Friday, October 13, 2006

Leaflet Labour vs Pamphlet Labour

A friend who is a member of the electrician's union, though not an electrician, told me a while ago that the real divide in Labour is not between Left and Right or Old and New, but between Leaflet Labour and Pamphlet Labour.

Leaflet Labour think the point of being an activist is to campaign in elections and deliver leaflets. Time spent trying to shape party policy or sitting in GC meetings debating motions is time which could and should be spent out canvassing.

Pamphlet Labour think the point of being an activist is to help shape the policy of the Labour Party and come up with innovative new ideas for transforming society, disseminated in the form of pamphlets. Of course, campaigning is important, but unfortunately they are busy this weekend at Compass conference, and anyway elections are decided by how popular the government is.

I'm sure you can think of examples of each type from your own experience or local party. Members of the electrician's union sometimes say that Leaflet Labour is the 'moderate' side of the party and Pamphlet Labour are the 'Trots', but I've read Progress Online and seen lefties out campaigning and I know this ain't so.

Personally, I am more Leaflet Labour (though anyone who writes a blog about Labour can't entirely avoid being Pamphlet Labour) but I would like to propose a Third Way.

The good thing about Leaflet Labour is that it identifies that Labour activists shouldn't just spend time talking to each other, and that having the correct policies don't matter unless Labour representatives get elected to be able to carry them out. The problem is that if local people aren't involved in developing the policies, the leaflets just saying what the central campaign team in the Regional Office have decided should be the key messages, rather than reflecting the main issues locally.

At the moment, the Labour Party is a hybrid, with local CLPs being encouraged more and more to be Leaflet Labour and local people who want to have a say in policy being sidelined (often, it has to be said, because their ideas are stupid), while a select few lobbyists, researchers and special advisers provide the Pamphlets to inform national policy making.

Lord Adonis, to take but one example, would be a perfectly competent leafleter, and probably ok at canvassing with a bit of support. This would be a much better use of his time then writing pamphlets about education policy. On the other hand, Labour activists who do a lot of campaigning and who are local councillors, school governors, work at schools, are parents with children at schools, and keep in touch with other parents, teachers and so on have masses of experience from their campaigning which would usefully inform education policy, help develop policies which would win us more support and encourage other people to get involved in the Labour Party.

It's a kind of Third Way between Leaflet and Pamphlet Labour, and I humbly submit it as part of the debate about Renewal.


At 11:48 am , Blogger Hughes Views said...

I seem to have grown from Pamphlet to Leaflet Labour over the years. I'm rather with Alan Sugar who says there are far too many people who want to do 'strategy' in business and far too few who want to turn the wheels. The same is true of 'policy' in the Labour Party!

At 3:23 pm , Anonymous politicalcorrespondent said...

Hate to be a dittohead, but this is an excellent post, so we've linked to it:

Are there actually any electricians in the AEEU? I've never met any. Most of their members' expertise seemed to be in engineering, though entirely in the political sense.

I also find the canard that it is only the right who campaign deeply annoying. I often find that the people most dedicated to campaigning are those in the mainstream of the party, while the two extremes prefer to mouth off at each other in meetings and spend their time attacking or defending the government, rather than actually doing anything.

But this may well just be a personal prejudice...

At 11:32 pm , Blogger Matt said...

Like the post!

I think I'd have to classify myself as a leaflet panphlet kind of guy. I used to deliver many a leaflet in York, but have only been out doing that once or twice in Oxford (as I think you know), but I have been a member of the odd thinktank and have read a few leaflets in my relatively short time. I think the third way on this is a good idea!

At 11:45 pm , Blogger Scrybe said...

Interesting viewpoint - but how could we ensure that he correct people are leafleting and pampheting? What changes in the party structure would be required? I ask out of interest.

At 1:12 pm , Blogger Matt said...

It may take alot of work but for those who have the time, why can't we do both?

At 5:39 pm , Blogger Elephunt said...

I'm leaflet Labour out of necessity.Our CLP is top heavy with pamphlet Labour and rather than discuss Trident for the third time this year I'd rather be out finding out what local people think.My blog fulfills my need to occasionally indulge in pamphlet inactivity...Someone once put a resolution to our CLP calling for 'more meetings to enable party members to feel more involved' .When it was pointed out that the ward submitting the resolution had three Lib Dem Councillors and perhaps a few leaflets being delivered now and again may help with 'involvement' there was a dumbstruck silence...


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