August 24, 2015

#LabourFuture: Politics in Peckham

Last Wednesday Peckham Councillor Johnson Situ and Jessica Toale hosted a “Future of the Labour Party” listening event at the Peckham Pelican.


Last Wednesday Peckham Councillor Johnson Situ and Jessica Toale hosted a “Future of the Labour Party” listening event at the Peckham Pelican.

The event was attended by a range of local councillors, activists and young people and provided an interesting insight into what the Party could be doing at community-level as well as national level to engage members.

The group discussed the three main questions framing the Future of the Labour Party project around Party, leaders and activist and what they can do to win in 2020.

A number of key themes emerged from the discussion:

Flattening the Party and policy making

It was felt that all too often the party does not encourage a healthy open culture of disagreement and debate. There needs to be a better way to link activism and the issues people care about at local level to influencing the policy making process. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to agree on all issues but to feel part of the process to developing solutions.

Making the party and in particular policy development less hierarchical, and more flat, would be one way to address this. In age where the public receive information from a wealth of sources, the top down approach of setting policy was deemed quite archaic. People have to feel like they are part of the decision making process to feel they have ownership over what the Party is promoting. This will help them see the results of what they are involved with and make them more confident to talk about it on the doorstep.

Clarity in communications needed

The Party needs and clear and confident vision and proposition for the next election. This means offering genuine change and a genuine alternative. It was felt very strongly that the Party should not be using Tory framing.

One group discussed a strong need to put together a review of how we currently communicate our values. Then Once a clear narrative has been agreed, in simple language which resonates with real people, it should be drip fed over the next 5 years and repeated.

There was also discussion about what the Party is offering at a more national level for voters outside of London, and particularly rural voters.

Develop a strategy for involving people

A number of tactics were discussed which have been successful in engaging members and keeping them involved. In Southwark, councillors have been diligent at calling members and introducing innovative initiatives like the Borough Conference. This however was recognised as extremely resource intensive, and there was a desire to want to involve members in more than just leafleting.

A genuine strategy for involving people is needed, particularly outside of London where membership numbers may be less, and some areas that can be developed include: recognising and harnessing the strengths of your local membership and adapting accordingly; making interventions less Party political and more local; taking more specific targeted approached; talking and calling more people.

Make politics more fun

The Party needs different voices and diversity. This require reaching out beyond the membership and engaging non-members, both young and old and urban and rural. Some ideas that were discussed where hosting monthly ‘what’s the issue’ events that discuss local issues not party politics; engaging the ‘underground’ in local areas – the artists and creatives; integrating politics and important local issues into local cultural events; taking inspiration for organisations like 38 degrees and which galvanise people around political issues en masse. Essentially, this is about being able to discuss politics in a less obviously party political way.

This discussion will be fed into the final Future of the Labour Party Pamphlet, which will be launched at Labour Party Conference on Sunday 27th September at 14:15 at the Holiday Inn, Kings Road, Brighton.

This pamphlet will provide an overview of the views expressed in our online survey, at all of our listening events, and from hundreds of conversations had over the summer. 

Thank you to everyone who attended and to the Peckham Pelican for hosting this exciting and informative event.