Making peace with my inner idealist or how I learned to love my local Labour party

On Tuesday evening I took a  tentative first step to shake off my feeling of weary resignation towards party politics by attending a meeting of my local Labour party to select a candidate to stand for Bournville in the Birmingham City Council elections this coming May. The meeting immediately reminded me about everything I both admire about democratic politics as well as those aspects my inner idealist somehow needs to come to terms with.

So what was so great about Tuesday’s meeting? This is what stood out for me:

  • People coming together in the first place. I was impressed by the fact that 30 or so people had made the effort to meet up on a cold Tuesday evening in January, full stop. During January it’s hard enough just getting yourself to work and back so good on people just for getting past their front door.
  • Commitment and bravery. Regular attendees talked about the effort they’ve been making to campaign for Labour, including making phone calls and door knocking. The most I’ve ever felt brave enough to do is the odd leaflet drop and writing for the Fabian Review. These people were getting out of their comfort zone to try to to make a difference
  • A belief that a brighter future is possible. Back when I was a Politics student, and even after I graduated and joined the local government National Graduate Development Programme, I strongly believed that the inherent fairness and justice of many of Labour’s policies meant they would slowly and surely become accepted as part of the social fabric. In the years following the credit crunch and the coalition government’s policies of cuts, privatisation and individualism, I have lost much of my hopefulness. Listening to Mary Locke, the person selected to to stand for Bournville, I was reminded that it is possible to make the case for doing things differently and through hard work see those changes implemented.

So that was the positive. What was less good about Tuesday’s meeting?

  • A focus on Labour party concerns rather than local issues. As I said at the start of my piece, I am a lapsed political idealist and care about many of the big picture issues raised at Tuesday’s meeting such as inequality, low wages and social exclusion. At the meeting, however, I made the point that as a part we need to be talking about local people’s everyday concerns, such as potholes and the introduction of wheelie bins. We need to appeal to a range of people, including residents who would identify as ‘aspirational’ and banging on about social ills which the majority of the population do not directly experience will not help us to connect with voters.
  • Stuffiness and focus on process. Although I received a warm welcome from the regular attendees, the meeting itself was a little stuffy for my liking. The reason for this, I believe, was the language used. For me, using terms such as first proposer and seconder and other formal governance language felt a world away from everyday life. And this is me, someone who has worked in local government for more years than was probably good for me. In order to have broader appeal, I would like to see the Labour party make better use of plain English at its meetings.
  •  Lack of digital democracy. Closely related to the traditional committee meeting style of the meeting was the lack of consideration for how technology could strengthen the selection process. While it was great to see so many people making the effort to turn up to the meeting on a Tuesday evening, what thought had been given to people with commitments who were unable to attend the meeting in person? As someone whose day job revolves around digital communication, I would have liked to have seen seen opportunities for members to interact with candidates online. I understand it might not be feasible for financial reasons to allow members to vote digitally but I would have appreciated the use of free to low cost services such as Google Hangouts so that members could at least watch the selection process online.

Keeping the faith

Despite the reservations I have set out above, I remain committed to making peace with my inner idealist and will be doing my best to make a difference in my local area in the run up to May.

With this in mind, I am just about to head out for my first door knocking campaign. Wish me (and my inner idealist) luck.

Welcome to 80 Percent of Success

Happy New Year and welcome to my new blog, which I have tentatively named 80 percent of success.

In case you’re wondering what the name of the blog come from , it is from quote attributed to Woody Allen, “80 percent of success is showing up”. The quote just spoke to me at some level about life but don’t worry, I promise I won’t be smuggling in any other words of wisdom into this blog.

Blogging 2015

Like a lot of people, I like to set New Year Resolutions for myself. And like most people, my resolutions tend to fall by the wayside by about February, when the demands of life and work start to make themselves known. One of my resolutions for this year is to blog more regularly and I figure that setting up a new blog will give me a bit of extra motivation to keep writing, even when I don’t very much feel like it.

My life in blogs

This isn’t my first attempt at blogging. Over the past 5 years or so I’ve blogged on and off in various capacities, from policy and social innovation to reggae music, photography and digital technology and all manner of things in between.

The main reason I haven’t been blogging very much this past year or so was that blogging for me had become too much like work. This was particularly the case back in 2013, when I was working on a self-employed basis for around six months. While I enjoyed writing about the different projects I was working on, I felt my blogging was veering towards the self promotional. So,  to take a leaf out of Ice Cube’s advice, I decided to check myself before I wrecked myself and give blogging a little rest.

I’ve also found the past year or so pretty full-on for various reasons, mainly due to the starting a new job in late 2013. One year into the job, I feel like I’ve got back some head space in general and I am hoping to allocate the space to blogging before the year ramps up and I lose it again.

What next?

Right now, I’m still deciding what it is exactly I’ll be blogging about but I will let you know as soon as I know myself. Whatever the topic, however, I hope you will find my posts interesting, occasionally humorous and free from humblebrag.

Happy New Year,

Francis