Often when we talk about campaigning the vision that comes to mind is door knocking as we approach an election. Maybe we’ll think about phone canvassing. This to some extent did become the main campaigning method of the last 50 years. Those that were campaigning for social justice were in many ways campaigning outside the Labour movement while voting Labour in the hope that it would deliver on some of those campaign goals.
Society has changed vastly over those years. A job for life is pretty much a thing of the past. People staying in one community for their adult life has very much changed, with people commuting vast distances to work or in many cases moving home to be nearer their place of work. This has meant that politics through involvement in the workplace and community has declined.
The growth of the Labour movement at the turn of the 20th Century was very much based on workers joining together to demand rights. To demand healthcare, paid holidays, reasonable working hours and a wage that ensured a reasonable standard of living. With the change in working patterns and the fragility of the job market, many of these traditional ways of campaigning and organising have broken down. It is much more difficult for people to envisage the benefits of a union if they are on a zero hours contract (although there are major advantages).
This page lays out some of the methods that can be applied in our communities to campaign effectively. The Labour party has changed and modernised. The areas where activists campaign for justice are becoming much more embedded in the Labour movement. Labour is moving towards a democratic and engaged model, where new ways of working to meet modern global demands are built. Campaigning is not only about door knocking or phone canvassing. It is about using all the tools at our disposal to engage with a wider audience. It is not about reeling off a set of beliefs in an environment where the hostile media has made many hostile to the socialist message.
Papa Don't Preach
Don’t preach because there is no need to. You can have a conversation with somebody who will, on the face of it, disagree with everything you say and yet will have listened and stored your points. This is because often people want to take away what is discussed and think about it in their own space. We are not in the business of selling double glazing, where the salesperson makes their pitch and will try to get you to sign on the dotted line so that you can’t go away and think about it and potentially look at alternatives.
Although not a Christian myself, there are some interesting models shown by the early church in reaching out to people. One of the key messages is that you are an ambassador for what you promote. So when you are talking about Labour - you are Labour in the eyes of the listener. If you are overly pushy, then the Labour party is overly pushy. If you are aggressive in getting your point across and don’t listen, then the Labour party is aggressive and doesn’t listen. If you disdain the other person’s view, then the Labour party disdains that person's views.
Often the best conversations are the one where the potential Labour voter can present all their arguments on why they won’t vote Labour and the only answer given is “I see your point, I don’t agree, but I see where you personally are coming from and why you would see it that way.” In most cases that will prompt the other person to question why you disagree with them and you can then present your view and present evidence where appropriate. Presenting a view or evidence never needs to be a slam dunk or anything of that nature. You don't need to persuade somebody by a splurge of facts. It is not a case of saying to yourself 'they've had their say, now let me show to them in no uncertain terms why they are wrong.' It is more beneficial for them if they can feel confident that you will respect their views and this will allow them to discuss issues with you.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is that somebody you are talking to may well believe you are coming at any subject, with regards to the Labour party, from a biased standpoint. This is not incorrect. I know for myself that instinctively I will dismiss negative comments made about the Labour party because they don’t fit into my view that the benefits far outweigh the issues. However, for somebody who is not convinced about the viability of the Labour party, this simply makes you an untrustworthy commentator on the subject. An example of this is where I identified to a friend a number of biased actions carried out by the BBC against the Labour party. He responded that it is not bias and that if I dug deep enough I could just easily identify BBC bias against the Tory party. At this point I could have whipped out my Tablet, looked on this wiki and reeled off all the reasons why he was wrong. I could have rolled out independent reports, statistics, list the political affiliations of the interviewers and board of the BBC and even dug out a few videos where the BBC showed obvious bias. All that would do is convince him that I am a bit obsessive on these things (I am) and persuade him that I really need to get a life (I do). Instead I engaged him by asking where he gathered his news from and asked his opinion on different media outlets. By doing this he was able to present his view on where he felt the bias lay and over the course of the conversation it became apparent that giving him the opportunity to consider the media, he too thought it biased. So you may ask “So what did you gain? He thought that anyway.” Two things; I have persuaded him that I am not a manic follower of Labour who disregards all facts due to confirmation bias and secondly he has verbalised his personal views on the issue which is powerful in connecting his unconscious thoughts with his conscious thinking and decision making. I haven’t moved him a mile down the road, I’ve moved him as far as he is willing to go at that given time.
Some Tories are Tories
There are Tories you’ll never convert to voting Labour. They have spent too many years opposed to everything they imagine that Labour stands for. The only way they will ever possibly vote Labour is if, having seen our progressive policies in action, they recognise the benefits. Even then, there are some who will still not change their mind. In this case the target is to stop them voting Conservative. 13.5 million people voted Tory at GE17. Considering the absolute mess the Tories are making and the ineptitude of the Tory GE campaign, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that there are a large number of people out there who will vote anything but Labour and in fact will actively vote to thwart Labour. We need them to switch their vote to Lib Dem if need be. After all, we can clearly see from the coalition that you couldn’t slip a fag paper between the Tories and the Lib Dems. Recently I heard of a number of lifelong Tory voters who have said that they will not vote at the next election, as they won’t vote Labour, but neither can they bring themselves to vote Tory.
It is these voters that you can impact by discussing the issues that impact them, whether that be the impossibility of younger generations to get on the housing ladder or the state of pensions in the UK. The key is not to come at it from a Labour point of view, but from the point of view of the realities they personally or members of their family face. People don’t like change. An incumbent government will often outlast its usefulness simply by virtue of the old adage “better the devil you know":
Use this campaigning wiki wisely
From this page you can connect to information that will tell you how wonderful Labour policies are and how the Tory policies are at best polished turds. That is all well and good and I hope that users gain many benefits from the information. This information should generally be used in two ways.
- When talking one to one it can provide you with information when you are specifically asked a question or in a situation where you are in a discussion (not argument) it can be used to provide you with facts to support your point
- On social media, where Tories are often paid to create dissent, it can be used to provide evidence against their trolling. This plays an important role in that it encourages Labour voters and also refutes lies at the point of them being made, making them harder to repeat.
It probably doesn’t help to present information held on this site where you are dealing with an out and out Tory. It might be useful in those circumstances, where there is a 3rd party present, to ensure that untruths are not presented as indisputable facts, which is similar to defending the Labour position in the online media environment.
Of course we are all human and on some occasions you might just want to use the information to shoot down the argument of a rampant Tory. Feel free.
Don't hold lectures; hold hands
There is a large swathe of potential voters out there who are disenfranchised. Often working in low paid employment and struggling to keep their head above water, they no longer feel that politics offers a solution. To them all politicians are the same and appear at election time with grand promises, only to renege on those promises once they are elected. They are not wrong in their conclusions. Campaigning just at election time cements this view. That sudden interest in those that have been ignored since the last election is unlikely to win friends. But Labour is different now. It is committed to grass roots democracy.
Encourage non-voters to look at the Labour party manifesto, but also point them at the National Policy Forum and Labour campaigning activities. This will show them genuine policies, costed and carefully planned as well as a party committed to delivering on their manifesto.
The vast majority in the Labour party are involved in trying to make lives better for others. If you talk about Tory failures, talk about it from the point of view of their and your own experiences. If you donate to a food bank, talk about that and explain why you do it.
From each according to his ability...
Many Labour members cannot get involved in Campaigning due to infirmity, disabilities or even shyness. Do what you can. Maybe get involved doing a couple of hours at a food bank. Seek out things that you can do. Speak to your CLP. In fact encourage your CLP to become active in the community all year round.
Hey check this out
Labour has a set of campaign tools on their website aimed to help members campaign. Take advantage of these tools to help you.
Join the Labour Party
If you are not a member of the Labour party then why not join? It doesn’t commit you to spending hours each week promoting the party. It does help fund the party, undermines the message put out by the media and gives you an opportunity to engage in the democratic process.