organisation, and on the Constituency Executive of his CLP as Political Education Officer. How on earth could he be doing good work in all these roles whilst also holding down a full time job and being active in the Labour Party? I am happy to report that he never became a Member of Parliament.

If it becomes obvious that your only ambition is to climb the greasy pole many people will simply despise you. Even the good things that you wish to do will be suspect.

I had personal ambition once. It did not happen. So be it.

Here I am past retirement age and still plugging on. My late father went on his last demonstration at the age of 84 so I have a few years ahead of me yet.

There is nothing wrong with having ambition for your class. If you have to work for your living you are in Marxist terms working class. I was a solicitor and an employer but my class interest was for all of us.

Many people in the Labour Party have absolutely no wish to stand for political office. Many people do not wish to be a delegate to anything. They do not wish to be branch officers. Some do not even speak at meetings. Huge numbers of people are members for years but never come to meetings.

In some cases it is lack of confidence. Often it is that they have a full life of which the Labour Party is only one aspect. They are stretched for time and they really can’t take anything on except perhaps distributing leaflets every so often or helping on Election Day.

The Labour movement was not built on meek women and mild men. Some comrades are less than perfect human beings. So are you and I. Over 40+ years of membership I have bitten my tongue countless times. I still have my tongue and my comrades remained active. Some improved with experience and with tactful help.

If you have to disagree with someone go out of your way to praise the sincerity and commitment of the comrade before disagreeing with the political argument the comrade has put forward. Always differentiate between the comrade and the comrade’s unwise argument.

Be aware that humour can be wounding.

Concentrate always on building and uniting rather than on controlling.

Were you to be struck by lightning today is the party organisation better than when you first came to the party? That is the yardstick by which you must judge yourself.

Holding elected office is not the correct yardstick. If you happen to live in a good area for Labour these opportunities come up over time. Winning and holding a never-Labour ward for Labour as I did is rare but I assure you it is immensely satisfying.

Holding office in the Labour Party comes to the effective activist. Effective activists neither need nor seek office, but quite often find office thrust upon them.

People recognise your capabilities and they ask you to take offices on. I was shanghaied in one constituency to be CLP Chair and in another to be CLP Secretary when I had no thoughts of seeking either post. I stood for CLP Treasurer and Fundraiser when it was clear at the meeting that no-one would take these jobs on. Then because I was doing well in those jobs the parliamentary candidate asked me to be her Parliamentary Agent.

An activist is not politically disinterested. But most of the rows going on are simply not relevant to the nuts and bolts issues that you as an activist are interested in.

If your need is to build the party’s capacity to deliver leaflets then you need a broad church in which everyone feels welcome and valued. This should inhibit you from becoming identified with a faction or a clique.

One right wing comrade had difficulty understanding why I bought him a brandy every time I saw him in the Labour Club bar. He did not like me or agree with me politically. Eventually he confronted me and he asked me why I was doing this.

The first half dozen times I saw you, you were under a street light in the pouring rain leading a canvass team.

I respect you as a comrade.”

He was mollified.

If you say somewhere “Comrade X is a Right Wing Tory lover who should be expelled from the party” that will get back to Comrade X.

Comrade X will decide that his knee will no longer allow him to leaflet Long Hill Lane. You will find out the hard way that insulting a comrade has negative effects on the party as a whole and on you personally. Until you make up with Comrade X you will be leafleting Long Hill Lane yourself. You will learn why the road is called Long Hill Lane.

It serves you right. When most of us in the party are trying to build unity you drove a useful comrade out. Shame on you!

Anything negative that you say about a comrade “in strictest confidence” will always get back to that comrade amazingly quickly.

SECTION 3: Building The Leafletting Team

One major issue for the Labour Party is the distribution of leaflets. Nearly half the households in the UK are not on social media, so they have no source of information other than main stream media.

Ideally we should be delivering four good leaflets a year to every home. The big obstacles are the effort of writing them, the cost of printing them, and a team to deliver them.

See SECTION 8 for “How To Write A Good Leaflet”

If you can buy good leaflets from the Labour Party that is easiest. As they are mass produced they should be cheaper. Sometimes Labour produces templates you may use. Leaflets are pretty cheap to print.

By mail or delivery service one pays about 25p – 33p for each leaflet to be delivered. At say 30p a comrade who delivers 200 leaflets has made an in kind donation to the Labour Party of £60.00. Across a constituency of 75,000 voters you are looking at 40,000 homes, or £12,000 for delivering our mailing.

We have to build a delivery team who are reliable and robust. In an ideal world these would be the people who do not canvass (voter identification), because canvassers are always in short supply.

In one well run branch I knew those comrades with cars came to a house on Thursday evening. They collected a plastic bag or bags. Each bag had the leaflets counted out, a map with the route coloured in, the details of the comrade responsible for delivery and a “help or query” telephone number. By the end of Thursday evening every leafletter had their leaflets, to be delivered by the end of Sunday.

The organisers had no delivery responsibility because they were the fallback or relief leafletters for regular leafletters who could not deliver this time. As a rule of thumb 20% or so of leafletters have to excuse themselves for this delivery so always have a few enthusiasts in reserve.

There is a certain amount of turnover among the leafletters so you are on a continuous recruitment drive.

I personally am careful never to put my fingers through a letter box because either the letter box hurts you or the dog does. Many people carry rulers or sticks to hold letterboxes open.

In practice there are some properties that are best left to the Royal Mail because of access difficulties or remoteness. The more leaflets we can deliver ourselves, the better.

The natural question to ask is how to recruit our team of leafletters.

Party members are a first resource. Lots of us are old, unable, or busy. If a quarter of your members will deliver a hundred leaflets each you are doing very well. Former members, supporters who display posters at election time, and “hard” Labour supporters are the next target groups. “Hard” Labour supporters are known Labour supporters who vote at every election. They can be identified from the party’s electronic records.

By now you should have most streets in your patch allocated to people who live on or near their routes. For the few areas left over look for “hard” Labour supporters and visit them.

You may find deliverers who will drive a mile or two to deliver an orphan route.

Make sure you have people you can telephone or email on each leafletting route with whom you can check that they have received a leaflet. Of course you trust comrades, but checking up on newer comrades or on people delivering a new route is sensible.

Make sure the leaflets are worth delivering.

You will be surprised to find that a number of your leafletters refuse to join the Labour Party. It may be that they have had bad experiences with individual members. It may be that they wish the freedom to hold their own views. Some are prohibited from being a member of the Labour Party because of their or even their spouse’s occupations.

Although a member I once refused to distribute a Labour leaflet with which I disagreed. That is every comrade’s entitlement.

Remember to cosset and to value the leafletters. It is “only” leafleting but don’t say “only” until you have say ten thousand leaflets under your belt. Then you will not say “only”.

SECTION 5 Fundraising

Fundraising is a fearsome issue within the Labour Party. Almost all of us hate to do it.

The days when you could walk around a good Labour area with a couple of buckets raising money for the Labour Party are long gone.

In most local authorities the Labour councillors donate a percentage of their allowances to the Labour Group to create a Fighting Fund. If in difficulties you can apply for help. You are much more likely to be given help if you are a marginal. If you are an active ward doing great things the Fighting Fund is more likely to help you.

There have long been Labour Party jumble sales. These take a lot of organising and generally speaking you make about enough money to pay for the hall you hired. Some wards have an annual “not a jumble sale” where comrades pay not to be involved in a jumble sale.

Some branches take part in community fairs, staffing a tombola stall or cake stall or similar.

Quiz nights are popular, particularly if it is not always the same people winning. Asking the winning team to set the questions for the next quiz night relieves you of a task and ensures a very varied set of questions over time.

Fund raising dinners are good. If you can attract a “big name” you should be packed to the doors. Of course you have a raffle that makes more money than the dinner itself. One can also have an auction of memorabilia that is currently cluttering someone’s garage. Some old rare books particularly from the original Left Book Club attract silly money.

Race nights take some organising but are also fun and profitable.

Dances and folk evenings usually raise money. My Labour Party Young Socialist group ran free discos for pre-teens in the Labour Hall for months to dig our LPYS branch out of a financial hole that previous young comrades had created. We made our money on the soft drinks. We gave a lot of children a good first experience of the Labour Party.

All of these things are one off events that need a lot of work. Given that the Labour Party always needs money, most CLP Fundraisers try to create a continuing income flow.

The hard sell is to ask comrades to make a monthly standing order direct to the CLP which lasts indefinitely. In a CLP with a thousand members it ought to be possible to find fifty comrades who will pay £10 a month each. If there is an Election date known the same comrades will pay £20-£50 a month from now until the election – if asked.

In early 2015 approaching half our CLP’s members were not on email. Roughly half the Labour Party members who were on email did not open emails from the Labour Party because until recently the emails were mainly appeals for money. Those comrades on email who will give money were already doing it, so they were fed up, too.

I am told that almost all of those who have joined since the 2015 General Election are on email. But will they open their emails?

Bearing in mind that email often does not work, write a hard copy letter to each member. The postage will be paid off if only one comrade bites. Take some care on drafting that letter. Who should sign it? KISS (Keep it simple and short).

The fact is that some Labour Party comrades have significant disposable income. One way to identify them is to use the local council web site to find out what Council Tax band house they live in. It is tedious to check out hundreds of addresses. You will be able to identify the surprisingly large number of people who live in expensive houses. The hundred or two hundred wealthiest comrades your team should write to repeatedly and telephone at intervals.

The soft sell is the lottery or tote. Usually 50% goes in prizes and 50% goes to the party. Do not set up a tradition of comrades giving their prizes to the party because in the long term that is self defeating. Over time it converts your soft sell to a hard sell. With a thousand members you should gain 250 standing orders at £5 a month. This would generate £625 a month in profit. I personally would have one big prize and lots of little prizes of say £25 so almost everyone wins on the lottery about once a year.

Advertise the lottery on every leaflet you put out.

Be aware that the lottery is a big job that needs doing right. It needs someone intelligent who will work at it, not a passive administrator.

Someone registers with the Council as the Lottery Promoter.

But does that person have to be you?

Be involved at the beginning but once you have someone running the lottery well, move on to the next priority.

SECTION 5: Canvassing

There is an immense amount of confusion about canvassing, also known as voter identification. There are four basic forms of canvassing.

CANVASSING 1. The listening canvass is where one goes to find out what voters want and think. You are not trying to persuade anyone, but simply to find out what your electors think. By nature this is open ended and each interview is lengthy. You may have “prompt” questions that you ask after the person has unloaded onto you. The listening canvass often yields surprising results, because we socialists tend mainly to talk to one another.

Analysing the results of the listening canvass is very hard work. Some argue that the exercise is a waste of time – but it does get our faces on the street.

CANVASSING 2. The voter identification canvass is seeking to establish which electors are likely Labour voters. It also identifies which electors should be avoided in the run up to an election because they are never going to vote Labour. This process becomes quite sophisticated because we need to know whether the person is essentially UKIP or Green or Liberal or Tory or in some areas Nationalist. If they tell us how they voted last time we can detect trends away or towards Labour, Tory, etcetera. We can establish their hot button issues. We also identify access issues and dangerous dogs. We can note elderly people or people for whom schools or the NHS or pensions are likely to be hot button issues. At election time people who might move to us can be sent tailored leaflets.

Voter ID work enables us to gain entry to old peoples homes and other residential locations that otherwise we have no reason to enter. If we have a candidate or a councillor they should prioritise these sites because otherwise it may be difficult to gain entry. It allows our leading person to meet people whom otherwise they would never see.

Canvassing is not about persuading it is about identifying our support.

There are still comrades who think that canvassing involves visiting people at home and arguing with them until they say they will vote Labour. Should you identify such comrades counsel them firmly.

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.

This year’s voter id questions may well be different from last year’s questions. The highly intelligent comrades running the national voter id program learn from the information that we generate and then they tweak the questionnaire to gain better information.

On the printouts it may look as though a voter who answered “Yes” to question 3 now answers “No” to question 3. This is usually because the question has changed rather than the voter has changed their views.

CANVASSING 3. Postal vote canvassing is where we go to our list of Labour voters and we ask them to sign up for postal votes. Experience has shown that the percentage of postal voters who vote is always much higher than the percentage of ordinary voters who vote in the same election. It also means that there are fewer people to “knock out” on Election Day.

We lost control of Bradford Council one year. If we could have increased the Labour vote by one half of one per cent in four wards we would have held Bradford. You see now the importance of postal votes in increasing Labour turnout!

CANVASSING 4. The Voter Registration canvass is as it sounds an attempt to register voters. Most local authorities try to do a good job but some are slack or understaffed. In areas of multiple occupation and high population turnover voter registration canvasses need doing every year. Ask the Labour Councillors to press the Electoral Registration Officers to go the extra mile.

Many canvassers are more comfortable going out in a group for mutual support. New canvassers should always be “buddied” by more experienced comrades until they say they do not need support. Then observe them for say twenty minutes. A large team is unwieldy but the team generates huge enthusiasm and covers a large area.

I personally prefer having the canvass cards or sheets for a large area and canvassing the same group of streets year after year.

The kids shout ahead of you,

It’s the Labour man.”

Over a few years this annual canvassing links you into that locality. You are doing what the councillor or candidate does not have time to do, which is to visit every voter individually.

You cease to be a stranger. People begin to trust you. You develop information sources. You begin to build a Labour community.

You will meet good socialists while canvassing. Always carry with you information about Labour Party membership and the tote scheme and postal votes. Will they want a poster or posters at election time? Do they wish to know about Labour events locally? Would they be willing to leaflet their street or a nearby street?

The first time that Labour canvasses an area we know nothing of the people living there. As our information builds we strike from our canvassing list the houses that are a waste of time. They may be people who for religious reasons do not vote. They may display posters for other parties. They may tell us that they are hard Tories. The aim of canvassing is to gain information. We should not waste time on known opponents.

The Labour Party has bought into a database that was developed for marketing companies. It breaks down into individual post codes and tells us a lot of information about that community. We can use the data base to identify the most fruitful areas to canvass.

You will be surprised that often we do not go to the best areas first. One would think that gathering the low hanging fruit would be logical.

Often we are given different areas that are more likely to generate new party members, are strategic in that they are along bus routes (for posters), or which we should canvass first so as not to be disheartened as the election approaches. We canvass our good areas as we get closer to the election.

One very successful operator I know ignores the computer. Her branch starts canvassing in the best area and works towards the less good areas. Some patches in her ward are rarely canvassed. Her view is that any Labour voters in the posh houses do not need “knocking” – they will vote anyway. We should concentrate on the areas that need voter identification.

Labour has bought into a computer database that links names and addresses to telephone numbers. Telephone canvassing has plusses and minuses. You can get through a lot of people in a shorter time because you are not walking house to house. Over one weekend I voter identified 315 people by telephone. I was warm and dry and drinking tea while my comrades were braving the weather.

You lose the body language and the eye contact.

People are happier to say “No” when you are not physically in front of them. For our less good areas and for rural areas telephone canvassing may well be preferable.

If there is capacity to canvass the “outs”, called “a second canvass”, try to do that at a different time of day or a different day in the week to the first canvass. This is why canvassing sheets have space for you to enter information about what day and what time you canvassed.

Entering the information onto the computer is best done by two or three competent comrades who may well do this as their major job for the party. They will sometimes flag anomalies and trends. If large numbers of “Don’t Know” are now Labour, or vice versa, this is important information. If voters are trending between UKIP and the Tories this is also useful information.

You need a good analyst to use the information already on the system to identify who should be canvassed. Perhaps the 600 Labour promises in the ward who did not vote? Canvass them for postal votes as a priority.

Contact Creator is a bit of a pain to learn and use but make sure that the entire CLP is not reliant on the one trained person. Surely you can find some comrades who are reliable and able to learn Contact Creator? They can learn NationBuilder too!

If we know from our records that someone has not voted on the last eight occasions, should we canvass them? One view is “No” because they still will not vote. Canvassing them is a waste of time.

Over a third of our 1997 vote no longer votes. We all have views as to why. The Corbyn phenomenon brought some non-voters to the polling booth. In the 2017 General Election there was a lot of work done at job centres, student unions and high streets to sign people up to vote and for postal votes. Two million people registered to vote during the General Election itself.

Some were missed, some have turned eighteen, and some have converted to Labour, so do it again!

SECTION 6: Psephology

For our purposes the smallest unit about which we have hard information is the polling district. Most polling stations have only one ballot box. If there is a large population there may be two ballot boxes.

The Electoral Roll lists every street in the polling district, in alphabetical order. Within each street the houses are usually listed as odd and even, reflecting the normal arrangement of a street. A street with houses only on one side will of course be in numerical order reflecting the street.

Within each house the voters are listed. As we now have individual registration instead of household registration the names reflect the order in which the names arrived at the council offices rather than head of household, partner, and children in age order as was the norm with household registration.

The list marks new voters and people who will become new voters during the currency of the electoral roll. You can send them 18th birthday cards. If you keep the information you can send them birthday cards every year.

The first issue is to establish who actually lives in the house. Are there people living there who forgot to register? You have a form which you complete with them. Are there children living away? Do they need a postal vote? You give a form. Both processes can be done online but many people are shy of using a computer or do not have a computer. Quite a lot of people are functionally illiterate, so fill in most of the form so it only needs their signature. However the best advice is that a friend or family member helps to complete the form so you are not accused of undue influence.

Some comrades have mobile telephones with internet connection. They can register the person there and then.

Be aware that completing a postal vote ballot or transporting a completed postal vote for someone else is a criminal offence for an election worker.

Some people argue that you should first find out if these would be voters are Labour supporters or not. I take the view that democracy is important and everyone should vote. I take my instruction on this issue from the Campaigns Organiser. Of course if the person who answers the door is a virulent opponent I leave quietly.

Not everyone in a household will necessarily agree. There are lots of couples who walk to the polling station together and their votes cancel each other out.

Much of the time the people in the house will know how the other adults vote. They will often be right. If you can ask individuals check with each individual. Otherwise go with the information given.

With voter identification the process can be quite nuanced and sophisticated. Are they really all carbon copies of Dad? Perhaps best to take telephone numbers and telephone canvass them later.

With Labour voters the answer is often that the household is solid Labour. Try then for postal votes, posters, membership, and your lottery. If they are still positive ask about delivering leaflets. Do they wish to be informed of our social events? Get a telephone number for knocking up purposes.

One of my canvassers asked for advice on how to record one voter. After effing and blinding about there was no way he would vote effing Labour he said,

Councillor James? I will vote for him. He helped my sister in law.”

I told her to mark him “Against” because he will vote for me but otherwise he will not vote Labour. We leave him alone. In the old days of hand written information one would have noted “likes Councillor James”.

If you are in a “hopeless” Tory constituency there is nothing to stop your CLP putting most of its effort into deep coverage of wards that we might win in council elections.

Some CLPs voter i/d year in and year out. They reckon on an 80+% knowledge base.

SECTION 7: The Importance of Differential Turnout

The best situation is that people want to vote. They vote early. They get themselves to the polling station. They take friends, neighbours, and family members.

This does not happen because of anything we do on election morning.

It happens in part because “our” vote decides itself to turn out. It happens because the floating voters go for us. It often also happens that the other side’s supporters lose enthusiasm. People do switch from one party to another, but most elections are won and lost on differential turnout. My story about Bradford Council in SECTION 5 is a good illustration.

General Election Results 1987-2017

% turnout

Con votes millions

Con%

Con seats

Lab votes millions

Lab%

Lab Seats

Lib votes millions

Lib %

Lib seats

I987

75.3

13.78

42.2

375

10.03

30.8

329

7.34

22.5

22

1992

77.7

14.09

41.9

336

11.56

34.4

271

5.99

17.8

20

1997

71.4

9.6

30.7

165

13.5

43.2

418

5.24

16.9

46

2001

59.4

8.54

31.7

166

10.7

40.7

412

4.81

18.3

52

2005

61.4

8.78

32.4

198

9.55

35.2

385

5.98

22

62

2010

65.1

10.7

36.1

306

8.6

29

258

6.8

23

55

2015

66.1

11.3

36.9

331

9.3

30.4

232

2.4

7.9

8

2017

68.8

13.64

42.3

317

12.88

40

262

2.37

7.4

12

The table illustrates how unpredictable life is for the third party in our First Past The Post system. In 1997 the Liberal Democrats lost votes but gained seats. In 2010 the Liberal Democrats increased their vote, increased their percentage of the vote, but lost seats. In 2017 they lost votes, lost percentage of the vote, but they gained MPs.

In 1997 Blair increased Labour’s vote by just short of two million. Simultaneously the Conservatives lost 4.49 million voters. By 2015 the Conservatives had clawed back less than two million voters but Labour had lost over four million voters. Had Labour kept our 1997 vote we would have won every election between 1997 and 2017. In 2017 had we been so close to the Tories Labour would have formed the Government.

There are over half a million voters from 1997 whom Labour could claw back, and nearly half a million voters from 1992 whom the Tories could claw back. Were we to increase turnout to 75% and it all came to Labour the Labour vote would be over 14 million.

In 1997 the Labour Party had a tremendous rebuttal and prebuttal operation which ran rings round the Tories. More important was that Black Wednesday had destroyed the Tories’ claim to economic competence. The media gave Blair reasonable publicity partly because of his team but mainly because the prospect of a Blair Government did not frighten the ruling class.

At the next General Election, and until then, the main stream media (MSM) including the BBC will continue to be hugely biased against Labour. There is absolutely no way the MSM will deliver our message at all.

In 2017 Labour won the social media war, and with at least three times the membership of 2015 we had the activists too. Hopefully the next General Election will be even better run.

In 2017 the Conservatives increased their vote, increased their percentage of the vote, but lost 14 seats. Labour increased its vote by a third, increased its percentage of the vote, but only won 30 additional MPs.

If the Labour Party wishes to persuade people then among other activities we must prepare and deliver high quality leaflets to virtually every home in Britain. This should be done several times a year, not just at election time.

I laud those comrades (including at Prole-Star) who are working very hard to provide a battery of information argument and discussion. I laud the comrades at The Morning Star and The Word for their determined efforts. However none of them are likely to become main stream media any time soon.

SECTION 8: Writing a High Quality Leaflet

So how do you write a high quality leaflet?

As part of being an effective activist I have not attempted to reinvent the wheel. Thanks to comrades from Holme Valley North and Holme Valley South BLPs Kay Davies, Bob Vant, and Kitty Wildsmith for the next few pages. A BLP is a Branch Labour Party.

The Planning Stage.

We need to be clear about the message.

  • What is the message that we are trying to get across?
  • Who are we saying it to?
  • What are the best channels for saying it?

Then we write accordingly.

The following basic principles would apply to the language in our communications:

  • Clear English. If we want people to engage with our message then we need to make sure that our communications are readable. Use shorter, simpler sentences and language wherever possible. Clichéd metaphors should be avoided. There is a tool that can help us on The National Literacy Trust website. Materials should be run through the SMOG calculator (Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook) to check for readability.
  • Avoid jargon. Sometimes a technical term or an acronym are needed but they should be used in full and explained and then used in a shortened term in the following references.
  • Use the active, rather than the passive, voice. (For example, ‘so and so says’ rather than, ‘it is said’.)
  • Use inclusive language. Make sure that the communication is not alienating a group or individuals. Be mindful of the audience.
  • Put points across in a positive way. Make sure that the message is easy to understand and to remember.
  • Spelling and grammar should be accurate.
  • Re-read before you print or send.

The following principles would apply to the layout of our communications:

  • Simple, clear format that mirrors the message.
  • Font – a classic standard- rather than ‘novelty’. Think about size too and make sure that it’s not too small.
  • Use of colour. Don’t overuse and create ‘clutter’. Keep backgrounds plain and avoid patterns.
  • Use of photos. They add interest, so use when possible, but they should be of good quality.
  • Text. Don’t let it get too dense. At least one and half line spaces in the text with short paragraphs and good margins. Create space to help with readability. Standard size of the leaflet itself.
  • Be informative. Suggest we put council service numbers on every leaflet.

The following principles would apply to electronic communications.

  • Be clear and concise. The principles for print apply to electronic communications.
  • Bullet points. Helpful in e mails because they make it easier to identify key points on a larger area such as a computer screen.
  • Important information on the top so that people don’t have to scroll.
  • Think about tone. Most important in texts and tweets where striving for brevity can make you seem brusque.
  • Check before you send. Working at speed can create carelessness and make you less likely to check your choice of words.

We thought that it would be worth asking colleagues to agree that every general communication would be sent to 2 other party members to check that:

  1. Does the communication make sense? Am I getting the message that the author intended?
  2. Is the language clear and accurate?

There is a useful tool for assessing the readability level (which is not the same as the reading age) at www.learningandwork.org.uk /SMO/smogcalc.php.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

KISS – Keep It Simple and Short! 100 good words that might get read are better than 250 words that will not be read.

To the above I would add that cartoons and memes can convey important messages.

Three cartoons immediately spring to mind. One is from the 1920s about Austerity where four men are on the same ladder. The working class man is up to his nose in water. The rich guy at the top says “Equality of sacrifice – we all take one step down”.

What is Socialism? The second is of three boys each stood on a box trying to watch a football match. One lad can’t see over the wall. The second frame shows that the tall kid has no box but can see over, the middle kid still has a box and can see and the short lad stands on two boxes and can see. A comment on this is that if there was a wire fence rather than a wall then all three children could see.

The third is a cartoon of a small girl and a small boy who are comparing genitalia. “So that is why you will always earn 22% more than me?”

Make sure that your memes, photos and cartoons are copyright free or that you have written permission to use them.

Do not forget the application forms to join the Labour Party and the lottery.

It is not always a legal requirement to put “Printed by… Published by…” but it does no harm and it is a good habit to get into. For the Election Address allocate a page or a half page for use as a window poster.

Sometimes the national Labour Party turns out fantastically good leaflets that are well worth buying and sometimes it doesn’t.

SECTION 9: Helping Elsewhere

The Labour Party does not have unlimited resources. We are usually short of money. We are usually short of bodies. We are always short of experienced activists.

If your patch is hopelessly Tory or is strong Labour could some of your team help out elsewhere? When I was in Mid-Bedfordshire a hopeless Tory area our comrades in Bedford were hit with three council by-elections on the same day. We in Mid-Beds offered to run the by-election in the safe Tory village and to leave Bedford to deal with their two urban Labour wards. Bedford CLP was very grateful.

The village was so safe Tory that it had never needed to have much Tory organisation. We flooded the village like a by-election, which of course it was. Our Labour candidate was a lovely woman who had been the village Scout mistress for fourteen years.

On Election Day a Tory friend asked our candidate how many Labour cars she had out.

I don’t know dear. I lost count at thirty!”

Labour won all three seats.

If you can help, contact the Labour Party you are helping to give them information about how many people will be coming in how many cars at what time and on what days. This allows their Campaign Organiser to prioritise and to plan how best to use you. Make sure they know if you are offering canvassers leafletters knockers up or what?

SECTION 10: Reading Pads and WARP and Knocking Up and Marked Registers

We now turn to the blessed issue of Reading Pads versus WARP (Without A Reading Pad). When I started in 1966 the Labour Party used Reading pads. They were invented by Ian Mikardo who became MP for Reading. The basic idea is of pads of self carboned coloured sheets. You would write or type the voter number and the house number and the voter name of all your promises in a particular street.

When people went to vote your number taker recorded their voter numbers.

Every so often someone would carry “the numbers” from the polling station to the Committee Room. At the Committee Room those who had voted were crossed off.

The numbers” were on different coloured pads for each polling station to avoid confusion.

When you had a “knocking up” team available they would be given the top sheets for an area and go off to “knock up”. About 40 minutes to an hour later you would gleefully cross off lots of voters and you could see that your knocking team was working effectively.

Once all the white top sheets were allocated to knocking teams we would work through yellow, blue and pink. I only twice saw us use the cardboard backing card.

Once everyone on a sheet had voted we tossed the remnants of the pad into the bin.

The Reading Pads can now be printed on computer but many are still written out by hand.

The system is manpower heavy. You need a number taker at every polling station. You need relief number takers. You need a committee room team crossing off, and you need knocking up teams. As the Labour Party lost active supporters during the Blair and Brown years the Reading system became unworkable in many areas.

WARP uses fewer bodies. You do not need anyone at the polling station. You need virtually no-one at the Committee Room. Essentially you give a printout for each group of streets to a knocker upper and s/he concentrates on those streets again and again until everyone has voted or says they have voted.

There are two meanings to “the marked register”.

When you go to vote you will see that the polling officer draws a line next to your name, marking the register with the fact that you have voted. For a limited period after the election it is possible to buy photocopies of the marked register. You can use the marked register to identify (a) Labour promises who did not vote, and (b) voters whom we do not know about. Before buying your copy check whether your Region District or Constituency makes a bulk purchase.

In the days before computers the ward organiser always had the most recent electoral roll marked up with information transferred from previous elections. Mainly it was colour coded with red for Labour, blue for Tory, and annotations like “dangerous dog”, “Poster” or “lost brother at Dunkirk”. “JW” was Jehovah’s Witness (a religious group who do not vote) and “DNC” for do not contact. A few technophobes and the ultra-cautious still use these.

SECTION 11: Labour Party Staff

It is very easy to criticise Labour Party staff. They are often poorly paid. They are often on time limited contracts. They are often given challenging and complex tasks. They have to enforce and attempt to justify decisions made at headquarters into which they had no input.

Criticising headquarters is your comradely entitlement. Should they agree with you they face dismissal.

Some of them cannot take the strain and they quit. Many more appear to avoid discussion or they appear unwilling to discuss the crazy decisions of their superiors. You vent at them and they can do nothing about it.

When we agree with the decisions made then of course we comrades are sweetness and light. When we are not suited some of us comrades are incredibly unpleasant to people who dare not say that they agree with us.

Most Labour staff were like you and me once. Once they are prisoners of the system their lives are sometimes difficult or worse. They all have to do what they are told whether they agree with it or not.

The staff at Head Office have it even worse. London pay is desperately poor for people of their quality.

The ultimate line manager is the General Secretary who serves at the pleasure of the National Executive Committee.

One of the reasons why there has been difficulty recently (2015-17) is that the membership of the National Executive reflects decisions made at trade union and other elections as long as two years ago. You will recall that around Annual Conference in September 2016 the ruling majority swung between Left and less Left almost daily. The most able General Secretary would struggle to satisfy the National Executive if the National Executive does not know its own mind from one day to the next.

Policy is made by Annual Conference. The current Party Leader is at odds with some of the policies approved by Annual Conference or previous Annual Conferences. The General Secretary serves the Labour Party which has made policy decisions. Until the decisions are changed (or the Leader is changed) there are disconnects between the Party Leader and the Labour Party and the Labour Party and a majority of the Labour Party membership. The General Secretary has to manage across those disconnects.

No-one can rise to high position in the Labour Party and be a political innocent. The anti austerity hurricane is blowing. There are still those who think that the Corbyn experience will end in tears. As late as September 2016 a third of our membership voted for the other candidate.

I have seen the pendulum swing gently back and forth over the years. I have never seen the pendulum swing like this. I am a Marxist and a Corbyn supporter but I understand the fears and concerns of comrades who are seeing the world being turned upside down.

SECTION 12: Raising Labour’s Local Profile

How does the Labour Party raise our profile locally?

Put out a “Can We Help?” leaflet. Also a “Can We Help?” poster to put up in every friendly shop and venue.

Get out into the community. You use street stalls, petitions, balloons, canvassing with petitions, having stalls at fairs, visits to schools, demonstrations, and if you can afford it billboards.

Serving your community, but not always geographically in it are places of religion, social clubs, sports venues, community centres, and pubs. If you ask around someone will know the Club Secretary or the clergy person or a committee member.

In one part of my ward rubbish was a big issue. The Council put some skips out where we asked and kept replacing them until the local community had got rid of all its unwanted furniture, carpets and so forth. We leafletted the few streets involved so every household knew about the project in advance.

If asked many of your members and supporters will host house meetings where they invite maybe ten friends and neighbours to meet the candidate or prospective candidate or councillor or MP.

Your candidate can ask to visit businesses and hopefully put out a press release with photo.

You can enter a Labour Party team in a quiz league or a five a side league. Your candidate or councillor can contact all the luncheon clubs and social clubs and community groups. Of course your candidate does not go anywhere alone.

Many MPs and councillors put out an annual report on their doings.

As a sitting councillor I was asked to deal with a “rat run” problem. I wrote using Council services to two hundred houses affected by the problem inviting them to a meeting at the local school. I invited the two Tory councillors to the meeting because I needed to be seen to be non-political.

I chaired the meeting of course. The meeting agreed there were four options including “do nothing”.

Then I wrote to two hundred houses enclosing ballot papers. I said that I could not approach the Council with a proposal that had more people “against” than “for”.

They voted. I wrote to two hundred houses with the results. “Do nothing” had the largest vote. There was no majority. I asked the community to discuss among themselves. If they thought there was a consensus for action then by all means please approach me again.

I achieved nothing, but I had tried. My vote in that polling district went up significantly.

If you do not have a sitting councillor ask a Labour councillor to convene the meeting.

You can invite a visiting speaker to your routine meeting and leaflet and advertise widely. Or you can invite a “big name” and make a big event of it.

You can put out press releases “Tintown Labour Party vows to save the NHS”.

SECTION 13: The Media

The Press and Media generally are a challenge. As a rough rule of thumb the national media are not interested in Tintown Labour Party unless there is a sex scandal. The local press are often fairly unbiased, but individuals within the local paper may be biased. Your Press Officer should meet with the paper soon after election and find out what the journalists say they want. If after a press release there is no coverage your Press Officer asks why. If the journalists have to justify every refusal they will be slower to refuse. You should not need to demonstrate outside the newspaper office but if you do make sure you have a dossier to support your protest.

The Metro and other free sheets probably have a wider readership in your locality than your local paper.

Local radio is desperate for interviewees on any topic.

I am no expert on the Internet and social media so find someone who is.

If you are delivering leaflets out four times a year you probably do not need the local paper. Consider publishing a socialist content newsletter once or twice a year. Friendly local businesses will advertise in it and you might make a profit.

If you can only generate and deliver two leaflets a year make sure they are excellent.

Make sure your candidates and officers have media training through the Labour Party or through a friendly trade union.

SECTION 14: “People Don’t Come to Labour Party Meetings”

People don’t come to Labour Party meetings” is the complaint.

Why should they? Many Labour meetings are frankly tedious.

You have to make the meetings interesting and enjoyable. Visiting speakers. Political discussions. Interesting reports. Activities. Events. Not “minutes” and “matters arising”.

A CLP was in a long and unedifying cycle of moaning and recrimination between two evenly balanced factions. Every CLP meeting was taken up with minutes and matters arising and never got beyond that. The two faction leaders, both good socialists, decided that the way forward was to bring in a Chair who was not associated with the events that led to the recrimination.

I was new to the constituency and I was nice to everyone. At the AGM I was pulled off checking Membership cards and I was called upstairs. I was told by the two faction leaders that I was to be the new CLP Chair – aged 24.

At the next meeting I explained that I had promised the visiting speaker an hour, and I wanted forty-five minutes for the political resolutions. This meant that all “business” had to be fitted into fifteen minutes. Were these timings accepted?

Stunned, the CLP agreed by acclamation. After 7 minutes I invited the speaker to begin. This set the pattern. The meetings were happy and harmonious and the CLP pulled together as a unit.

At branch level what can you do?

How do you publicise your meetings? If a member is not on the Internet and is not a mind reader how does s/he know when and where you meet or whom to contact for a lift? Do you post or deliver your program of forthcoming meetings?

Ask an older member or former member to talk about campaigning in this area forty years ago.

If there was a large employer or a large tragic incident book a local historian to talk about it. In most rural areas there were revolts by the local agricultural workers which are now forgotten. Find a Left historian. Publicise the meeting.

Ask a councillor to talk about a hot button issue. Or a Head Teacher to talk about education. Or a union representative or GP to talk about the NHS. Publicise the meeting.

Have an all female meeting to discuss “Women in the Labour Party” and invite every female “Hard Labour” supporter. Invite a prominent local female activist to lead the day.

Hold a meeting in an elderly persons home. Publicise the meeting.

Set up four interesting talks and put them all on the same leaflet. Leaflet the area widely so people know your meetings are interesting. Put up the leaflets in pubs and bus shelters and shops.

Make your meetings something people want to come to.

Hold social events in daylight hours that are friendly for the elderly, for disabled people, and for families.

Did you know that in the 1930s Gloucestershire Labour Party took 40,000 people on day excursions each summer? Start small.

SECTION 15: The Election Process

As a political party we are in a constant process of elections. While your candidate and most of the workers are fixated on the current election the effective activist is fixated on the process.

The first surprise is that the CLP Executive and the Branch Executive are almost irrelevant to the election process. There is a different and largely unelected team who run the elections. Kate runs elections in Greenway ward even though Kate no longer lives in Greenway ward. Old Eric and young Eric put up the posters. Sarah always runs the Committee Room at Marsden Socialist Club. Geoff and Tim always knock up the Felton estate.

There is a gang of maybe twenty key players who run every election in the constituency and they have done for years. Some of them are not even party members. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Look to see if there are any holes and fill the holes. Do not mess up a well established team.

There should be written reports on past elections. Read them. If as is possible there are no written reports make sure you write the first one. You can collect the information for your report as you go along. What do you wish you knew?

As councillor I wrote a detailed piece about every polling district in the ward. It was not for publication and was shown only to Labour candidates once elected. It brought them up to speed a lot quicker. It was shown to them rather than given because some of the language was too striking (one of my failings).

Think about each polling district. Given where our support is, is the polling station in the best location? Would we do better if the voting was at another school or building?

Is the access for voters good in terms of access ramps, parking, and toilets? If we are running a Reading system, what are the facilities for number takers? Can our people stay dry and out of cold winds?

Actually you should have thought about this two years ago and made representations to the Council then. Whinge now in hopes of fixing the problem before next year’s election.

It is also possible to suggest subdividing or changing polling district boundaries to make voting easier.

If we are short of bodies, which usually we are, which are the priority areas for our knocking teams? How much knocking can we do by telephone?

If a person has voted at the last ten elections should we just assume they will vote and use our resources on “soft” Labour voters instead?

We need to “knock” our postal voters a few days after the postal votes land, but without offending them. Postal voters can vote at the polling station on the day, so maybe a week before Election Day we need to contact them to see if they need a lift to the polling station. Most of them will say they have already voted.

There are some people who prefer to be taken by car. Do we have the list from the last election? Sign them up to proxy or postal votes.

REMEMBER never to complete or witness a postal vote ballot or to transport it. It is illegal for an election worker to do this. (Yes I do know I have said this twice.)

How many Committee Rooms do we need? Many wards run all their six to sixteen polling districts from one location. Remember to have different coloured paper for the numbers from each polling district to avoid confusion. (I have said this twice, too.)

Who will run each Committee Room? What time will they open and close?

Who will the Count Team be? Their names have to be at the Council a few days before the election. In a ward I knew the Count team quit early to go for a curry at a comrade’s house to strengthen them for the rigours of several hours more work.

Where will the CLP HQ be? Logically it shares an existing Committee Room.

What requirements for information will there be? What information does the Campaigns Coordinator need for the effective management of the day?

There is a possibility to obtain turnout levels from the Presiding Officer at each Polling Station. If your team always check at say 10 am, 2 pm, and 6pm and election close you will be able to compare with the turnout records from previous elections. If you are able to obtain information from WARP teams and Reading teams at the same timings you can establish whether Labour is turning out faster or slower than the general population. And you can compare with information on Labour turnout from previous years.

If there is not information from previous years you create a template that works for your purposes and for future years.

A day or two before Election Day Regional Office will ask for different information or different timings. Tell them what you have already arranged, that it is too late to organise what they want, and they will usually settle for your information. Or you can be super reasonable and change your arrangements.

In your ward there are usually six or seven or sixteen polling districts, often called “boxes”. Some boxes are high Labour percentages, so you put your person power into those boxes.

Across a Parliamentary Constituency there are may be forty or fifty “boxes”. Your Constituency Coordinator (or Agent) will possibly rob you of some of your best workers to work in high yield boxes elsewhere, or may offer you extra help. A good Constituency Coordinator does all this by negotiation beforehand but sometimes emergencies arise on the day.

There are issues around car insurance on election day. Your Constituency Coordinator takes charge of this.

Helper lists are partly for the “thank you” letters but are also to list people to ask to help in future elections. Make sure after the election that every helper, including the children, receives an individual thank you letter. You will be amazed how many of these letters are kept for decades.

Remember that all the information collected should be preserved. It will be mined by the Constituency Coordinator for information collected by the knockers, car call lists and the like.

Voting intention information is sensitive data so it should be shredded rather than go into general rubbish.

Who is the Campaigns Coordinator or Constituency Organiser or Agent?

Many constituencies and wards elect annually a person to coordinate and to run all electoral activity and campaigns in the constituency or ward. One person on the Executive Committee works on election organisation as their main job for the party. Often it is the same person for years on end.

They try to build a superb organisation or to maintain a superb organisation. Their job is to make things happen rather than to try to do everything themselves. Some lead and inspire from the front. Some are more backroom people.

Without such a person it can feel as if every election is building from scratch which costs us time and stress.

At elections candidates may have a party label but legally it is up to each candidate to appoint an agent. If the CLP or ward has an existing organisational structure the candidate appoints the constituency organiser or the ward organiser as agent. If not the candidate sometimes has to find their own agent from among the members, which can take weeks if the candidate is from outside the patch.

Sometimes the Labour Party assigns an employee to help, but that person is usually not the legal Agent. They answer to Regional Office rather than to the CLP Executive or even to the candidate, which can cause tensions.

The Agent and the candidate are legally responsible for the conduct of the election. The Agent MUST approve every leaflet and every expenditure. The Agent and the candidate can go to prison if things are not done right. If the Agent seems a bit grouchy at times it is because they are legally responsible for a team of several hundred independent thinkers who all think that they know better than the Agent.

Many of us in the Labour Party wear several “hats”. For instance the Agent may be doubling as Councillor, CLP officer, or some other job. This adds to the stress on the Agent.

Who is “the numbers person”? If you show the least interest – it could be you!

SECTION 16: At The Count (And After)

At the Count your ward or constituency has an assigned area. As each box is opened you must record which box it is. How many votes are there in this box?

Then you try to “sample” the ballot papers as they fall out. You will have a sheet ready set out in the same order as the ballot paper, which is in the order of candidates’ names. The larger the sample the better but the first 100 papers will show much the same pattern as the first 200 or the first 400.

Your numbers calculator will take the total number of votes cast, multiply by the percentage of Labour votes in the sample, and estimate the Labour and principal opponent(s) votes.

Your numbers calculator does this for every box and comes out with a calculation for the wards. S/he should have information from previous years for comparison purposes.

When I stood for re-election as councillor I told my partner after the first box that I had won. Seeing me losing 55% to 30% in that box she was not convinced.

I told her that four years previously I had only achieved 15% in that box.

Your main job at the count is to make sure that Labour votes go on the Labour pile and are not accidentally placed on or moved to an opponent’s pile. Every box must be checked, so stay at your assigned table. The count is not a social event it is jolly hard work. Gossipers and chatterers get one warning. If they continue they are not in the count group next time.

Days after the count your numbers person will observe that 20% of all Labour votes came from the Marsden Legion box. There are at least 150 Labour voters in that box whom we have not identified. Your numbers person will cross correlate with the information that the Labour Party generates and will suggest priorities for voter identification.

There is an argument that if these Labour voters are voting anyway, what is the problem? We want to find those 150 to create postal voters and to identify poster sites, potential members, potential deliverers, and potential tote members.

Your numbers person will observe that 600 Labour promises did not vote. It is time to do the postal vote canvassing that you should have done before the election.

SECTION 17: Boundary Reviews

The information from all these elections is also useful when Boundary Reviews come round. With population change constituencies swell and decline in population. In the 2015 General Election Colne Valley had 82,510 electors and neighbouring Huddersfield 65,265. It seems reasonable to have roughly equal constituencies so the Boundary Commission for England and Wales (BCE) is in a continuous process of proposing boundary changes.

The Americans use Gerrymandering, where boundaries are redrawn to maximise the number of winnable seats for the ruling party by packaging all the other party’s voters into one very safe seat and creating lots of seats that the ruling party should win.

The BCE tries not to consider the political implications of its work. It concentrates on natural communities, transport links, and affinity.

The political parties make representations which are phrased in terms of creating natural communities and affinities but which have the effect of trying to make more constituencies winnable for them. Being politicians we are high minded but we keep our eye on the ball. There was laughter when the Scottish Conservative party asked the Scottish Boundary Commission for a ward boundary to run between No 6 Acacia Street and No 8 – a little too blatant!

David Cameron ordered BCE to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600. The closing date for representations was December 15, 2016. The new boundaries will not be approved until 2019. Any elections before then will be on the old boundaries. If Labour are in power by then we are likely to stay with 650 constituencies.

SECTION 18 – Diversity

Some important groups have so far not been mentioned. Many localities have ethnic minorities. Find members or supporters who are themselves members of that ethnic minority. Take their advice on how best to approach that ethnic group. Should a BAME group be set up?

Young comrades often find us older comrades slow and boring. Find a comrade in that age group and make them the Youth Officer. The youth will meet and decide what they wish to do. The Youth Officer’s job is to stop their meetings being boring and to interface with the CLP.

Students may be involved with the Labour Student organisation. Although the student Labour comrades liaise with the CLP in which the college is based, they should be invited to help in activities that other nearby CLPs initiate.

Trade unions have declined in relative importance since the 1960s but they are important to us for activists, campaigns, donations, information, and links generally.

Women’s sections are now thought of as hopelessly patronising and divisive. There are important outreach and self development activities that Labour women must do. Make sure you have an effective trained Women’s Officer.

Many older people are socially isolated and bereft of natural opportunities to meet. How could we tap into this? Lunch club? Bingo? Films and music from the 1960s? Should we have a Senior Members Officer like we have a Youth Officer?

New members and existing members can feel that their branch or CLP is run by a clique who do not want nonconformist input or indeed any input. You must work to make sure that every member feels valued and involved. That is a significant job particularly when CLPs are often now at 1,000+ members.

Maybe share the job at maybe fifty or one hundred members per activist? Recruit new activists to that job?

Section 19: Training Yourself and Others

There is training others and there is training yourself. The quantity and quality of training now available directly from the Labour Party is higher and better than it has ever been in my lifetime.

The CLP or District or Region sometimes run local training days. If you need one, set it up.

Naturally you want to know what to read or view. I am not up to date with YouTube etc. Jonathan Pie and Owen Davies are good but there are many others like Russell Brand. Some Labour MPs have blogs and YouTube blogs.

I can only suggest books that have had a significant impact on me or on friends.

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

The Leveller Debates / The Putney Debates. There is a good version edited by the late Tony Benn.

Why You Should Be a Socialist by Tony Benn.

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. I found it heavy going.

I was hugely influenced by From Yalta to Vietnam by David Horowitz, the historical writings of Eric Hobsbaum, Arnold Toynbee, G.D.H. Cole, and E.P.Thompson.

Novelists like John Steinbeck, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, Jack London, Howard Spring, and JB Priestley all put a human face on the struggles within society.

Writers like Galeano, Aneurin Bevan, Silone, Engels, Marx, Franz Fanon, Noam Chomsky, Trotsky, Lenin, Guevara, all add perspectives but are sometimes heavy going. Much lighter reading are the plays and prefaces of George Bernard Shaw, “Tono-Bungay” by HG Wells, “Good Soldier Svejk” by Jaroslav Hasek, and “The Life and extraordinary adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin” by Vladimir Voinovic.

Also very readable is “The Failed Experiment And how to build an economy that works” by Andrew Fisher who currently is an adviser to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell

You may enjoy some of the pieces on my web site

http://charlesjames.name/socialism-101/

http://charlesjames.name/whats-left-for-labour/

http://charlesjames.name/elected-councillor-for-paradise/

http://charlesjames.name/increased-majority-in-paradise/

http://charlesjames.name/tax-and-spend-1/ (and 2 and 3)

http://charlesjames.name/tea-and-social-class/

There is a great raft of recent books about the Middle East, Oil, 9/11, and American chicanery which I largely have not read. Political biographies are interesting, even those about or by our opponents.

For the sake of completeness I should mention the Fabian Society which was once an intellectual powerhouse of the Labour Movement. Pluto Publishers, the new Left Book Club, Verso, and Manifesto Press, are all worth looking at.

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) is a Left think-tank.

Films like “I, Daniel Blake” are also good. Other suggestions are “The Grapes of Wrath” (Steinbeck), “Made in Dagenham (Nigel Cole) and Mike Leigh “Life is Sweet and “Secrets and Lies”.

SECTION 20: Charles James’ Credentials

I have worked for Labour in every General Election since 1966. I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1972. In 1986 I increased the Labour vote in Heaton ward Bradford by 80% to take the third safest Tory ward in Bradford Metropolitan District for Labour. In 1990 I increased my vote 47% to record the highest ever vote for any candidate in the ward. In 1991 we achieved a second Labour councillor elected in Heaton.

At different times I have served as Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Fundraiser, Youth Officer, Parliamentary Agent, and Annual Conference Delegate. I served as Branch Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and council election agent. I have been bingo caller, bouncer, canvasser, committee room leader, count representative, delegate, knocker upper, leaflet writer, leafletter, lottery promoter, newsletter writer, number taker, paper candidate, school governor, speaker, and voter registration canvasser.

Outside the Labour Party I organised my first demonstration at the age of 17. I was involved in student unions. I was at Grunwick. I was part of JCAD the Joint Campaign Against Deportations. I taught at the Croxteth School occupation. I was involved in the Honeyford issue. I went on demonstrations with the Bradford Asian Youth Movement. I collected for the miners. I helped in the Thornton View Hospital occupation. I was elected to the Council of the Law Society. I ran an immigration and political asylum solicitor practise. I taught Law and was a member of UCU.

I am a retired member of Unison.

My web site is www.charlesjames.name .

Suggestions for improvement should be sent to chasjames19@ yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading this far. You have my permission to share this document.

Charles James 28 January 2019