Monday 11 June 2007

Next Steps Discussion

Second apology. I haven't blogged for over a week as I took half term off to be with my family and play constant football, tennis, swimming and cricket with my eleven year old.

After that I have had quite a bit of constituency work to be catching up on. I am holding two advice surgeries every week, with additional home visits, individual casework meetings and an intensive round of local community meetings. I describe myself as a community MP and we describe our work as a local party as community socialism. This involves creating an active base of local community democracy and thus engaging people in determining the future of their street, their school, their park, and anything to do with their local area. For example I convene an annual community conference for all local community groups in our constituency and we have promoted the development of an extensive network of local community organisations, and groups representing the wide range of different sections of our community.

It is really important for MPs to be rooted in their local communities if they genuinely want to represent their constituency.

Returning to the question of what next for the Left after the leadership election campaign, I spoke at the Briefing Fringe meeting at the Compass conference with Tony Benn and Christine Shawcroft on Saturday. The fringe meeting was very well attended but it sounds like the overall attendance at the Compass conference wasn't as large as the organisers had hoped for.This may reflect in part the response to the leadership election being prevented.

Nevertheless our fringe was upbeat and people reflected what I have found in most other meetings I have spoken to over the last couple of weeks which is a real determination to get stuck into political debate and campaigning. There is a strange contrast between the way in which party members attending conferences and meetings like Saturdays are addressing events in the real world whilst the Gordon Brown tour and the deputy leadership election seem almost cut off from events like the looming postal strike, Remply closures, job and pay cuts in the civil service provoking large scale industrial action, and tragically another military death in Afghanistan and more civilian deaths in Iraq.

I went on to the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the LRC. This was not a post mortem on the leadership campaign but much more an intensive discussion of the next steps for the Left. What came out of this discussion was an agreement on the need to maintain the momentum created by the campaign. Lots of ideas were thrown into the discussion with a core agreement that we should now launch a fairly extensive campaign tour of meetings around the country to engage people in the Labour and trade union movement but also more importantly the wider community in a discussion based upon my booklet "Another World is Possible - A Manifesto for 21st Century Socialism." Of course this campaigning approach would include the use of the web and blogs and link up with the various campaigns currently taking place or breaking out on a range of issues over the coming period.

The aim is to plan meetings over the next 12 months across England, Scotland and Wales, attracting people into the political debate that they were effectively denied by the prevention of a leadership election. By being as inclusive as possible the objective is to use this campaigning approach not just to discuss the political issues facing us but also to enable people to participate in the activities of the Left in whatever way they find accessible and effective for them. For some this will be through the Labour Party or for others through the Labour Representative Committee or for others by being connected and associated with the Left more generally. The key issue is to use whatever method is best suited to enable people to participate in the activities of the Left and to establish these structures and mechanisms right the way across the country.

We need as many ideas as possible flowing in on the activities people feel should be undertaken over the next period. Let me know what you think and also any ideas on how this campaign could be fully resourced.