Upon gaining power in 2015, a Labour government would give that power away. This is part of our plan for a people-powered political system and was a recurring theme at this year’s Progress Political Weekend. Think Labour’s version of the ‘big society’, but with genuinely empowered citizens and tangible ideas.
Creating a culture of community activism, both within the Labour party and in wider society, will bring about the changes that the electorate wants – and could be the key to achieving more in a time of financial challenge.
Rather than politicians deciding what is best for people, this is about putting our faith in the public. It is the public that has the ideas, the experience and the best understanding of their own needs – and we need to bring all of that to our decision-making and our public service delivery. Those using services day in, day out, know what works and what does not. So we should trust them to be part of developing the solutions and delivering the services, rather than always expecting them to trust politicians to decide on their behalf.
In order for this to be realised, we have to put our power where our mouth is – in the hands of the many.
Lambeth council has been leading the way on this agenda and Steve Reed, previously the council leader and now the member of parliament for Croydon North, spoke to Progress members about that work on Saturday. From a peer-mentoring scheme in Brixton, delivered by young people, which has reduced youth offending rates, to the Community Freshview programme, which brings neighbours together to clear up derelict land, the council has pioneered successful community-led initiatives.
What better way to put trust back into politics than to genuinely put people at the heart of politics?
And the concept isn’t just for a Labour government and Labour councils to implement. Stella Creasy spoke about the importance of Labour activists getting involved in community organising.
None of us joined the Labour party to discuss the minutes of the last meeting. We get involved in party politics to change our society. Given that a Labour government is undoubtedly the best way to do this, door-knocking should not be forgotten and community organising is certainly no substitute for it. But our local parties do need to be more outward facing, more inclusive and at the heart of our communities.
Our structures – of exclusive meetings, acronym overload and abundant bureaucracy – do not facilitate this. We need a revamp that places communities at the heart of everything we do and encourages people to join us. We need to swap ‘arm-chewers’ (Stella’s term for meetings which you would rather chew off your own arm than have to attend) for community action.
Steve and Stella have lots of fantastic ideas for how we go about this and it was great to hear from them on Saturday. But, as they were keen to point out, the innovative ideas and invaluable experience lie in our wider membership and the wider public. It is these people that we need to be not only listening to but working with to reinvigorate our party and change our country.
It is time for government to stop being done to people, but rather with people and for people.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.