Come and Join us
I can remember the day I decided to join the Labour Party as if it was yesterday – actually it was: 6th August 2015. A series of policy proposals from one of the leadership candidate prompted my leap of faith and so I decided that, at last, this was something I wanted to be part of. I decided to become a member, rather than a ‘registered supporter’, as now doesn’t seem the time for half-measures. I’d followed the contest closely online, reading social media posts from newcomers and long-term members, and so it was with some trepidation that I attended my first constituency meeting. Would I be regarded with suspicion or welcomed along with the others who have swelled the ranks threefold?
Bingley town centre on a Friday evening is an interesting place but when your visit coincides with the first night of the local festival, ‘Bingley Music Live’, it enters a whole new dimension. Arriving late, after searching for a parking space, I walked in just as the Chair was welcoming everyone to the meeting and felt very conspicuous, particularly as I’d decided to nail my colours to the mast and wear a badge with the name of my favoured leadership candidate. Finding a chair I sat down and listened carefully.
After some ‘housekeeping’ the meeting welcome the grandly titled ‘Regional Organiser’ Ciaran Tully. Ciaran talked somewhat provocatively about the prospects for the constituency, prompting murmurs from the members, before taking questions from the floor. Not surprisingly, and perhaps intentionally, his remarks prompted a lively discussion with many members keen to share their views. This was something of a relief, as I must confess I’d arrived fearing that debate would be anodyne and stage-managed.
This debate was then swiftly followed by the Leader of Bradford Council, Dave Green, outlining the various proposals for regional devolution that had, somewhat hurriedly it seems, been submitted that day for consideration by the Government. Some illuminating questions and answers followed and then, after the monthly prize draw, we exited to mingle with the revelers leaving the festival – an interesting juxtaposition.
Hot on the heels of the constituency meeting was my first local branch meeting. I was one of a number of new members to attend and was warmly welcomed. The meeting was relatively informal with plenty of opportunities for discussion. It felt inclusive with lots of ideas for what we might do locally. Suggestions included setting up an online forum for members so that we could communicate between monthly meetings, plan events and share opportunities.
There was a real appetite for activism, engaging with local people to share the positive messages that Labour has to offer. There was no obvious conflict between people who supported different candidates, though clearly several new members had been motivated to join the party because of one in particular. I would encourage anyone who has joined, or returned, to come along and get involved in the discussions and, more importantly perhaps, the actions that will follow.
Since then we’ve learned the result of the leadership contest. The challenge now is for us all to get behind the new leader, deputy and the emerging shadow cabinet. It is clear already that the Government and the media are going on the attack and it is the responsibility of all of us to try and counteract that by talking to our friends, families and anyone we meet to explain Labour’s vision for a fairer and more equal society. As more detail of policy emerges, developed via conference and other forums, we need to explain our vision and build a strong local movement so that we can challenge once again, both in Shipley and across the country.