Ed goes to Bradford….
The Guardian carries this report of Ed Miliband’s recent sojourn to Bradford. It’s an interesting piece and there is plenty to be learned from it. One of the first things that leaps out is the continued ineptitude of our communications team. How they failed to brief him on the ‘Make Bradford British’ program and its actual content is totally beyond me, you would have thought they would have anticipated some specialist knowledge on this topic amoung the questioners if not necessarily a question from an actual participant.
Communication fiascos aside the piece is actually complex and varied and shows that rather than their being one single issue that we need to address there is a veritable multiplicity. On the one hand there is the issue of the Labour Party patriarchy, something alluded too by the criticism that the local Party is like an “old boys club”. Also, there is the cultural issue, namely the fact that the local Labour Party as well as being highly patriarchal itself played to this when they came across it in the community. Although these problems seem to be acute in Bradford they speak to deep-rooted issues within the wider Party. We are still struggling to involve women at a grassroots level and this cuts to one of my concerns about over-reliance on All Women Shortlists, they fail to deal with deep-seated cultural issues.
This is overlayed by a significant failure to engage enough of our members as Party activists. CLP’s too often are kept running by the brave but select few and this then leads to a natural fossilisation where every year the same people play musical chairs, taking positions because no one else will, and if a new activist does happen to wander by it’s not unheard of that they become discouraged by what they not unjustly see as a closed circle. This is not to degenerate the hard work and committment of these people, far from it, but ultimately if we are to march forward we do need to be drawing more of our members into regular activity.
This is something our NEC needs to discuss as part of the wider package of changes brought in by Refounding Labour. It is all very well ‘reaching out’ to the community but while we are doing so we need to be consolidating what we have. I think when the NEC discusses the report into our failure in Bradford West, drawing in more women activists and a strategy to convert our members into activists need to be right at the top of the agenda when it comes to developing our strategic response.