By Tyler Howell-Bray
Please forgive my deliberately provocative title, I just wanted you to read this, my clumsy version of clickbait. I have been a member of my local Labour party now for about 2 years, throughout this time I increasingly sit in meetings with some very passionate and devoted people who routinely express their exhaustion due to lack of engagement from our membership and beyond. This is not said in a hurtful or judgemental way, just an exasperated cry from tired and battle worn comrades.
This forces me to ask why engagement is so low?
I am just a normal busy person, I have a demanding work and personal life, and to add to this I am relatively poor and so am forced to take on additional tasks to top up my wages every month. In my spare time, which is limiting, I waste time being a bit of a keyboard warrior and watching random rubbish on Netflix etc. So, if I am honest could I do more? Yes, I probably could, but I comfort myself with the fact that I do try and do something.
Until relatively recently I had no idea that democracy doesn’t just happen, perhaps I was just incredibly naïve, but I honestly believe that most people don’t realise the work it takes to make our democracy work, never mind create positive change. So, when it comes to being part of a political movement or creating positive change in your local area and wider, real energy is needed, real people, swathes of them, talking to the people, listening to their concerns, encouraging their engagement and ultimately realising their collective dreams.
Now if I was going to pretend to be a political analyst I might argue that the collective achievement of successive neoliberal governments is to encourage the masses to disengage with politics, however I hate it when people talk like that, and so I would say that it serves those in power for you to not care and not vote and not get involved because then they get to live out their horrible ideas with relatively little opposition or public outcry. Basically, it’s easier for everyone in power if you just keep your mouth shut, now I don’t know about you but; that just makes me want to shout! I think this is best seen in the lack of engagement by those who proudly talk about their grandparents being actively involved in unions and workers strikes but whose own parents’ disengagement has left a legacy. Labour has something new on offer, something those grandparents would have been proud of, lets follow in their footsteps instead.
In the meetings that I attend I bring down the average age of the group by about 20-30 years, and I am not that young! I am 30, and last time I checked the general security and life of your average 30-year-old isn’t that fantastic, why aren’t people angrier about this? Maybe they are, maybe they don’t know how their one little voice can make a difference, and so they moan, they moan at the bus stop and they moan when they watch the news and they moan to themselves when they are counting their pennies to pop to Tesco’s. Well people there is another option, all this energy tirelessly fighting the tragedies of life could be spent trying to bring about change. Join your local Labour party, even if you don’t like some of our policies you can work to change them, that’s one of the best things about our party, its that, its ours! We can contribute to the Manifesto promises, we can put forward motions about current events to let those at the top know the word on the street, we can instigate change.
Now I know people read this and think that’s great, but I am so busy, my kids need feeding, the dogs been sick on the carpet and the gas man’s coming at 4pm, fingers crossed someone else can do it. This in itself for me highlights the true failings of politics, it is set up for the wealthy, for those with spare time, those who don’t have to concern themselves with banalities of general life, those whose energy is not sapped away day in day out by the system around them and so they are fighting fit to contribute. Trust me, I feel your pain here, but its still not a good enough excuse, what we lack in energy, we make up for in number and if we stand together and each do a little bit, then we can easily out number them. I love a good quote and I think Bob Marley said it best when asks why he was out on a protest the day after his heart attack, he said ‘the bad guys aren’t taking a day off, so neither can I’.
I hear you ask, ‘Okay but practically what does contribution mean?’ Well really it means whatever you want it to mean, it might simply be financial support via your membership money (this ranges based on your income and is not a lot of money, I promise), it might mean delivering leaflets in your local area to inform people about local issues and the actions taken, it might be spending a Saturday a month knocking on the doors of local people to chat to them about the area and what we can do to help, it might even mean running for councillor or MP. Besides all these activities there are organisational roles and content contribution for digital media, the list goes on, and even outside of this there are jobs that don’t even get a second thought due to a lack of energy between those few fastidious members that are currently out working.
One such job has been highlighted to me recently with the regrettable passing of lifelong member and councillor, Simon Bannister. As I have mentioned before the membership are mostly 50+ and I often sit listening to their collective knowledge and wisdom in awe, but also fear, fear that this knowledge and this wisdom sadly has an expiration date. This is information that I don’t want to lose, information that should not be resigned to history, information that we need to make a real socialist government work, after all they remember them! And so, I have often thought it would be brilliant if we had an amateur film maker in our midst to go and record short videos of their most valuable thoughts and ideas, sadly we have lost Simon Bannister and his knowledge, and I sincerely hope that this is not something that I see repeated again and again over the next few decades.
So maybe you can help! Scrap the gym membership that you never use (its okay we all do it!) and come deliver leaflets, escape the family for an hour or so and come to a branch meeting or replace your daily moans at the bus stop with discussion at the doorstep, help create positive change because after all WE ARE THE MANY!