Political reform is about more than constitutional change, argues Liam Byrne MP. It also means street by street community organising.
Our guest writer is Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill
There’s been a lot of debate in the Labour movement about political reform. A new House of Lords; a referendum on AV; votes at 16. All this is good, but I think we need to go further still. In short, we need to transform the Labour Party into an organization which brings about social change as well as political change.
This isn’t just about more local organizing – though that will remain an invaluable part of who we are and what we do. We need to recognise that in every community, we can do much more to help, guide and work alongside those community activists who are changing Britain street by street, not waiting for politicians to do it law by law. As Labour members and activists, we share the values of these people – social entrepreneurs, community organizers, neighbourhood activists. And it’s time we did more to help them bring about the changes they want to see on their own doorsteps.
As I’ve discussed this argument with activists up and down the country, I couldn’t but be struck by the echoes with Labour’s past. I mean the distant past. Before we were born as a political party, we started the movement of mutual help, self-organisation, getting things done for ourselves. I believe this is happening all over again in modern Britain. It’s time for Labour to lead this movement once more. That’s why some of us have got together to launch a new centre for social action for progressives – which we’re calling Local Action Network. Our aim is to get local Labour parties working much more closely with local activists and community organisers, sharing our know-how, connections, contacts and experience to help them to go further and faster in bringing change to their communities.
It’s a model we’ve tried in Hodge Hill. Not only have we seen results on the ground, we’ve also drawn a whole new section of activists into the Labour Party, bringing us closer to the community and helping us to serve them better. We’re setting the bar pretty high. But there’s a hell of a prize to win – nothing less than transformation of the Labour Party, into an organisation which helps to deliver change on the ground in every community throughout the land.
So I’m especially pleased that some excellent people have agreed to advise us – John Prescott MP; the PPC for Bethnal Green & Bow Rushanara Ali; Alun Michael MP; and Will Straw of this parish. We’ll be announcing others, from the world of social enterprise, soon.
And we want your input too. Log-on to www.localactionnetwork.co.uk to share your thoughts, hopes and ideas.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.