Meetings: a time where important decisions are made about the Labour party and campaigning – or wasted time where someone grumbles about the rulebook and new members are left dazed and confused? All too often Labour party meetings fit into the latter description, and we have to do something about it.
Who has really been inspired by sitting round in a church hall all evening? Normal people have other things to do. They could be having some well-earned rest, working late or – shock horror – out socialising with people who would not know their GC from their NEC.
In order to encourage people and, dare I say it, women especially, to join the party we have to shake up our meeting culture. People with caring responsibilities may have the ideas we need to run a community campaign, but are we going to hear from them in our sometimes dreary meetings that focus on looking back at minutes, reports and rules rather than offering up training and opportunities to get involved? If we know that people are far more engaged with single issues (or a specific leader!) and that that is what brought them to the party, then putting them through an often badly administered meeting is hardly going to convince them that we are the people that can get things done.
The gatherings we have should be a chance to find out what skills members have and how they can be used to bolster a current campaign, or occasionally be more like workshops where we share knowledge or ask people what they really think. I know some branches do this, but it is not widespread practice. Members are the very people we need to inspire to get more involved if we are to survive as a party.
It sometimes feels like all the power in Labour meetings is in the hands of those that have been there the longest and remember the good old days. But the electorate has moved on and so must we. A great start will be rethinking our meetings so we get the best out of our members to fight the Tories, rather than just talking at them for two hours a month and being happy if they agree to deliver some leaflets.
Sabrina Francis is a councillor in the London borough of Camden
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