I know a General Election imminent. I know local elections are imminent. But we live in a democracy. I belong to a political party that put a Freedom of Information Act on the Statute Book. These simple but profound facts are routinely ignored by most of my colleagues on the Labour Party national executive committee.
It is no secret that the Labour Party's local branch structure has been seriously weakened by Blairite design over the past 13 years. No systematic development plan to rebuild is in place. That is despite all the evidence concerning the outcome of the 2010 General Election campaign pointing to the need for members and supporters willing to talk to voters on the doorstep. Will Straw writing on his Left Foot Forward blog noted:
Professors Alan Gerber and Don Green of Yale University have shown that face-to-face contact has a far greater impact on voter turnout than either phone calls or mail. Leaflets increase turnout by 1.2 per cent; volunteer phone calls increase turnout by 3.8 per cent; and door-to-door canvassing increases turnout by between 7 and 11 per cent.
Labour Party election strategy coordinator, Douglas Alexander says:
"At the end of the day, it's people not posters that win elections."
Meanwhile, in Stoke on Trent, there seems to be no limit to the Labour Party NEC's determination to destroy its organisational capacity on the ground. A meeting of Hartshill and Penkhull branch labour party was convened on Friday 19 March 2010 by the Labour Party's senior constitutional officer to select a candidate for the one seat in the ward up for election on 6 May 2010. After the formalities, the procedural motion to move to the vote was moved and DEFEATED. So quite rightly no selection took place. It was the latest twist in a running battle between local members and the Labour Party 'powers that be' firmly rooted in the detested electoral mayoral fiasco.
Imagine the surprise and consternation in the land of Pits'n'Pots, when last week ballot papers were despatched by post to Hartshill and Penkhull members. They were offered two candidates, neither of whom had been selected by branch members. Asked for an explanation, party officials said they had been instructed by the NEC's Organisation Committee chair Cath Speight to ignore the branch vote.
Is there any wonder that it is still proving difficult to motivate members?